6 Stages of Grooming Adults and Teens: Spotting The Red Flags | Skills Platform Blog (2022)

It’s National Safeguarding Adults Week and one of the key themes this year is adult grooming. Sadly, social isolation could make the most vulnerable in our society, more likely to be targeted for abuse.With the rise in social media usageand more and more people falling into more vulnerable positions, we thought it paramount to break down the key 6 stages of grooming adults (as well as teens, because the tactics are often the same).

According to the NSPCC and Ann Craft Trust, “grooming is a form of abuse that involves manipulating someone until they’re isolated, dependent, and more vulnerable to exploitation”.

There are different types of grooming – sometimes carried outby an individual to an individual, such as online grooming and child sexual abuse,and other times it isexecutedby a group of conspiring perpetrators.For the latter, groups might seek toexploit a single person, such as in gang recruitment and cult initiations, whereas grooming gangs might target groups of teenagers together –because an adolescentis more likely to cooperate in a group setting, due to peer pressure orfear of missing out.

Grooming doesn’t happen overnight, though: it’s a process, and there are several stages. It’s a delicate subject – most won’t jump at the opportunity to learn about it, but the more we understand these behaviours and their perpetrators, the more adept we are at spotting them and stopping them from progressing further.

Here we unpack those stages, the tactics used; the giveaway red flag behaviours – all with the hope of combatting future cases of grooming and safeguarding vulnerable adults and children across the world from predatory behaviour.

Targeting the victim – The first stage of grooming

Groomers are calculated and often repeat offenders – they don’t want to get caught. Thus, before selecting their victims, abusers often scope out and observe possible ‘candidates’ and select them based on ease of access to them or their perceived vulnerability. Thosewho are unpopular, have family problems, who spend a lot of time alone or unsupervised, who lack confidence and self-esteem, have physical or intellectual disabilities, or are already abuse survivors tend to be targeted.

“I was very quiet and didn’t have many friends among the other girls, so I gravitated towards him.”

Marie Claire

You know that saying about knowledge and power? At the first stage of grooming, the offender starts to acquire knowledge about the victim, then works out how to gain access.

“For a long time, I thought of his sexual abuse as an impulse. Looking back, I can see that he planned his advances”

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Toni

The inappropriate relationship

The concept of ‘power dynamics’ is often mentioned when discussing inappropriate relationships. In cases where the abuser is older, wealthier, or better connected, the power differential is one of the aspects of the relationship that increases the vulnerability of the victim. This is what is referred to as the inappropriate relationship model. In sporting or educational environments, forexample, a mentor or coach has power due to their age, seniority in the establishment, their experience (education) and connections (status) within the sector.

Gaining the victim’s trust

For many abusers, establishing trust at this stage is key.They use the ‘flattery trick’ –offering gifts, attention, sharing “secrets” and other means to make them feel that they have a caring relationship whilst simultaneously training them to keep the relationship secret.

“He noticed I was off at sessions and kept pressing me to tell him why then eventually I told him the whole thing over messenger. He suggested we start meeting secretly for coffee to talk about things.”

Marie Claire

Some relationships might start as what looks like a friendship. The relationship or “boyfriend” model refers to the type of grooming where young people are tricked into believing they have entered a loving relationship with another person.

Other tactics may fall under the party lifestyle model, inviting victims to parties in their local area and plying them with ‘treats’ (drugs or alcohol).

Fulfilling a need

The abuser seeks to fill a void in the person’s life, offering a listening ear. Perpetrator behaviour can also involve persuading the victim that the abuser alone can fulfil their need.

“I started becoming more popular with the other girls since I was hanging out with Alex…I took pride in the small street credibility it gave me. People would come to hang out with us, but he would mostly ignore everyone else. It felt amazing and for the first time, I felt special.”

– Marie Claire

(Video) Part 2: What Traffickers Look For and the Grooming Process

In some cases, the offender may use a familiar and fond activity as a way in. Writer, artist, mother and sexual abuse survivor Toni Tails outlines exactly this grooming tactic:

“In the [adult] magazines were cartoons that he liked to read to me in the same way that he read me picture books from the library.”

– Toni

Isolating the victim

Isolation: a classic abuser technique. Abusers do this by putting themselves between the victim and their loved ones or caregivers. As a result, theymay be reluctant to meet or speak to friends or family.

“He became my closest confidante and I started to believe that he was the only person in the world who would ever truly understand me. I began to isolate myself from my other friends, who I started to see as less interesting.

