Grooming Definition

Augustine Repetto
Degree in psychology

Grooming is a type of cyber-violence that is characterized by the intentional action of an adult to contact a minor through any technological means in order to threaten their sexual integrity.

For Dr. Fernández Rodicio in Psychology (2011), grooming is a preparatory act for another, through which, through the progressive approach mediated by technological devices, the perpetrator seeks to create an emotional connection with the victim, generating in it a feeling of empathy, trust and affection that create the favorable conditions of possibility to later carry out a sexual abuse outside of virtual spaces.

Grooming is a crime typified in the penal codes of many countries and that under no circumstances is the minor guilty of the situation in which he is involved. This phenomenon represents a complex and multidimensional problem that for its comprehensive approach requires the intersection between professionals from the legal, psychological, computer and educational fields, among others.

grooming phases

Grooming implies a process that offenders develop over time in different phases. According to the available bibliography, the following could be established:

A first phase of preparation where the adult contacts the minor through a social network, virtual platform and/or online game. Here the perpetrator begins by generating a friendly and affective bond with the minor in which she may even impersonate another minor. This phase predisposes the victim to feel trust in the abuser, who pretends to share common interests and tastes.

The second is that of affectation. In this phase, the perpetrator tries to get to know his victim in greater depth and to obtain intimate information through the previously established link. He will inquire mainly about her family affective ties, about her friendships and other social relationships in order to become her confidant.

Then follows the seduction phase, in which the stalker uses all the information previously obtained to seduce and manipulate the minor. Here conversations of a sexual nature may appear, where the abuser will try to exchange photos and/or videos.

The next phase is bullying. The adult, who already has in his possession digital material with which to extort his victim (mainly intimate photos and videos) and information about his family situation and his concerns, manipulates, blackmails and/or threatens the minor to establish a sexual relationship already be it physical or virtual.

How to prevent grooming?

Bearing in mind that prevention is the best intervention to prevent cases of grooming and that the victims of the action are boys, girls and adolescents, the tools provided by Comprehensive Sexual Education are essential. Through it, one teaches and learns to make reasoned and deliberate decisions about one’s own body, sexuality and health by promoting the construction of healthy and respectful relationships with oneself and with others.

Also, it is necessary to instruct and provide suggestions to navigate the Internet in a safe and responsible manner, emphasizing the importance of having identity authentication mechanisms, the protection of personal data and the possible undesired consequences of the disclosure of material that compromise privacy.

Detection of grooming through some indicators in adolescents

Although various authors point out some common behavioral and psychological changes in adolescents who are victims of grooming, it is important to clarify that many of these changes can also occur from other problems and depending on the characteristics intrinsic to the vital stage of adolescence. Therefore, consulting with professionals in the field is of the utmost importance in the event of even the slightest suspicion. In addition, not all adolescents go through a situation of violence in the same way, nor do all people go through the adolescent life cycle in the same way.

Once this is clarified, let’s mention some changes that Cañeque (2014) reports: withdrawal and conflicts in social relationships, difficulty holding conversations, changes in body language such as lack of eye contact and rejection of contact, mood swings without apparent reason, apathy, outbursts of anger, general demotivation. Finally, it is worth noting the presence of possible psychosomatic symptoms.

References

Fernandez, CI (2011). Telematic bullying in minors: Cyberbullying and grooming. PsicologiaCientifica.com Magazine, 13(12)

Garibaldi, G. (2014). Dogmatic aspects of legislated grooming in Argentina. Criminal Law Magazine, 3(7), 21-37. Section 4.