FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS)
What is grooming?
Grooming is when an adult – a stranger or someone you know perhaps through a friend of a friend – develops a close and trusting relationship with you with the intention of engaging in sexual behaviour. For example, you may be asked to send nude images of yourself and/or meet up with the person in real life to have sex. It is often quite difficult to recognize that you are being groomed because the adult may initially make you feel happy, in order to get you to trust them.
Grooming can take place both online and in person. Your relationship may develop very quickly over a matter of weeks or you may be in contact for a number of months or years before being asked to engage in any sexual acts with the person online or in real life.
What may grooming look like?
If you are contacted by someone you don’t know online, they may not be who they say they are and could be a lot older than they are telling you.
Some of the signs that the person you are talking to may be attempting to groom you are that they:
- – Offer advice and understanding to you
- – Buy you gifts
- – Compliment, flatter you and pay you lots of attention
- – Ask you to keep secrets and gain your trust
- – Isolate you from friends and family
- – Talk to you about sex
- – Ask you to send sexy pictures of yourself
- – Ask you to message on a private chat
They might also get you to think that you are their boyfriend or girlfriend, making you feel comfortable and that what they are asking you to do is ‘normal’.
What is ‘sexting’?
Sexting is another term for taking ‘indecent’ pictures of yourself and either sending them to your boyfriend, girlfriend or someone else online, or posting them on a social networking or other online platform.
By ‘indecent’, we mean a photo in which you are either: naked, topless, showing your genitals, performing a sexual act or masturbating.
If you are under the age of 18 and have a picture taken of yourself, wearing minimal or no clothing, it can be referred to as child abuse material (child pornography).
What is ‘sextortion’?
Sexual extortion or ‘sextortion’ as it is commonly referred to, is when someone blackmails you online, for example via the Internet or mobile messenger applications, by getting you to send an ‘indecent’ image or video of yourself and threatening to share this with other people if you don’t send them further images or videos.
For example, the offender may try to gain your trust to make you feel comfortable to share private photos with them. Once they have developed your trust, they may ask you to share a naked picture or video of yourself with them, or ask you to perform a sexual act over webcam. Once they have your photo or video, they will then make further sexual or financial demands of you, making threats to share your nude images or videos with friends, family or others online if their demands are not met. Extreme time pressures will often be placed on you to produce more nude images or videos. You should never respond to these threats or share more photos. There is no guarantee that they will stop even if you did share more of them. The best thing to do would be to tell a trusted adult who will be able to help you. You may feel embarrassed to do this, but it is important to remember that you have done nothing wrong and you are not to blame – the offender is the person in the wrong and has pretended to be your friend in order to cause you harm.
What is the risk of sending/sharing images of myself online?
You should never feel pressured into sending any image of yourself to anyone – if you do not feel comfortable then do not share.
Once you post/share images online, you lose control of the image and it no longer becomes private. This image could be viewed, copied or downloaded by others without you knowing and could put you at risk of being bullied, blackmailed or groomed by others online.
If you wouldn’t show your family or friends the image, then you shouldn’t share it online with people you do not know.
Who are online groomers and how do they get my attention?
Online groomers can be both men and women of any age over 18, although they may not always be honest about their age. They generally get your attention by using flattery and building a ‘trusting’ relationship with you. At times you maybe unaware of the type of information you are giving them, but you do it because you feel comfortable talking to them.
What if someone asks me to do something I don’t want to do?
Never feel pressured into doing anything that you don’t want to do. It is important that you don’t respond to any further requests or threats.
You should speak to a trusted adult, such as a parent, carer or teacher, immediately – they will be able to help you. You will not be in trouble and it will never be your fault.
If possible, try and record as much information about the event as this will help others take action against the individual to protect yourself – e.g. username, website, date/time.
You can also report what has happened to the online platform on which you are chatting via their Safety Centre (if they have one), or the ‘Report Abuse’ button on this site which will send an online report to the police.
It is never too late to get help!
What if I see something I didn’t mean to look at?
If you see something online that you think could be a sexual image or video of a child, you should tell a trusted adult such as a parent, carer or teacher, straight away as that child may be in danger. Even if you are not sure, it is best to speak to someone who can help. Do not send on the image or videos to anyone.
Why should I care about my digital footprint?
Everything you share or post online – whether that be images, videos or profile information – makes up your digital footprint and can be used by strangers to identify and even locate you but also make unwelcome contact with you.
By giving away too much about yourself online, such as your date of birth, home town or school, strangers can learn things about you that perhaps your friends and family don’t even know, putting you in danger. Make sure you familiarise yourself with your privacy settings on your device.
Think before you share – who are you sharing it with? Would you share this with your friends and family, let alone strangers online? Remember, once you share you lose that control and are consenting to making your information and content public.