''Setting 'Em Up'': Personal, Familial and Institutional Grooming in the Sexual Abuse of Children

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The term ‘grooming’ has been used to describe the offender’s actions during the preparatory stage of sexual abuse. This paper will argue that current discourses on grooming have created ambiguities and misunderstandings about child sexual abuse. In particular, the popular focus on ‘stranger danger’ belies the fact that the majority of children are abused by someone well known to them, where grooming can also occur. Current discourses also neglect other important facets of the sex offending pattern. They fail to consider that offenders may groom not only the child but also their family and even the local community who may act as the gatekeepers of access. They also ignore what can be termed ‘institutional grooming’ – that sex offenders may groom criminal justice and other institutions into believing that they present no risk to children. A key variable in the grooming process is the creation and subsequent abuse of trust. Given that the criminal law may be somewhat limited in its response to this type of behaviour, ultimately concerted efforts must be made to foster social and organisational awareness of such processes in order to reduce the offender’s opportunity for abuse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-362
Number of pages24
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • General Social Sciences


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