Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child, young person or someone who is vulnerable, with the intention of manipulating, exploiting and abusing them. It can take place over short (days or weeks) or long (months or years) periods of time.
Groomers may also build a relationship with the victim’s family or friends to make them seem trustworthy or authoritative. This could include members of the victim’s family, and people within the church. For example, an adult who wanted to abuse a child might spend significant time and energy building a friendship with the child’s parents/carers, the minister and members of the congregation. By grooming the adults around the child, developing a reputation of respectability, helpfulness or popularity within the church, the abuser makes it more difficult for the child to disclose abuse, or for adults who may trust and know the individual well to accept even the possibility that there could be a cause for concern or, if allegations are made, that they could be true.
In times of crisis, those who seek to exploit children or adults can be quick to act and prey on vulnerabilities – particularly in online forums, where they may face fewer barriers to do so with a reduction in online moderators. You can help by:
- Know the signs of exploitation, be vigilant to them and take any disclosures or concerns seriously.
- Refer concerns to safeguarding coordinators, Synod Safeguarding Officers, social services or the Police.
- Use the resources like the NSPCC or UK Safer Internet Centre to support parents, families and individuals to learn how to stay safe online.
Please also refer to section 9 and appendix A6 of the Good Practice 5 guideline for more information.