Last updated: 03.01.14

The 'party lifestyle' model. The new face of grooming in the UK.

This is a guest post by Charlotte Nutland from Basis Training

Currently, the complex crime of child sexual exploitation is receiving high levels of attention from politicians, the media and safeguarding professionals.

Whilst awareness is key to preventing and rooting out this crime, it’s important professionals recognise that grooming models evolve and change as perpetrators of child sexual exploitation seek to avoid detection and prosecution.

Historically, the boyfriend model was viewed as the typical method of grooming, generally involving one identifiable male, targeting a female either face-to-face or more recently online.

This method follows familiar patterns; a large age gap, befriending of the young person, showering the victim with attention and often with tangible gifts, including items such as; hair straighteners, new trainers, mobile phones etc.

Generally, the young person becomes very isolated from friends and family, which made it progressively easier for the perpetrator to introduce the exploitation, as they had created a wedge between the young person and their protective barriers.

However, increasingly over the past few years at Basis Training?s charitable project Basis Young People we have observed the emergence of a new model of grooming that we call; the party lifestyle.

The party lifestyle model varies hugely to more traditional methods as it involves grooming whole groups of young people.

Typically, young people are groomed by other young people and invited to parties across their locality. These parties are held at a range of venues; hotels, flats, bars and in the summer months we were even informed about ‘tent parties.’

Young people are invited in numbers which gives friendship groups the feeling of security. However, this is an intentional ploy to ensure that the group of young people are all involved in the process and therefore view the situation as ‘normal.’ Moreover, it gives the perpetrators access to a greater number of young people.

The parties are often set up purely with the intention of grooming and exploiting young people. Drugs and alcohol are usually offered for free as an incentive to attend more parties, this technique engages groups of young people who see the parties as fun, harmless and enjoyable.

It is only after weeks of attending these parties that repayment is discussed. Sometimes, Perpetrators use the fact that young people have ‘enjoyed’ their offering of drugs and alcohol and suggest they need to find a way of paying back if they want to continue to attend more parties.

What makes Party Lifestyle particularly challenging is the number of perpetrators present at the parties who are often introduced under aliases or with nicknames. Moreover, usually when young people are asked to ‘repay’ for their consumption of drink, drugs, takeaways, phone credit etc they often oblige as either they don?t want to be left out of the parties and or they?re scared.

The transition from young people receiving tangible gifts to the common use of phone credit, takeaways, drugs and alcohol make it increasingly more difficult to identify certain signs of CSE.

Professionals need to question how young people gained access to alcohol, particularly if they’re under-aged and with no obvious form of income.

To raise awareness of this emerging model of grooming that we have produced, Sick Party, an educational DVD with accompanying resource booklet aimed at professionals and young people which looks at the Party Lifestyle model of grooming.

Based on a real-life story, it follows the experiences of Hayley and Katie, two friends who, by chance, meet Abs and Neil in the local park.

To date we’ve sold over 800 copies nationally, professionals agree that Sick Party has led to disclosures of CSE from young people as they can identify with the story and the characters.