Grooming is the process of preparing someone for sexual abuse or exploitation. Most often, people seeking to exploit use deception to lure youth by glamorizing their own lifestyles and satisfying or promising to satisfy a need that is not being met in the youth’s life. This could range anywhere between fulfilling basic needs like food and shelter, to more complex needs like feelings of care and love and might include:
- promises of a better or different life
- may include providing protection and opportunities
- may include relating to youth and providing advice or support
- a romantic relationship, friendship or partnership
- making youth feel wanted, loved, or cared for
- a sense of belonging
- a false job opportunity or by debt bondage
Grooming and connection can also include the recruiter connecting the targeted youth with another person that holds power over the recruiter and seeks to exploit the youth.
- For example, if the recruiter is another youth, they may introduce the targeted youth to another “friend,” “boyfriend,” or “employer.”
Through grooming and connection:
- Circumstances that establish dependency are set up, which includes providing one or multiple of:
- accommodations, housing, a place to stay;
- clothing and gifts;
- personal upkeep, such as nail and hair care;
- food and dining;
- validation, praise, belonging, and/or a new social network;
- The person seeking to exploit is meeting the physical and/or emotional needs of the individual;
- A strategic relationship masked as a genuine relationship such as friendship or romantic partnership is established;
- Youth’s boundaries are tested and the lifestyle of the person seeking to exploit may be introduced to observe youth’s response and begin making them comfortable.
- youth may be introduced to more “friends”
- physical and sexual boundaries may be tested.
As a result of grooming and connection, youth will likely experience:
- A sense of safety and trust with the recruiter;
- Isolation, as previous friendships and family connections are slowly eroded;
- A change in previous goals and/or ambitions
- things that were once important might not be anymore, while new interests or concerns
- Reliance on the things provided, which can therefore also be removed in the following stage.