– Marie Claire

The abuser has demanded secrecy or convinced them that the other people in their life are not worthy of their attention by slandering them. There have also been known cases where the perpetrator has made themselves known to friends and family – deliberately presenting themselves as utterly charming. As a result, the victim may be met with disbelief or derision if they express their concerns.

“He worked on causing a division between my mother and me. He said he didn’t want to hurt me, but he had to, or mama would leave him.”

– Toni

The whole aim, as social worker Lisa Ferentz is one of many to confirm, is to keep others from seeing what’s really going on:

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“When you are disconnected from other people, they can’t witness maltreatment and you can’t reach out to them for guidance or the resources you might need”

Lisa Ferentz

The end goal:abuse

At this stage, the abuse itself begins. In sexual abuse, this may involve rape or sexual assault. In radicalisation, it could be forced criminal activity – violence against others and/or yourself or smuggling drugs for example.

Sometimes the victim persuades themselves that the abuse is entirely normal, even desirable for the “benefits” it brings, with the price only apparent later.It may take years, perhaps decadesfor the victim to process what actually went on – for therealisation to dawn that, instead of partakers in a ‘special relationship’,theythemselves were in fact victims of abuse.

“It was shocking how quickly we pretended each time that it had never happened.”

Marie Claire

The sixthand final stage:Maintaining control

Of all the 6 stages, this one is probably the most important as it is what allows the abuse to persist. Once the abuser has established their hold over the victim, they aim to maintain that level of control. Even storylines in soap operas have covered this, in fictionalised form. The offender uses the ‘consequences trick’,making threats to harm either the victim, their nearest and dearest or even, like Marie Claire describes,themselves.

“He told me he wasn’t sleeping, he wasn’t eating and that he had started smoking again. I felt like I needed to do this for him like I was repaying a debt to him for helping me through my lowest point.”

Marie Claire

Where emotional blackmailing doesn’t work, some willgive examples of previous violence to induce fear.And when violence doesn’t work, abusers will entrap victims with shame,threatening to share intimate pictures of their victims to family or even the internet.

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In Sam’s case, she was drawn in with activities typically associated with the ‘high life’ and then, once dependent on the substances offered, felt like she had to continue coming back for more.

“It was gradual. A glass of Champagne at a club, a sniff of coke…But, of course, the Champagne and drugs had to be paid for”

Sam

Online grooming

Online grooming is growing – a category of its own now the Internet has become such an integral part of society. You might hear of “catfishing”,where offenders pretend to be someone they’re not in order to gain access.

Offenders may spend time on a particular website, game, app, or forum where they know their victim likes to hang out. And social media is a particular danger area. And with the advent of some of the newer platforms, like TikTok, this time of grooming appears to be on the rise.

So how can wecombat grooming?

The first step towards combating grooming is to combine everything we know, including all the 6 stages of grooming both adults and children as well asdetails of specialist help. Sometimes, those who have successfully escaped the cycle are willing to share their stories to help others: their courage is invaluable.

For all of us, we need to stay alert and take appropriate action, not only to raise awareness of grooming but ultimately, to keep vulnerable service users safe.

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FAQs

How many stages are in the grooming process? ›

The first step towards combating grooming is to combine everything we know, including all the 6 stages of grooming both adults and children as well as details of specialist help.

What are the steps of grooming? ›

Grooming steps include:
  • Identifying and targeting the victim. Any child or teen may be a potential victim. ...
  • Gaining trust and access. ...
  • Playing a role in the child's life. ...
  • Isolating the child. ...
  • Creating secrecy around the relationship. ...
  • Initiating sexual contact. ...
  • Controlling the relationship.

What are the 5 stages of grooming? ›

The stages of grooming
  • Targeting. The offenders target children by creating false profiles on the internet, often by pretending to be a child within the same age group and initiating contact online. ...
  • Gaining access. ...
  • Trust Development. ...
  • Desensitisation to sexual content and touch. ...
  • Maintaining Control.
6 Apr 2022

What are the warning signs of grooming? ›

Signs of grooming
  • being very secretive about how they're spending their time, including when online.
  • having an older boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • having money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can't or won't explain.
  • underage drinking or drug taking.
  • spending more or less time online or on their devices.

What are examples of grooming? ›

Examples of grooming behaviour may include: giving gifts or special attention to a child or young person, or their parent or carer, making the child or young person feel special or indebted to an adult. making close physical contact sexual, such as inappropriate tickling and wrestling or play fighting.

What are the types of grooming? ›

These are 6 employee grooming types that need to be standard at retail stores.
  • Body Hygiene. The most obvious is body hygiene, which refers to the practice of keeping the basic level of self-cleanliness on a daily basis. ...
  • Body Scent. ...
  • Hair Hygiene. ...
  • Clothing Hygiene. ...
  • Dental Care. ...
  • Skin Care.

Can you be groomed by someone your age? ›

Anyone can be a victim.

“[Grooming] can occur at any age, and it has a great deal to do with gullibility, insecurity, religion, and culture. [...] It starts by targeting a vulnerable person, then building trust.”

What is the most common type of grooming behavior? ›

Six common grooming behaviors that every parent needs to know:
  • Forming Relationships. Perpetrators seek to form relationships with children. ...
  • Testing Boundaries. Perpetrators will try to test the boundaries of your child's comfort levels. ...
  • Touching. ...
  • Intimidating. ...
  • Sharing Sexually Explicit Material. ...
  • Communicating Secretly.

How do you talk to someone who is being groomed? ›

If a friend or loved one is the subject of grooming, it's important to keep open lines of communication with them. Help them talk through their issues and point out where the abuser may be overstepping, such as: Asking for access to monetary resources. Spending too much time alone with the victim.

What is grooming behavior in adults? ›

Grooming. You may have heard the term as it applies to children, but adults can also groom other adults – even at work. By definition, grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with someone so they can manipulate, exploit and/or abuse them.

What is grooming a teenager? ›

What is grooming? Grooming is when a trafficker or scout finds and slowly prepares a young person, typically aged 11 – 15, for a particular purpose through trust and relationship building. Traffickers may have scouts in schools to identify kids who match their desired profile.

How long is the grooming process? ›

Depending on the type of grooming service you choose, your pet's breed, and your pet's condition, the grooming process can take approximately 3 to 4 hours.

What are the signs of a child predator? ›

Gives gifts or special privileges for no apparent reason. Overly affectionate/playful with children – hugging, tickling, wrestling, holding or having a child sit on their lap. Disregards “no” “stop” or other efforts from a child to avoid physical contact. Long stares or periods of watching a child.

How do you deal with the aftermath of being groomed? ›

What can I do?
  1. Tell an adult you trust. ...
  2. If you have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused, speak to a doctor or a nurse so they can check that you are ok and give you any medical help.
  3. Talk to your friends. ...
  4. Think about reporting it to the police.
5 May 2021

How narcissists groom their victims? ›

Malignant narcissists begin their relationships with excessive amounts of contact, praise, flattery, and attention – this is known as love bombing. They use love bombing to groom their victims in order to get them invested in a fabricated future together – one that they never plan to deliver on.

What is psychological grooming? ›

Grooming - Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior. Description: Grooming is a insidious predatory tactic, utilized by abusers.

What is grooming abuse? ›

What is grooming? Grooming is a process of manipulation and trust-building that a perpetrator will use to create an atmosphere where they can exploit a child. Grooming is often very subtle and difficult to name by other adults; typically a perpetrator will seem like a loving and attentive adult in that child's life.

What are the 7 basic personal grooming tips? ›

10 Grooming Tips for Men
  • Trim the nose hairs. ...
  • Trim the eyebrows. ...
  • Clean the hair off your ears and neck. ...
  • Keep your nails short and clean. ...
  • Brush and floss your teeth daily. ...
  • Have your clothes tailored to fit your body. ...
  • Stand up straight. ...
  • Cleanse your face on a regular basis with a facial soap.
6 Aug 2010

What is grooming in simple words? ›

Grooming refers to the things that people do to keep themselves clean and make their face, hair, and skin look nice. ...

What is considered grooming behavior? ›

One tool common to those who sexually abuse kids is grooming: manipulative behaviors that the abuser uses to gain access to a potential victim, coerce them to agree to the abuse, and reduce the risk of being caught.

How can you tell if someone is grooming you online? ›

Being secretive about the sites they visit or who they are talking to online. Switching screens when you come near them when they are on their computer or phone. Possessing new items you haven't given them, especially electronic devices. Using sexual language you wouldn't expect them to know or that is not age- ...

Why does grooming happen? ›

Grooming can happen when there is a power differential within a relationship, which the abuser exploits for their own gratification. This is most commonly recognised as a tactic used by perpetrators of child sexual abuse, both on children and parents.

