At Love146, when we say “grooming” we’re talking about the process predators use to lure a child into relationship, gain trust with them, and prepare them for sexual exploitation.
“GROOMING” AS PORTRAYED IN THE MEDIA
According to recently updated guidance from the Associated Press on the word grooming: “Some people use the word ‘groom’ or variants of it to falsely liken LGBTQ people’s interactions with children, or education about LGBTQ issues, to the actions of child molesters…” Their advice to journalists was this: “Do not quote people using the term in this context without clearly stating it is untrue.”
Outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Hill were all found to have articles that lack this important clarification, and coverage of “grooming” accusations that did not provide critical clarification.
GROOMING IN REAL LIFE
The American Bar Association describes grooming like this: “Sexual grooming is a preparatory process in which a perpetrator gradually gains a person’s or organization’s trust with the intent to be sexually abusive. The victim is usually a child, teen, or vulnerable adult.” This article from the American Bar Association gives a lengthy and detailed unpacking of what grooming looks like.
Grooming is not a child’s exposure to LGTBQ+ people or information. Put plainly by PolitiFact (a nonpartisan fact-checking website), “Talking about gender identity and sexual orientation in the classroom would not be grooming, because it is done without intent to sexually abuse a child.” You can agree or disagree with various approaches to health and sex education, but it is not grooming.
GROOMING AS IT RELATES TO CHILD TRAFFICKING
Having supported hundreds of young people victimized by child trafficking, we have heard many stories of grooming. Love146 regularly talks about grooming and uses this term. Our Not a Number curriculum helps youth spot the signs of being groomed. In our Survivor Care program, we sit down with youth who are suspected victims of human trafficking in a meeting called a “Rapid Response” and talk about the grooming processs. We’ve talked about how Epstein and Maxwell groomed children for exploitation. We recently looked at how the character Rue in HBO’s hit show Euphoria was being groomed for sex trafficking. We’ve even exposed how traffickers groom children more easily on Facebook because of the platform’s lack of protections for minors.
WHEN PEOPLE WITH POLITICAL AGENDAS CO-OPT TERMS LIKE “GROOMING,” THEY KNOWINGLY USE AND EXPLOIT THE ISSUE OF CHILD TRAFFICKING TO MANIPULATE THE PUBLIC AND FURTHER UNRELATED GOALS.
Such actions fit within a larger pattern of the issue of child exploitation being misused for political agendas. As Love146 has previously noted, co-opting the issue of child sexual abuse to push political agendas does real harm. It causes retraumatization and misdirects scarce attention and resources away from the actual issue of child victimization.
The public and caregivers are being manipulated — at the cost of child victims. Understanding the realities of grooming is important for those working to address child trafficking. If you’re a caregiver wanting more information about how to spot grooming, ConsentParenting has some excellent resources.