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Gifts with unwanted guarantees

For many, Christmas is a time of giving. Children all around the country will have got a new phone, fresh trainers, the latest Playstation game. However, gifts can mean different things for children depending on who is handing them out. For a child being groomed, a new pair of trainers or gaming tokens come with hidden expectations, and it’s not just a problem at Christmas. 

Here’s what gifts can mean in the context of exploitation. 

Published:

Heritage trainers

product image of running trainers

Heritage trainers

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.  

boots of young person on swing

What is county lines?

County lines is more prevalent in the UK than you might think. It's not just a 'big city problem' that affects young people from a certain age group or background.

Signature necklace

product image of gold necklace

Signature necklace

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

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.  

alcohol quote

If you’re underage and can’t afford it, it feels amazing to be given cigarettes or alcohol.

gaming credit

product image of gaming controller and token

Gaming credit

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

young man on computer

Online grooming

Young people should be able to be creative, personal and expressive, without threats from bullies or online groomers. We work to promote internet safety and end online exploitation.

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.  

A big part of what we do is helping young people, parents and professionals spot the signs early on, to help reduce the risk of children becoming trapped in a cycle of abuse.