Topics for this month:
What is ‘Grooming’?
Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.
Children and young people who are ‘groomed‘, can be sexually abused, exploited or trafficked. Before the groomer reaches the point of exploiting or abusing, they will spend time forming a relationship with the young person. They will usually want to make them feel safe and like they can trust them.
A groomer can be any gender, sexuality, profession, or relationship to their victim. It could be someone you know, even someone like a teacher, parent, or family friend. It could be a stranger who has befriended you either online or in person. It can be literally anyone who is misusing the trust they have built with you
What are the stages of grooming?
Stage 1: Targeting the victim
Stage 2: Gaining the victim’s trust
Stage 3: Filling a need
Stage 4: Isolation of the child or young person
Stage 5: Sexualizing the relationship
Signs of grooming
- The person becomes withdrawn, or they may seem troubled by something but unwilling to talk about it.
- You notice them using or wearing something new, that you didn’t buy for them or is out of character and different to their usual appearance.
- Groomers often aim to isolate their targets from their family or friends.
Six common grooming behaviour’s:
- Forming relationships, perpetrators seek to form relationships with children and young people
- Testing boundaries, perpetrators will try to test the boundaries of a child or young person’s comfort levels
- Sharing sexually explicit material
- Communicating secretly
How to prevent online grooming
- Ask children or young people who they are talking to on these sites/platforms.
- Keep a look out for abnormal behaviour or changes in behaviour.
- Keep an eye out for potential gifts that may have been received.
- Ensure a child or young person knows that they should never meet up with strangers they meet online.
Grooming is never ok, exploitation and sexual abuse is never ok, being groomed, exploited or abused is never your fault. These are very important things to remember. If you are uncomfortable with a relationship it is important to speak up or seek advice to make sure you are safe.
For more information please visit the website below. There is a free confidential helpline where you can call or text 116 000. You also can access chat live direct from the website.
Also, visit https://www.nwgnetwork.org/services/?location=north-west which focuses on tackling child sexual exploitation and lists a range of organisations that provide support.
Harassment and what you can do about it – Merseyside Police
Harassment is extremely unpleasant and malicious behaviour that causes upset and distress – and it’s something no one should put up with. Follow the advice below to minimise the chances of becoming a target and prevent people accessing your information and finding out about you and your routine. Remember, the police always available for advice, and if you feel you’re being harassed, report it.
- Eighty per cent of victims who contact the National Stalking Helpline are female and the majority of their stalkers are male, according to ‘Out of Sight out of Mind’.
- Victims can be stalked for years with the average case lasting 15 months. But many cases last longer – 30% of people who contact the helpline have experienced stalking for over two years and 13% have been stalked for over five years.
In this age of digital communication and social media, your safety online is paramount. Here are some useful pieces of advice designed to help you protect yourself:
- restrict your social media posts to your friends and not public
- check privacy settings on social networking sites and limit the amount of information you supply
- Google yourself frequently to check your digital footprint
- don’t use the same password for everything
- be aware of geolocation and tagging on social networking sites and ensure that it’s disabled on your smartphone
- keep your antivirus software up to date
- report stalking to website administrators
- if you believe that your smartphone or computer has been hacked or compromised, stop using it immediately and take it to your mobile phone provider or computer repair experts for advice
Answering the phone
- Don’t answer the phone with your address or phone number.
- If the caller is not known to you, avoid answering questions about yourself, no matter how genuine they sound.
- If you have an answering machine, it’s advisable not to include your name or number in the outgoing message.
- The message should never tell people that you are out or away; try to give the impression that you are only temporarily unable to answer: e.g. ‘Sorry, I can’t get to the phone right now, so please leave your name and number and I’ll get right back to you.’
- If you’re listed in any directories, you might want to give your initials and surname rather than your full name.
- Never show anger or fear over the phone: just remain calm, confident and if necessary, assertive.
Street crime – How to stay safe
Street crime is often opportunistic, so making yourself less of a target, moving with purpose and being aware of your surroundings will go a long way to keeping you safe. Here’s where you’ll discover more tips on how to stay safe and feel more confident when out and about.
