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|Sex and the law|
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Adultery · Buggery
|Sexuality · Criminal justice · Law|
Child grooming refers to actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, in order to lower the child's inhibitions in preparation for sexual activity with the child, or exploitation (such as child labour - see trafficking of children).
Although worldwide case law has an inherently heterogeneous history of offenders, generally child sexual abuse occurs at the hands of someone personally close and well known to that child. Thus, abuse is usually preceded by grooming.
Child grooming involves psychological manipulation in the form of positive reinforcement and foot-in-the-door tactics, using activities that are typically legal but later lead to illegal activities. This is done to gain the child's trust as well as the trust of those responsible for the child's well-being. Additionally, a trusting relationship with the family means the child's parents are less likely to believe potential accusations.
To establish a good relationship with the child and the child’s family, child groomers might do several things. For example, they might take an undue interest in someone else’s child, to be the child’s “special” friend to gain the child’s trust. They might give gifts or money to the child for no apparent reason (toys, dolls, etc.). They may show pornography—videos or pictures—to the child, hoping to make it easy for the child to accept such acts, thus normalizing the behavior. They may simply talk about sexual topics. These are just some of the methods a child groomer might use to gain a child's trust and affection in order to allow them to do what they want. Hugging and kissing or other physical contact, even when the child does not want it, can happen. To the groomer, this is a way to get close. They might talk about problems normally discussed between adults, or at least people of the same age. Topics might include marital problems and other conflicts. They may try to gain the child’s parents’ trust by befriending them, with the goal of easy access to the child. The child groomer might look for opportunities to have time alone with the child. This can be done by offering to babysit. The groomer may invite the child for sleepovers. This gives them the opportunity to sleep in the same room or even the same bed with the child.
Actions such as online communication have been defended by suspected offenders using the so-called ‘fantasy defense’, in which those accused argue that they were only expressing fantasies and not plans of future behavior. In the U.S., case law draws a distinction between those two and some people accused of 'grooming' have successfully used this defense.
Over the internet
Sexual grooming of children also occurs on the Internet. Some abusers will pose as children online and make arrangements to meet with them in person. Facebook has been involved in controversy as to whether or not it takes enough precautions. James Gamble, leader of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) of the United Kingdom, stated in April 2010 that his office received 292 complaints about Facebook users through the year of 2009 yet "None of these complaints came direct from Facebook." A spokesman for Facebook responded to complaints by saying, through a spokesperson, "We take the issue of safety very seriously" and meeting with the Ceop.
In 2003, MSN implemented restrictions in their chat rooms purportedly intended to help protect children from adults seeking sexual conversations with them. In 2005, Yahoo! chat rooms were investigated by the New York State attorney general's office for allowing users to create rooms whose names suggested that they were being used for this purpose. That October, Yahoo! agreed to "implement policies and procedures designed to ensure" that such rooms would not be allowed.
Some vigilante organizations use operatives posing as underage teens on the internet to identify potential child molesters and turn the information over to the police and the courts. The news program Dateline NBC features the recurring segment "To Catch a Predator", based on documenting such activities.
Multiple programs have been developed to help identify grooming and warn parents. The software studies chat room and other Instant messaging logs for activity that may identify grooming or other potentially suspicious activities. Some of the technologies have been adapted to social networking services and ISPs.
In its report Protection of Children Against Abuse Through New Technologies, the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention Committee addressed the emerging issues of violence against children through the use of new technologies (the issue of child pornography on the Internet is already covered by Article 9 Convention) with particular reference to grooming both through the internet and by mobile telephones.
Some States have already criminalized grooming in their national legislation.
Australian Criminal Code Act 1995 section 474.26 and 474.27 prohibits the use of a "carrier service" to communicate with the intent to procure a person under the age of 16, or expose such a person to any indecent matter for the purposes of grooming.
The various states and territories have similar laws, some of which use a different age (for example the victim need only be under 18 in Queensland).
In Canada, Criminal Code section 172.1 makes it an offence to communicate with a child through a computer system for the purpose of committing a sexual offence (termed "luring a child").
In England and Wales, sections 14 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 make it an offence to arrange a meeting with a child, for oneself or someone else, with the intent of sexually abusing the child. The meeting itself is also criminalized.
Thus, a crime may be committed even without the actual meeting taking place and without the child being involved in the meeting (for example, if a police officer has taken over the contact and pretends to be that child). In R v T (2005) EWCA Crim 2681, the appellant, aged 43, had pretended to befriend a nine-year-old girl, but had done very little with her before she became suspicious and reported his approaches. He had a number of previous convictions (including one for rape) and was described as a "relentless, predatory paedophile". The Court of Appeal upheld a longer than commensurate sentence of eight years' imprisonment with an extended licence period of two years.
In the United States, Template:UnitedStatesCode makes it a federal offense to use interstate mail etc. to entice a minor to sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense. Template:UnitedStatesCode makes it a federal offense to transmit information about a person below the age of 16 for this purpose. Some states have additional statutes covering seducing a child online, such as the Florida law that makes "Use of a Computer to Seduce a Child" a felony.
Laws focused on 'grooming' were first enforced federally against Alabaman Jerry Alan Penton in 2009. Penton received 20 years in prison for that action coupled with another 20 for his distribution and possession of child pornography.was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison on a variety of charges relating to child pornography.
- Crosson-Tower, Cynthia (2005). UNDERSTANDING CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT. Allyn & Bacon. p. 208. ISBN 020540183X.
- Levesque, Roger J. R. (1999). Sexual Abuse of Children: A Human Rights Perspective. Indiana University. pp. p64. ISBN 0253334713.
- Richard Wortley, Stephen Smallbone. "Child Pornography on the Internet". Problem-Oriented Guides for Police No. 41: p14–16.
- Ending Offending Together
- The 'anti-child grooming' website
- Convention on Cybercrime
- Act of the U.K. Parliament; Sexual Offences Act 2003, section 15
- Act of the Scottish Parliament; Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005, 2005 asp 9.
- Grooming Children for Sexual Molestation, written by Gregory M. Weber, the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Wisconsin who specializes in the prosecution of crimes committed against children.
- A Cultural Analysis of Preteen Models at CSM Child Super Models
Cyber Grooming - danger of cyberspace, written by Kamil Kopecký, the professor at Palacký University Olomouc (director of Centre PRVoK)