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Grooming and Online Predators Online grooming is when a person tries to create a sexually abusive situation through the use of technology. In July 2015, a new offence was added to The Crimes Act to tackle online grooming under section 124A, ‘Indecent communication with young person under 16’. Online groomers might find and choose their victims online or offline (e.g., asking a child in a shopping centre for their email address and then begins a relationship online to groom them). The process of grooming might be exciting and stimulating for the groomer. It might be something the groomer enjoys and finds rewarding, regardless of whether it leads to abusing the victim or not. This has been termed ‘hit-and-run’ grooming. Groomers might actually believe they are establishing genuine, caring and ‘normal’ relationships with their victims. HOW DO GROOMERS FIND A POTENTIAL VICTIM? Groomers try to establish a ‘relationship’ with a victim. In most cases they want to be seen as a trusted and respected peer or caring and understanding older person. Sometimes they might pose as someone needing help or being in distress. WHY IS ESTABLISHING A RELATIONSHIP IMPORTANT TO THE GROOMING PROCESS? If a groomer can establish a relationship with the victim, it can make the potential victim less suspicious of the groomer’s actions and intentions. It can be confusing for the victim, when they are in a trusted relationship with

someone who begins to do things that make them uncomfortable. Some victims may ask, ‘how can this be sexual abuse when they are so nice to me?’. Not only do groomers aim to get victims to believe things which are not true, but they also try to manipulate them to suspend their disbelief, and abandon their usual sense of caution and scepticism. WHAT SORT OF INFORMATION DO GROOMERS WANT FROM POTENTIAL VICTIMS? Groomers try to find out information about their potential victims so they can use it later. For example, how old they are, what they look like, their mobile number, when they are home alone, if they are vulnerable, lonely, feeling neglected by parents and caregivers, have been abused in the past, how likely is the victim to report grooming and if plying them with gifts, money, drugs or alcohol is an option. Some groomers use viruses or Trojan programmes to control aspects of their victim’s computers in order to get more information. Some have even used a virus to turn on their victim’s webcam, so that they can watch and take pics and videos of their victims without them knowing. WHAT TYPE OF PEOPLE DO GROOMERS TARGET? All young people using the internet unsupervised can be vulnerable to common cybersafety risks such as harmful content and online predators. Children who seem neglected, alienated from immediate family, are not easily Page 45

Rodney District Neighbourhood Support, December 2015