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Review of Online Grooming: Characteristics and Concerns

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 18 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 2013 Pages: 62-70
Helen Whittle; Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis; Anthony Beech; Guy Collings
Date Published
February 2013
9 pages
This literature review explores how youth are targeted by offenders through the Internet, with attention to the definitions, prevalence, and characteristics of online "grooming" in the context of child sexual abuse theories and Internet behaviors.
"Grooming" is now universally understood as a technique for turning or drawing a potential sexual assault victim into sexual interactions, whether online or offline. The literature review found that there have been efforts to collate and assess the research associated with online grooming, and researchers are beginning to compare online and offline grooming; however, currently this issue has had limited attention; work should be done to consider the prevalence of the crime and also the characteristics and form it may take. Research to date has found that despite variation in grooming techniques, there are common features in the process. These include efforts to desensitize the child until they are physically and psychologically groomed to become involved in sexual activity, either online or offline. Grooming is a manipulative process, and a young person may be coerced or threatened into behaving in ways that are not characteristic of the individual. The Internet provides a context for individuals to meet and groom a child for a sexual interaction. Offenders first facilitate the victim's trusting of them in order for an intimate rapport to be established. Sexualizing the communication with the youth is a key development within the grooming process. People often engage in risk-taking behavior online, since they feel safe and protected, but their youth and developmental needs make them vulnerable to groomers experienced in verbal and emotional manipulation. Prevention strategies have focused on educating youth and their parents on the risks of online interaction with strangers, the techniques of "grooming." 3 tables and 76 references