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What to do if…

You think someone has tried to groom you

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It can be really hard to know:

  • if someone is trying to groom you, instead of just trying to be friends with you
  • what to do to keep yourself safe 

This page will help you understand:

  • what grooming is
  • how someone might try to groom you (online or offline)
  • how to recognise the warning signs

We’ve also included some advice on what to do if you think you’ve already been groomed

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Common questions

What does “grooming” mean?

Anybody can be a groomer, no matter how old they are, their gender or background.

Grooming is when someone builds a friendship or relationship with a young person and gains their trust so that they can exploit or abuse them. 

This can happen online or offline. 

The person doing the grooming could be an adult or another young person. It could be someone you talk to online, or offline, or both. It could be someone you met recently or someone you’ve known for a long time.

When people are being manipulated in this way, they often don’t realise they’ve been groomed. Instead, they may think they’re in a special, loving relationship. 

Grooming often leads to sexual abuse. This can include:

  • having sexual conversations online
  • getting people to share sexual photos or videos of themselves or other people 
  • carrying out sexual acts on a webcam, or meeting up in person to have sex

Anyone can groom someone else, whether they are old or young, and whatever gender they are. 

How does grooming happen?

Grooming can happen online or offline, by a stranger or someone you already know.

The images below show some of the ways a person might try to gain your trust so they can exploit or abuse you. They won’t all use these techniques, but it’s a good idea to make sure you know what to look out for. 

Click on the different boxes to find out more

Making contact with you

Making contact with you

Gaining your trust

Gaining your trust

Becoming important in your life

Becoming important in your life

Isolating you from your friends and family

Isolating you from your friends and family

Making things sexual

Making things sexual

Keeping control

Keeping control

Here are some questions you can ask yourself, to help you figure out if you have been groomed or if someone is behaving in an abusive way towards you: 

  • Do they give me compliments and make me feel special?
  • Have they given me gifts or made me promises about the future?
  • Are they trying to talk to me privately, away from group chats or forums? 
  • Have they asked for my number?
  • Have they asked to meet up?
  • Are they telling me that the other people in my life don’t understand me and that I shouldn’t trust them? 
  • Are my friends or family worried about this person? 
  • Have I started behaving differently around my friends and family since this person came into my life?
  • Have they told me to keep secrets or not to talk about our friendship with others?
  • Have they spoken to me in a sexual way? 
  • Do they tell me how attracted they are to me or that they want to do sexual things with me?
  • Have they sent me any pornography or sexual content?
  • Have they asked me to send them photos or videos of myself? 
  • Have they pressured me to do things I’m not comfortable with?
  • Have they made any threats towards me?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, it may mean that someone is grooming you. 

What should I do if I think someone might be grooming me?

It’s really important to remember that this isn’t your fault. The person who groomed you is in the wrong.

Don’t try to speak to them about it

First of all, don’t try to speak to the person about what they’re doing, or confront them. 

Although you may feel confused or angry, it’s best not to speak to them directly about how you’re feeling. They may carry on trying to manipulate you. Or they might start making threats, which could cause you more harm. 

Cut them off on social media

We recommend you unfriend or unfollow the person, and block them, on all your social media sites. If you have their number you should block this too. Report the person’s profile on social media. 

After that, check carefully any new followers, adds or messages you get on any sites. This is because the person may create a new profile to contact you. 

Check your online privacy

Check your privacy settings on all of your social media apps. Make sure you aren’t sharing personal information with the public or with strangers. Personal information includes things like your address or the school you go to.

Take action on any sexual images you’ve shared 

If you’re worried about any sexual selfies or videos you’ve already shared with the person, see our page on what to do if you’ve shared a nude, or been sent one.

Get help to stay safe

Remember – you’ve been through something really difficult and it’s normal to feel confused, upset or anxious. Talking to someone you trust, like a parent, carer or teacher, may help you to:

  • understand what’s happened
  • stay safe
  • cope with these difficult emotions

If the person knows where you live or where you spend your time, for example which school you go to, speak to an adult you trust so they can help keep you safe.’

Finally, think about whether you want to make a report.

You can do this through contacting your local police on 101 or making a report to the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Safety Centre, where a Child Protection Advisor will make sure you get the help you need. Find out more about how CEOP can help you here.

It can be really difficult to decide whether to make a report or not. So it’s a good idea to speak to a parent or carer about it, or to another adult you trust. 

Although the idea of talking to the police might seem scary, it’s important you know that you have a right not to be hurt by anyone, and the police are there to make sure that you aren’t. 

What to do if… You’re worried about a friend’s sexual behaviour

It can be really difficult to see someone you care about behaving in a way that is harmful to themselves or other people. Find out where you can get support to help you and your friend.

Read more

But could this really happen to me?

A lot of people find it hard to believe that they could be groomed. They think they’d be able to spot the signs. 

But people who groom are usually very good at gaining people’s trust. They may have done this before and learned a lot about how to manipulate young people and what to say to them so that they can abuse them. 

Try to think about how the person you’re worried about arrived in your life. 

Or, if you’ve known them a long time, was there a time when they started behaving differently towards you?

What sort of things did they say or do that made you trust them? Have there been any warning signs that they’re grooming you? 

Are you struggling?

Our advisors can give you support and advice, and you don’t have to say who you are.

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