- Be prepared – Plan your route in advance. Carry a charged mobile phone and some cash, and tell someone where you’re going.
- Be assertive – From the moment you step out onto the street in the morning, look assertive and act and walk with confidence. This will always make you appear in control and much less vulnerable.
- Be aware – Using a mobile phone, whether making a call or texting, wearing a hood or listening to loud music, all affect your awareness of your surroundings.
- Hide it – Keep your valuables including your mobile phone, other devices and jewellery, hidden. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
- Go against the flow – When walking on the pavement, always face oncoming traffic, as it will make it far more difficult for thieves on two wheelers to ride up from behind and snatch your property. But still also be aware of anyone approaching from ahead of you.
- Trust your instincts – Try to avoid walking alone at night in places such as parks and side streets or any unfamiliar environment. If you do have to walk, stick to busy places where there is a lot of activity CCTV and good lighting.
- Make a plan – And stick to it. First off, discuss with friends what to do if something were to go wrong on your night out together, e.g. if one of you has too much to drink or you were to get separated. Agree on a backup plan and look out for one another.
- Be vigilant – Alcohol and drugs will reduce reaction times and inhibitions, which makes it harder to assess risks and decide how to deal with them. So keep an eye on how much you drink and never let your glass or bottle out of your sight.
- Safety in numbers – Try to travel with people you know and, where possible, stick to routes and forms of transport that others are using and avoid shortcuts in lonely places.
County Lines – Manchester Police
County lines is the name given to drug dealing where organised criminal groups (OCGs) use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas. They exploit vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction issues, by recruiting them to distribute the drugs, often referred to as ‘drug running’.
OCGs often use high levels of violence and intimidation to protect the ‘county line’ and control them. One of these forms of control exploits vulnerable people by using their home as a base for dealing drugs, a process known as cuckooing.
There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is involved in county lines:
- repeatedly going missing from school or home and being found in other areas
- having money, new clothes or electronic devices and they can’t explain how they paid for them
- getting high numbers of texts or phone calls, being secretive about who they’re speaking to
- decline in school or work performance
- significant changes in emotional or physical well-being
Dealers often convince the vulnerable person to let their home be used for drug dealing by giving them free drugs or offering to pay for food or utilities. Often OCGs target people who are lonely, isolated, or have addiction issues. It’s common for OCGs to use a property for a short amount of time, moving address frequently to reduce the chance of being caught.
Signs to look out for
There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is a victim of cuckooing:
- frequent visitors at unsociable hours
- changes in your neighbour’s daily routine
- unusual smells coming from a property
- suspicious or unfamiliar vehicles outside an address
Prevent in a pandemic – Nigel Lund, North West Prevent Lead
Risks from radicalisation in 2018/19 statistics:
- The education sector in the North West made 37% of all Prevent referrals in 2018/19
- 66% of those that received Channel support were under the age of 20
- Overall Channel support – 37% were Islamist concerns and 45% were Extreme Right Wing
- Of those receiving Channel Support in the NW, the Education sector had the highest number of referrals (17%)
Vulnerabilities in ‘Channel’ cases before COVID-19 (Think about how these will have been accentuated during the pandemic)
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Mental health
- Interest in firearms and/or weapons
- Racial or religious hatred
- Accessibility of social media
- Isolation/social isolation
- Child in care/family disruption
- Extremist media content
- Violent tendencies/ideas/behaviours
- Suicidal tendencies
Post COVID considerations
- Mental health, domestic violence, relationship break up, debt
- Importance of an individual’s use of online space – gaming, gambling, exposure to extremist material and content
- Potential grievance and injustice, e.g. Black Lives Matter
- Protests and demos
- Conspiracy theories
- Security – different landscape of queues at shops, one-way systems etc.
- Ofsted inspections will focus on safeguarding and Prevent
How extremists are using COVID-19 to promote disinformation, misinformation and conspiracy theories
During the pandemic, local authorities have seen a significant decline in Prevent referrals, raising concerns about the welfare of vulnerable children and young people who require support.
