Advice on how to recognise the stages of grooming is available from a regional partnership to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
The regional see me, hear me campaign is encouraging young people and their parents to make themselves aware of how grooming can develop to help safeguard youngsters from this hidden crime.
CSE can affect any child regardless of their gender, social or ethnic background. It is child abuse and can involve perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.
Cllr Ed Ruane, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People for Coventry City Council, said: “We have done some excellent work in raising awareness for people to be able to spot the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
“But the nature of grooming is that offenders are manipulative and young people may not always be aware they are being groomed.
“While there are professionals working together every day to try and keep our young people safe, they can’t do it alone. It is really important everyone learns how the grooming process works so they can spot the signs and know how to get help.
“It would urge everyone to visit www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to learn more about how you can do your bit to help safeguard our children.”
Grooming of a young person can take place in stages over a period from a few days to several years. The early stages can mirror the development of a healthy relationship, but the following signs can help people identify the need to get help.
During the initial ‘targeting’ phase the abuser will look to develop and gain the young person’s trust, start befriending them, take an interest in them and give compliments and gifts.
As this develops into ‘friendship’ forming, they’ll make the young person feel special by spending time with them, offering protection, introduce keeping secrets, testing out physical contact and giving gifts and rewards.
Once they’ve established trust, the groomer then asserts themselves as the boyfriend or girlfriend, attempting to mirror a ‘loving relationship’. They will start to establish a sexual relationship, perhaps introduce the young person to clubs, drinks and drugs and begin lowering their inhibitions, such as through showing pornography. The abuser may position themselves as the only one who understands the young person, demonising and isolating them from friends and family who might try and intervene.
As this turns into the ‘abusive relationship’ stage there is the withdrawal of love and friendship. Threatening behaviour, physical violence and sexual assaults increase and at the same time the young person is isolated from their family.
Information on the stages of grooming can be found at the campaign website. www.seeme-hearme.org.uk is a one-stop shop for information about CSE and how to spot the warning signs, along with help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools.
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk/