What grooming behaviour looks like
Grooming behaviour can occur online and in person. Unfortunately, the majority of grooming behaviour is committed by family members or close friends. It can be hard for a child to identify when an individual they trust is displaying grooming behaviour.
Be concerned if an older adult or peer is behaving in the following ways:
- making physical contact with a young child that is sexual in nature and inappropriate, such as play-fighting, rough and tumble play, hugging, or touching inappropriate parts of the body
- giving a child lots of special attention such as giving gifts for no special occasion that makes the child feel they owe respect and trust
- spending time alone with the child rather than spending time with individuals of similar age such as professional colleagues or peers (adults or children)
- referring to a child’s body in an inappropriate manner.
Profile of groomers
The uncomfortable reality is that grooming, and child sexual abuse is committed by family members, by people in youth-serving organisations and institutions in a position of power, and by children themselves. There is growing evidence that peer-to-peer abuse is under-recorded.
Some offenders are motivated by the need to control and to have power over a child. These offenders engage in a form of aggression. They have no specific sexual preference for children - the age of the victim is irrelevant. They are opportunistic and take advantage of situations that mask their behaviour.
Other offenders have a sexual attraction to children. They are referred to as pedophiles.
Creating a safe environment
Organisations can take a situational crime prevention approach to remove opportunities that enable perpetrators to abuse children and young people. This involves adapting environments that increase the potential for harm. It also involves increasing the level of difficulty for someone to offend and reducing the appeal of the crime and the vulnerability of the child. To improve safety for children, organisations need to foster a positive culture where all adults take an active role in identifying and responding to risks to children’s safety. Some of these are mandated, others can be developed by each organisation:
|Mandatory for all organisations
Tailored by organisations
- Working with Children checks
- screening for suitable staff
- reporting of child abuse and neglect
Read more on mandatory reporting laws.
- change location design and workplace practices and eliminate ‘hot spots’
- minimise or prevent one-on one activities
- develop a code of behaviour
- offer regular staff training
- ensure that staff know what to do when a child discloses sexual abuse, how to report sexual abuse, and how to respond to the child’s needs when disclosure is made
Responding when a child discloses information on their personal safety
Most children who disclose when they feel unsafe are likely to tell their mothers and fathers. They are less likely to make the first disclosure to professionals such as teachers and coaches. When they do share information about feeling unsafe, it is important to allow the child to know they are being heard and to be reassured. They need to hear the trusted adult saying statements like this:
- “I believe you”
- “You did the right thing by talking to me”
- “It is never OK for kids to get hurt”
- “I will discuss with you what can happen next and who we will share this with”
- “We will keep you involved and informed and you can continue to feel safe to tell us how you feel and what you want”