Nicola talks to social worker and safeguarding consultant Ann Marie Christian about the risks of adult grooming, and the importance of hearing untold stories.
Online groomers have done it so often that they know exactly who to target, and how and when to target them. They also know how soon they can expect a response.
But when you know what’s happening, the whole grooming process seems straightforward. So get to know the warning signs.
Ann Marie stresses how important it is that we learn to understand social media and the risks of online harm. People essentially have constant access to the internet. So abusers have more opportunity than ever before to target, groom and abuse at-risk individuals. During lockdown, when more people are online, but also more people are bored and lonely, the risk of abuse is only going to grow.
We also need to better understand what grooming is, how it works, and how it feels, during and after. There are lots of untold stories out there. People need to feel comfortable in talking about this issue, in sharing their stories.
The more stories we hear, the more we’ll empower others to tell their stories, to recognise that they shouldn’t feel ashamed, or embarrassed, but that they’ve been targeted and abused by someone who knew exactly what they were doing.
But for some people, sharing or not sharing can be life or limb. We should normalise talking about these issues, but until we can, we must anonymise things, so that people might feel comfortable in coming forward.
There are people out there who have a lot to say, but they don’t feel able to share their stories. So are we ready to listen?
You can learn more about Ann Marie Christian and her work on her website.