As education returns, it is important that settings are extra-vigilant to radicalisation concerns, particularly as children and young people may have been exposed to disinformation, misinformation and conspiracy theories, sometimes called ‘fake news’, due to extremists exploiting COVID-19 to spread hateful narratives and increase division.
What are the radicalisation risks related to the impact of COVID-19?
There are three main radicalisation risks for young people during this pandemic:
- Exposed to misleading and hateful content: Young people may have been exposed to fake stories or conspiracy theories about COVID-19, which attribute blame to minority groups.
- Engaged with extremist individuals: Young people may have become exposed to, or engaged with, extremist organisations or individuals, especially online.
- Increased vulnerability to radicalisation: COVID-19 may have increased vulnerability to radicalisation as children and young people may feel isolated, anxious, frustrated and angry. This could increase the resonance of intolerant messaging and the appeal of extremist groups or individuals offering explanations for the crisis.
What have been the extremist themes during the pandemic?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, false and misleading narratives about the virus have been spread, particularly online, to force change or to place blame on ‘out-groups’ and minorities.
This can further incite hatred, justify violence, and divide communities. While some of this occurs on popular social media platforms, it can also be found on lesser known, less moderated platforms. These sites can include easily available extreme and conspiratorial content.
The Commission for Countering-Extremism (CCE) have highlighted some of the following prominent extremist narratives:
- Antisemitism: Several conspiracies blame the Jewish community for spreading the virus, including claims that COVID-19 is a Jewish plot, either as a hoax or a deliberate creation, to remove civil liberties and impose totalitarian rule.
- Anti-Muslim hatred: Claims that British Muslims have flouted social distancing rules and spread the virus have been promoted, particularly on social media. Whilst these have been disproven, high profile extreme right-wing influencers have blamed Muslims for the spread of the virus.
- Anti-Chinese hatred: Hate crime and hate incidents towards Chinese people have risen. Reports have found a 300% increase in the use of ‘hashtags’ that encourage or incite violence against China and Chinese people online.
- Islamist: Islamist extremists have used COVID-19 to support existing narratives to promote the need for a Caliphate over democratic society, claiming the pandemic is a divine punishment for the West’s ‘sinful’ behaviours.
- Right-wing: Right-wing extremists have similarly exploited the pandemic to amplify the weakness and hypocrisy of democratic values like tolerance and freedom.
Wider conspiracy theories: Extremist individuals have exploited a number of prevalent non-extremist conspiracy theories, related to 5G, track and trace and anti-vax, which can be detrimental to public health messaging. In some cases, these have been linked to anti-Semitic or other hateful narratives.
7 Minute Briefings
Attached are informative 7 minute briefings focusing on:
- ‘Preventing Radicalisation and Extremism’ – Knowsley Safeguarding Children Board
- ‘The Dark Web’ – Manchester Safeguarding Board
- ‘Prevent: Extremism and Radicalisation’ – North Yorkshire Safeguarding
- ‘Online Radicalisation’ – Lancashire Safeguarding Board
Important Training Links
Prevent Awareness Online Training (Home Office): E-learning, developed by HM Government, is an introduction into the risks of radicalisation and the role that professionals and practitioners can play in supporting those at risk
Channel Awareness (Home Office): A training package for anyone who may be asked to contribute to, sit on, or even run a Channel Panel. It is aimed at all levels, from a professional asked to input and attend for the first time, to a member of staff new to their role and organising a panel meeting.
‘Side by Side’ Training for learners – A prevent resource with modules on:
- Radicalisation and extremism
- Staying safe online
- Who can you trust?
- British Values
Google ‘Expert Approved’ apps
Google have recently announced that they are helping parents find apps that are entertaining and enriching by adding an ‘Expert Approved’ badge, to give parents some comfort that an app has been reviewed as appropriate.
In order for an app to receive an ‘Expert Approved’ badge, it must meet quality standards that were developed in partnership between Google and children’s education and media specialists. Apps are rated on factors like age-appropriateness, design quality, appeal to children, and enrichment potential. The app listing includes information about why the app was rated highly to help parents determine if it is right for their child.
Whenever parents search the Google Play Store, they can look for the ‘Expert Approved’ badge to quickly see which apps have been reviewed and rated highly by educators.