In the digital age, the terms child grooming and child sexual exploitation often conjure up images of adults preying on vulnerable young people via online chatrooms. While this is indeed a risk, children can also be put in danger by their teachers and even their parents, as there are different grooming models they can fall victim to.
In fact, figures from the NSPCC show that more than 2,100 children reported child sexual exploitation in a counselling session from 2016-17.
Our Virtual College online safeguarding courses will help to improve your understanding of the various child grooming models and how to support young people who are at risk of being targeted. Here's an overview of the different grooming models:
The relationship model - also referred to as the 'boyfriend model' - refers to the type of grooming where young people are tricked into believing they have entered a loving relationship with another person, when in reality they are being coerced into having sex with them and/or their associates.
These perpetrators are not always necessarily older; there are cases where the relationship model of grooming is evident among peers, sometimes through gang activity. It is not always girls who are preyed upon either, making the term 'boyfriend model' somewhat misleading.
The inappropriate relationship model of child grooming involves an offender having an inappropriate amount of power or control over a young person, due to a large age gap, or a disparity in wealth or status.
Similarly to the relationship model, the young person may believe that they are in a loving relationship.
The organised trafficking, or network trafficking model, can be wide-reaching, spanning across entire cities or even countries. Young people can become victims in the 'buying and selling' of sexual services as perpetrators look to network with their fellow criminals.
Even the young people involved in the organisation of the trafficking process can themselves be forced to recruit new targets into the network. Due to the fact that this model often involves numerous victims and offenders, it is usually widely reported in the media.
The 'party lifestyle' model typically involves young people being groomed in a group, getting invited to parties in their local area. Children are often taught to believe that there is strength in numbers so therefore less danger, but this is an intentional ploy by the perpetrators to ensure the process is viewed as 'normal'.
Young people are then usually plied with 'treats' such as alcohol or drugs, with these later removed until repayment (often through sexual activity) can be agreed. Because children are targeted in a group, they may not want to be left out or might feel scared of the repercussions of saying 'no', which is something perpetrators often take advantage of.
If you uncover a case of child sexual exploitation, it is crucial that the victim is never blamed. It is likely that the perpetrator will have already made the victim feel it is their fault, so you must help the young person to realise that this is not the case.
At Virtual College, we have a range of e-learning safeguarding courses that are designed to help parents, teachers and youth workers understand more about protecting their children from harm. Explore our online safeguarding courses here.