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What is Grooming?

According to ex-FBI agent Ken Lanning, the term “grooming” originated in the 1980s during a series of investigations into sex crimes against children in the US.

Early investigations uncovered patterns of behavior and specific techniques used by predators to gain access to and the compliance of victims. These early conclusions brought to life the concept of grooming as a non-violent technique used by sexual predators who were not strangers but known to their victims.

Most children know their groomer, which is why it can make the grooming process easier. There have been children kidnapped by strangers for the purpose of trafficking but is not as common.

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Did you know that a "Groomer" may or may not be the one that invests their time in gaining a kid’s trust?

Today, many trafficking rings operate like a drug organization, with the "Top Man" calling the shots and not being directly involved with the grooming and trafficking process, only benefitting from the money.


If a trafficker sees a child as a potential money marker, they will spend time and money on the child to break down boundaries, and maybe even appear as a loving partner. All of which is done to manipulate and break the child and parent bond.

Simply put, a groomer’s job is to find ways to get a child to trust them.

Who might be involved in grooming?

Anyone can engage in grooming behavior. They can be people of all genders. They can include older children, relatives, family friends, strangers, professionals, people from a family’s place of worship, sporting coaches, early childhood educators and schoolteachers.

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Though grooming can take many different forms, it often follows a similar pattern.

  • Selection: Groomers will put themself in situations where they can observe children and select a child based on the ease of access or their perceived vulnerability.

  • Gaining access and isolating the child: Groomers will attempt to physically or emotionally separate a child from parents and often seek out positions in which they have contact with minors.

  • Trust development and keeping secrets: Groomers attempt to gain trust of a potential child through gifts, attention, sharing “secrets” and other means to make the child feel like they have a caring relationship and then train the child to keep the relationship secret.

  • Desensitization to touch and discussion of sexual topics: Groomers will often start to touch a child in ways that appear harmless, such as hugging, wrestling and tickling, and later escalate to increasingly more sexual contact, such as massages or showering together. Groomers may also show the child pornography or discuss sexual topics with them, to introduce and normalize the idea of sexual contact.

  • Attempt by groomers to make their behavior seem natural, to avoid raising suspicions: For teens, who may be closer in age to the groomers, it can be particularly hard to recognize tactics used in grooming. Be alert for signs that your teen has a relationship with an adult or an older teen in school that includes secrecy, undue influence or control, or pushes personal boundaries.


Signs that children and teenagers are being groomed.

Many of the signs of grooming can look like normal peer t0 peer or adult‐child relationships, which is why grooming is difficult to spot. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s important to trust your instincts, watch for signs and keep an eye on your child’s behavior.

The following signs might indicate that your child is being groomed.

  • talks a lot about a particular adult or older teen.

  • wants to spend a lot of time with a new person in their circle of friends and won't let you meet them.

  • starts a relationship with an older person.

  • is skipping school or sporting activities.

  • is spending less time with current friends or changing friendship groups suddenly.

  • spends more time alone in their room.

  • closes down their computer, or apps when you enter the room.

  • has unexplained gifts like clothes, jewelry or electronics and doesn’t want to talk about where the gifts came from

  • doesn’t want to talk about what they’ve been doing or lies about it.

  • stops telling you about their day or asking for your advice.

One of the Tactics of a Groomer is to Groom the Parents

Signs someone is grooming parents.

Grooming often involves gaining the trust of a child’s family to get time alone with the child. It can look like a close relationship with the child’s family, so it can be difficult to spot. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s important to trust your instincts and watch for signs.

The following signs might indicate that someone is grooming you or your family.

  • oversteps your social boundaries – for example, they might show up to your child’s birthday party uninvited with a gift.

  • offers to take your child to sports or other activities or offers to babysit or take your child camping.

  • offers to mentor your child or individually coach your child.

  • buy gifts for your family.

  • offers to do things for your family, like repairs or gardening for free.

  • shows an interest in your child’s activities, wellbeing, school grades or other areas of your child’s life

  • compliments your family and your parenting style or suggests you to relax your childs rules.

  • tries to start a flirtatious or romantic relationship with you.

  • looks for vulnerable single parents to befriend.


Some of the ways grooming can take place.

Grooming can happen face to face or online. If grooming is happening face to face, the person might find ways to get to know a child and the child’s family. They might offer to take the child on outings.

Social Media and Apps are BIG tools Traffickers use.

If grooming is happening online, the person might pretend to be a child of the same age, a love interest

or even a celebrity. The groomer might use text, instant messaging, online chat and so on to build a relationship with the child. In fact, apps are commonly used to groom kids because of the false

sense of safety it presents when communicating with someone behind a screen.

What to do if you think a child is being groomed

Grooming isn’t always obvious. People engaging in grooming behavior work hard to gain trust and respect from children and families. So, it’s important to trust your instincts if something doesn’t feel right. It’s a good idea to keep your child away from the person you’re concerned about until you find out more.

It’s also important to:

  • Watch out for signs that you or your child is being groomed.

  • Stop the person from being alone with your child.

  • Avoid letting the person do favors for your family.

  • Ask other families who know the person if they have ever felt uncomfortable around them, or have seen them do inappropriate things around children.

  • Find out how your child feels about the person by asking questions like ‘Do you like the way cousin A acts around you?’ or ‘Mr. G' likes a lot of your Instagram posts. Does he follow you on any other social media or try to message you?

  • Make sure you know who your child's friends are and their parents. This will help you know when a new person enters your child's circle that could pose a threat.

  • If you're concerned about an adult getting too close to your child, let them know you are watching them and do not hesitate to contact the police.

The Time to act is when you suspect a child is being groomed, because once they are a part of the trafficking world it is almost impossible to get them back.
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