Sexual grooming is a process when a groomer tries to gain the minor’s confidence and trust with the intention to sexually abuse or exploit the minor (under 16 years old or of or above 16 but under 18 years old in the context of an exploitative relationship). This can happen in real life or virtually.
How to identify a potential groomer?
They employ a wide range of tactics to gain the trust of the child, often adapting to the child’s interests, responses and any other information available about him or her.
Some signs include:
- Gaining trust and building rapport through: flattery, sharing their ‘dark secrets’, pointing out commonalities, showing sympathy or ‘empathy’, giving gifts or money, declaring emotions for the child, making promises
- Asking questions about the child’s personal information such as address, schedule, where they go to school or hang out at, questions related to family or friends
- Being persistent or domineering, often pressuring the child to reply through guilt-tripping
- Asking to meet up exclusively (one-to-one) without telling anyone, or at remote places
What should I do if I think I’m being groomed?
- Test red flags by sharing the groomer’s responses with your friends and family
- Do NOT blame yourself
- Note down groomer’s identity/username and screenshot profile and conversations
- Stop all communication. If online, report the user on the communication platform and block the user. You may even change your online profile to make it harder for the groomer to find you.
- Who you can tell:
○ A trusted adult
○ Services which give advice and counselling:
■ TOUCH Cyber Wellness (1800 377 2252)
■ Fei Yue Community Services (6422 1599)
■ eC2.sg (free anonymous online counselling)
- Make a police report with a trusted adult. You can do so online , go to the nearest neighbourhood police centre or post, or by calling the police hotline ‘999’.
How can family and friends support the victim?
- Do NOT blame or accuse the child.
- If they open up to you, tell them they did the right thing by opening up and assure them it’s not their fault.
- Be patient with them and sensitive to their mental well-being.
- Let them decide the next course of action. Do NOT impose your opinion on them.
A note for parents: You may be tempted to confiscate devices, stop all online activity or monitor the child’s activity. First, understand that social media and technology are becoming an integral part of the child’s social life. Then, sit down with your child to patiently discuss possible boundaries and reasonable safety restrictions to prevent such incidents from happening again. If you need advice for how to go about doing this, contact TOUCH Cyber Wellness (1800 377 2252). More information can be found here.
How can I seek legal help?
The following are laws related to sexual grooming and activity regarding minors.
Section 376E to 376EE sets out offences relating to:
(i) sexual grooming, sexual communication, engaging in sexual activity in front of a minor, showing a sexual image to a minor under 16 years of age; and
(ii) the same acts in (i) when committed against a person of or above 16 but under 18 years of age in the context of an exploitative relationship.
Offenders are liable for imprisonment, fine or both.
|Children and Young Persons Act||Section 7 criminalises the sexual exploitation of a child or young persons (defined as a person under 18 years of age). The offender is liable for imprisonment or fine or both.|
Making a Police report will allow Police to assess if an offence has taken place, and if so, initiate criminal investigations. If taking civil action against the groomer is desired, any Court applications must be made by a parent or legal guardian as victims are below 21 years old.
According to the DQ Impact Report 2018,
● 54% of children, between the ages of 8-12 are exposed to at least one cyber-risk (cyberbullying, video game addiction, offline meetings, online sexual behaviour).
● 16% of this group have been exposed to online sexual behaviours such as visiting websites with sexual content or having sexual conversations online with strangers.
● 12% of respondents have chatted with or met online strangers in real life.
According to the Microsoft Digital Civility Study 2019,
● 2/3 (68%) of youths(aged 13-17) had received unwanted sexual content online
● 45% encountered unwanted contact from an online stranger (both are above the global average)