Gifts with unwanted guarantees
Getting a gift is nice, right? For most people, yes. But for a child being groomed, a new pair of trainers or the latest Playstation game can come with hidden expectations. Our child exploitation workers tell us how gifts are used to manipulate and force children into sexual or criminal activity.
What is grooming and exploitation?
When someone befriends and builds a relationship with a child so that they can manipulate them, this is known as grooming. It can happen online or offline.
They might give the child things like gifts, drugs, money, gaming credits and skins, or affection and a sense of belonging and ask them to carry out criminal or sexual activities in return. This is child exploitation.
Here's how gifts can be used to groom and exploit children:
Comfortable shoes for travelling across counties.
Exploiters will target young people’s weaknesses. Maybe a young person’s parents have no money to buy them new things. The exploiter will offer the child quick money or buy them trainers. This makes them feel special, like someone has their back. But it comes at a cost.
They might have to carry drugs across counties, launder money through their bank accounts, stash weapons. By accepting the trainers, they become indebted.
Show someone you're thinking of them and they'll be yours for life
Young girls who are exploited are often manipulated into thinking they’re in a loving relationship. The exploiter will buy them jewellery, protect them, show them affection. They feel loved and cared for.
For some girls, this may be the first time anyone shows them attention. They don’t want to lose that. So they are vulnerable to all forms of abuse.
bottle of tequila
70cl Bottle of Tequila
Think 21. Alcohol can harm children
If a criminal sees a young person going to the shops regularly, they might test the water and say something like, ‘I’ve seen you around, can I buy you some booze?’ And that’s how the relationship starts.
Next time it might be ‘I only live around the corner, shall we go drink at mine?’ The exploiter builds a trusting relationship and takes advantage.
If you’re underage and can’t afford it, it feels amazing to be given cigarettes or alcohol.
Buy new skins and slide into the DMs
Gaming tokens are often bought for children as part of the online grooming process. Criminals will befriend young people on games like Fortnite, making them feel special by helping them buy new outfits for their characters.
Young people think it’s fine because it’s just a game, but the exploiter is manipulating them and building an attachment. It can quickly lead to private messages. And that can lead to exploitation, then requests for sexual images which are then used to blackmail children into committing crime.
online grooming quote
A 50-year-old bought him about £100 worth of tokens to buy things and told him to not let mum know
Gifts and grooming
Whether it’s online exploitation, sexual abuse or county lines and other forms of criminal exploitation, the grooming techniques are the same. Gifts are often used as a gateway to making young people do something they don’t want to.
Learning to spot the signs of exploitation means that together we can help keep young people safe and stop this abuse from happening.