While the drivers and objectives of grooming and radicalisation are different, the actual process behind these types of harm is broadly similar; with the exploitation of a person’s vulnerability usually being the critical factor.
What is grooming?
Grooming occurs when someone builds a relationship of trust and an emotional connection with another person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. People who are groomed can be sexually abused, exploited, or trafficked.
Anybody can be a groomer, no matter their age, gender, or race. Grooming can take place over a short or long period of time – from weeks to years. Groomers may also build a relationship with the person's family or friends to make them seem trustworthy or authoritative.
People can be groomed online, in person or both – by a stranger or someone they know. This could be a family member, a friend or someone who has targeted them – like a teacher or lecturer, faith group leader or sports coach. When a person is groomed online, groomers may hide who they are by sending photos or videos of other people. Sometimes this will be of someone younger than them to gain the trust of a "peer". They might target one person online or contact lots of people very quickly and wait for them to respond.
The relationship a groomer builds can take different forms. This could be a romantic relationship, as a mentor, authority figure, or as a dominant and persistent figure.
People can be groomed online through social media networks, text messages and messaging apps, like Whatsapp, email, text, voice and video chats in forums, games and apps.
Whether online or in person, groomers can use tactics like pretending to be younger, giving advice, or showing understanding, buying gifts, giving attention, taking them on trips, outings, or holidays.
Groomers might also try and isolate people from their friends and family; making them feel dependent on them and giving the groomer power and control over them. They might use blackmail to make a person feel guilt and shame, or introduce the idea of 'secrets' to control, frighten and intimidate.
People who have been groomed may not understand or recognise that they have been groomed. They may have complicated feelings, like loyalty, admiration, love; as well as fear, distress and confusion.
What is radicalisation?
What is radicalisation?
Radicalisation is the process through which a person comes to support or be involved in extremist ideologies. It can result in a person becoming drawn into terrorism and is a form of harm.
Sometimes a person may be deliberately exposed to radical or extreme views, or persuaded, pressured, or forced to take an extremist view by someone else who wants to recruit people to support them, or take action on their behalf. In this way, radicalisation is very similar to the process of grooming.
Very often, the person at risk of radicalisation has some form of vulnerability, such as a mental illness or unmet psychological need for belonging or status, that can be exploited and used by those trying to radicalise them.
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a duty on the University to have “due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism”. The University publishes information about its Prevent duty and what steps it takes to comply with this duty.
Find out more:
- NSPCC – for further information about grooming
- Ann Craft Trust – for information about adult grooming.
- Prevent at Brunel – for information about the University’s Prevent duty
- ACT Early – for information about how to spot the signs of radicalisation
- British Council Keeping safe: how to spot and prevent online grooming and radicalisation