How do I protect my child from grooming? ›

Here are five strategies to protect children:
  1. Review your rules about private parts with your child. ...
  2. Teach children they must never keep red-flag secrets. ...
  3. Help your child make a list of trusted adults they can talk to. ...
  4. Kids need to know that red-flag people lie!
15 Mar 2019

What ages are considered grooming? ›

What Is the Meaning of Child Grooming? Adults who build stable and trusting relationships with a child under 18 for the purpose of sexually assaulting the minor are considered groomers. As such, you could face state and federal charges for child grooming if the alleged victim is under 15.

Can grooming cause PTSD? ›

Following a grooming experience, the child may suffer numerous negative effects such as embarrassment, irritability, anxiety, stress, depression, and substance abuse. Even in the absence of physical sexual abuse, the child may be traumatized and suffer long-lasting emotional damage caused by non-contact sexual abuse.

What do I do if I think my child is being groomed online? ›

Talk to your child about inappropriate behavior and language from other adults and instill the confidence in them to talk to you if it happens. Teach them to report to you if anyone offers or gives them gifts, no matter who it is. Teach your child to tell you of any occasion they are alone with an adult.

Which type of abuse is hardest to detect? ›

Emotional or psychological abuse

Emotional abuse often coexists with other forms of abuse, and it is the most difficult to identify.

Can a 19 year old groom a 17 year old? ›

The age of consent is the same for both males and females. Therefore, if you are 19 years old and have sex with a 17-year-old, you could be arrested for a sex crime. In most cases, the crime would be statutory rape.

How do men groom kids? ›

10 grooming behaviors every parent should recognize:

Buys them gifts and or treats. Touches or hugs them in front of trusted adults which makes the child think the touching is OK. Finds out what your child's likes and interests are and then flatters the child by claiming to have the same likes and interests.

Why does it take so long at the groomers? ›

Drying – The drying process is essential; coats need to be completely dry in order to stretch to full length and make an even cut possible. The dryers make many dogs nervous, so at times the groomer will towel dry the dog, or turn a fan down to low and let the dog air dry.

Should I tip my dog groomer? ›

How Much Do You Tip Dog Groomers? Tipping can be tricky, but when you're given a service, you should always reward it with a little bit of cash. 15% is a good place to start. If someone did an okay job, as in they didn't go above and beyond but you're satisfied with their service, a 15% tip is reasonable.

What is a fixated child molestor? ›

According to this theoretical typology, the fixated child molester's sexual attraction to children is an arrestment of his sociosexual maturation that results from unresolved formative issues that undermined his subsequent development and persist in his personality functioning.

What is male predatory behavior? ›

In essence, predatory male behavior is based on extracting sexual, emotional, and financial resources from women without care or concern for the woman's safety and well-being. Predatory male behavior extracts sexual, emotional, and financial resources from women.

What is a minor attracted person? ›

minor-attracted person (plural minor-attracted persons or minor-attracted people) (euphemistic, nonstandard) A pedophile; including nepiophiles, hebephiles and ephebophiles.

Is flirting with a minor grooming? ›

You may think that this is harmless flirting but it absolutely is not harmless. The 15 year old parents/guardian or some other adult may consider this grooming, which is a serious charge, or something worse.

What is trauma bonding with parents? ›

A trauma bond is the type of emotional attachment that forms between abusers and victims (Casassa, Knight, & Mengo, 2021). This type of bond describes the attachment between narcissistic parents and their children and these attachments can maintain their grip even as children grow into adults.

How does a narcissist treat his woman? ›

Narcissists view partners as trophies under their power and may expect partners to show deference and adoring behavior throughout the relationship. Manipulation of a partner is emotional abuse, and narcissists resort to some pretty low behaviors if they feel that they are losing their hold on a partner.

How do you tell you're being manipulated by a narcissist? ›

With that in mind, here are 12 signs that might suggest you've experienced narcissistic abuse.
  1. They seem so perfect — at first. ...
  2. People doubt the abuse took place. ...
  3. They've started a smear campaign. ...
  4. You feel isolated. ...
  5. You freeze up. ...
  6. You have trouble making decisions. ...
  7. You always feel like you've done something wrong.

What is narcissist mirroring? ›

If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, you may have found they “copy” your behaviors, and your identity becomes their identity. This would be an example of mirroring in narcissism.

