Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know – for example a family member, friend or professional.
Groomers may be male or female. They could be any age.
Many children and young people don’t understand that they have been groomed or that what has happened is abuse.
Signs of grooming
The signs of grooming aren’t always obvious and groomers will often go to great lengths not to be identified.
If a child is being groomed they may:
- be very secretive, including about what they are doing online
- have older boyfriends or girlfriends
- go to unusual places to meet friends
- have new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
- have access to drugs and alcohol.
In older children, signs of grooming can easily be mistaken for ‘normal’ teenage behaviour, but you may notice unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, or inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age.
Things you may notice
If you’re worried that a child is being abused, watch out for any unusual behaviour.
- suddenly behaves differently
- problems sleeping
- eating disorders
- wets the bed
- soils clothes
- takes risks
- misses school
- changes in eating habits
- obsessive behaviour
- thoughts about suicide
Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of child abuse