Grooming only happens to children and is always of a sexual nature – right? Wrong.
What starts as a bit of friendly chat can sometimes turn out to be something more sinister. One person trying to influence another in terms of thinking and actions isn’t limited to children. Nor is it limited to online grooming. Grooming can happen almost anywhere.
It is crucial to realise grooming can take place at work, online and socially. It is most likely to happen where there is a perceived difference in power. Such as between an older and younger person, or a senior and more junior member of staff. Another example is a relationship like that between a landlord and a tenant. When somebody is struggling financially or emotionally, they are markedly more susceptible to being exploited.
Grooming risk to apprentices
Many apprentices start work straight from school at the age of 16. They can be impressionable. For example, others might seek to exploit this inexperience with a range of things from extreme political doctrines to pressuring them to partake in sexual favours.
Attitudes spill off from social media
One of the biggest rises in grooming incidents has been the far-right trying to win the hearts and minds of young people. These attitudes can spill off from social media and into the real world. Another example is Islamist groups that entice others to perform terrorist acts. All of a sudden, you, or somebody you work with, can be dragged into something untoward.
Parents and employers can lookout for signs that an apprentice is under the unhealthy influence of another. Is the victim isolating themselves, not wanting to openly discuss their views, being secretive or displaying sudden changes in mood? It is essential to realise that anger and disrespect are also signs that somebody is becoming radicalised.
Grooming and radicalisation
Mobile phones and the internet make it particularly challenging to prevent radicalisation and exploitation. Bullying and emotional issues can elicit similar responses in people, so this really can be a complex issue to spot, in others and even yourself.
Employers can minimise the risks
Employers should make it clear that they do not tolerate hate of any kind. Clarify this by promoting British values through staff training and materials around the workplace.
Brief staff on how to make a referral if they think somebody is at risk of grooming. TRS has a safeguarding team that will help you, so please get in touch if you have any concerns.
Clear IT policies must be set out and followed. Equally important is that education providers and employers implement strict filtering of information allowed on their IT networks.
Employees and apprentices must keep themselves safe
If somebody you work with is trying to influence you negatively or put you in a compromising situation, then speak to a colleague or somebody you trust as soon as possible.
When online, be very aware of your sources of information. Only use reputable news channels, and be wary of people you do not know trying to connect with you.
Think about your relationships outside of work also. Always trust your instincts. Gifts and money from people you don’t know are seldom free from strings. In essence, if things don’t feel right, they probably aren’t.
In summary, grooming is when one person builds a relationship with another with the intent to manipulate, exploit or abuse them. Grooming isn’t a criminal offence unless the victim is a child; so as adults, we need to be responsible for our actions. If you are ever in a predicament that you are uncomfortable with, make sure you speak to somebody and seek help.