How long is the grooming process? ›

Depending on the type of grooming service you choose, your pet's breed, and your pet's condition, the grooming process can take approximately 3 to 4 hours.

What is the grooming process for dogs? ›

A professional grooming session typically consists of the dog being brushed, bathed, and dried, as well as trimmed or clipped with clean, sanitized brushes and clipper blades. Groomers brush or comb out mats before the bath, making it easier to lather the dog with shampoo.

What is grooming in human trafficking? ›

Simply put, grooming is the process a human trafficker uses to identify and ultimately control someone for the purpose of trafficking them.

What are grooming behaviors? ›

Jul 10, 2020. One tool common to those who sexually abuse kids is grooming: manipulative behaviors that the abuser uses to gain access to a potential victim, coerce them to agree to the abuse, and reduce the risk of being caught.

What is grooming abuse? ›

What is grooming? Grooming is a process of manipulation and trust-building that a perpetrator will use to create an atmosphere where they can exploit a child. Grooming is often very subtle and difficult to name by other adults; typically a perpetrator will seem like a loving and attentive adult in that child's life.

Why do groomers take so long? ›

There's a lot of prep work that needs to be done, including taking care of the basics like shaving or brushing out a dog's coat, cutting their nails, brushing their teeth and cleaning out their ears. Groomers will always brush a dog's coat before they bathe them to avoid tangles and knots!

How do men groom kids? ›

10 grooming behaviors every parent should recognize:

Buys them gifts and or treats. Touches or hugs them in front of trusted adults which makes the child think the touching is OK. Finds out what your child's likes and interests are and then flatters the child by claiming to have the same likes and interests.

What are the 7 steps of grooming a dog? ›

Groom Your Pet From the Comfort of Your Home
  • Thinkstock. Get the Right Tools. ...
  • Thinkstock. Brush Gently and Regularly. ...
  • Thinkstock. Give Him a Bath. ...
  • iStockphoto. Trim Those Nails. ...
  • Thinkstock. Don't Forget the Ears. ...
  • Thinkstock. Brush His Teeth. ...
  • Thinkstock. Clip If Necessary.
9 Apr 2012

Do groomers bathe or cut first? ›

Give your dog a bath and let him dry thoroughly before you clip him. Avoid clipping a dirty dog if at all possible. The dirt will clog the clippers and make your job difficult.

What are the signs of a pimp? ›

Some things he might do at this stage are:
  • Buy his target girl or young woman expensive gifts.
  • Take his target girl or young woman to nice restaurants and destinations.
  • Be extra romantic.
  • Have sex with her very affectionately.
  • Make promises he has no intention of keeping (ex. a happy life together, starting a family)

How do you tell if a girl is trafficked? ›

Warning signs that an individual may be being trafficked:
  1. Physical abuse such as burn marks, bruises or cuts.
  2. Unexplained absences from class.
  3. Sexualized behavior.
  4. Overly tired in class.
  5. Withdrawn, depressed, distracted or checked out.
  6. Brags about making or having lots of money.

What are 5 warning signs of human trafficking? ›

Human Trafficking Indicators
  • Living with employer.
  • Poor living conditions.
  • Multiple people in cramped space.
  • Inability to speak to individual alone.
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed.
  • Employer is holding identity documents.
  • Signs of physical abuse.
  • Submissive or fearful.

How do you tell if a man is a predator? ›

However, they can act as a red flag for abusive, and possibly sexually predatory, behavior.
  1. Associating with Children. ...
  2. Creating Dependency. ...
  3. Using Manipulative Language. ...
  4. Pushing Physical and Sexual Boundaries. ...
  5. Expressing Jealousy and Controlling Behavior.
20 Nov 2020

What is the most common type of grooming behavior? ›

Six common grooming behaviors that every parent needs to know:
  • Forming Relationships. Perpetrators seek to form relationships with children. ...
  • Testing Boundaries. Perpetrators will try to test the boundaries of your child's comfort levels. ...
  • Touching. ...
  • Intimidating. ...
  • Sharing Sexually Explicit Material. ...
  • Communicating Secretly.

How narcissists groom their victims? ›

Malignant narcissists begin their relationships with excessive amounts of contact, praise, flattery, and attention – this is known as love bombing. They use love bombing to groom their victims in order to get them invested in a fabricated future together – one that they never plan to deliver on.

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4. VSC Podcast Episode 103 - Online Grooming
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