Public Pages‎ > ‎Home‎ > ‎Volunteer Training‎ > ‎

3.0 Grooming

Home     Target     Deception     Grooming     Abduction     Coercion     Trauma     Victim Challenges

Human Trafficking Training
Lesson Three: Grooming

"The goal of the grooming process is to

establish a relationship of trust by nurturing and

pretending to care for their victim and then

casually move them into the life of sex trafficking. "

What is Grooming?

The Use of Grooming

The grooming process is the most commonly used form of deception employed by traffickers. Grooming is a process a trafficker uses to "mentor" a young victim into human trafficking. The grooming process can range anywhere from between 30 to 60 days. During this time traffickers will work diligently to establish a relationship with their target victim.

(Source: Public Domain)

How a Trafficker “Grooms” His Target for the Life of Trafficking

The trafficker first begins to establish a relationship with the person they are targeting. This process can take place both in-person and online. The goal of the grooming process is to establish a relationship of trust by nurturing and pretending to care for their victim and then casually move them into the life of sex trafficking.

In-Person Grooming

In-person grooming often entails the trafficker posing as a “boyfriend pimp.” This means that over the next 30 to 60 days the trafficker will perform all of his “boyfriendly duties” such as taking his victim out on “dates,” buying his victims clothes and shoes, taking his victim for rides in his car, and tell his victim how much he loves and cares for them. The trafficker will play his role as a “boyfriend” so well that his victim will truly believe that their “boyfriend” really does love them.

We have all seen a good romance in which a girl meets the man of her dreams and falls madly in love. This storyline is absolutely no different than the one a trafficker uses. The trafficker will do everything possible to get his victim to believe that they are living out a fairy-tale romance and little by little, day by day his victim will fall more and more in love with him making it that much easier for the trafficker to lure his victim into the world of sex trafficking.

Online Grooming

The most important thing to remember when it comes to online grooming is that the person behind the computer is most likely not who they say they are. Because you cannot see the face behind the screen, a predator can adopt the role of any person they want. They can be a 14 year old girl pretending to have problems with her parents or they can be a sixteen year old high school football player suffering from a heartbreak. There is no limit on the lies a predator will make up to lure in his or her victim. They will work diligently to gain trust from their victim by pretending to have the same problems with school, family, and friends. By doing this, it puts them at the same level of their victim and builds stronger bonds of trust.

Predators are using the vulnerability of young people to manipulate them in different ways. They become a young person's "best friend" and make them feel comfortable enough to meet them in person. Online predators and traffickers find their victims by pretending to be in that same teen stage of learning -- navigating the new and often exciting issues of young adult life.  A common type of crisis predators use is the "ups-and-downs-of-relationships-between-teens-and-parents."  Predators see tremendous opportunities to bond with a teen over how they both "hate their parents."

Some predators even know how to do a search within websites to find certain phrases that identify easy targets. Phrases like "I hate my life,"and "I hate my mom," allow predators to skip over millions of teens to find the ones who are most vulnerable. Predators know that helping a teen talk through a crisis of love, relationships and sex creates an incredibly strong bond of closeness. Predators pretend to be going through the same kinds of crises and provide the teens opportunities to talk each other through them.

"Friending" on social network sites gives predators access to phone numbers, names of schools and photographs. Everything the target says online becomes what the predator uses to gain a common experience resulting in closeness.

Six Men Arrested in San Antonio for Trafficking 12 year old Girl

In the case of Ana*, a 12 year old girl from San Antonio, Texas, it was her inability to detect danger that put her into the hands of a predator. Ana was 12 when she ran away from home in 2008. Her broken home life led her to believe she might be better off going off on her own. Often a runaway, who is seeking to escape abuse in her own home by someone she knows, finds herself going from one abuser to multiple abusers. It doesn't take long for a 12 year old to be on the street before she realizes she is "stuck" with no ability to provide for herself. Predators know that a young teen who hasn't eaten in a couple of days is hoping to get rescued. Once taken in, there is the inevitable discussion of "How will you provide for yourself when you are too young to get a job?"

Out of the kindness of his/her heart, they will take their runaway shopping for the kind of clothes she will need to merchandise her body. This also creates a feeling of indebtedness and false sense of loyalty with their new young unsuspecting victim.  Predators are skillful at using kindness and generosity to create a strong psychological power over them. This is all part of what is known as the "grooming process" and it removes resistance to the idea of victims using their bodies to make money. It isn’t long before the victim realizes she doesn't get to keep the money; it belongs to her trafficker. After all, he needs to eat too, and he took her into his home, gave her his food and paid for her new "work" clothes. She owes him. The predator evolves from a "friendly-rescuer" to a violent tyrant demanding his victim to work
upwards of 20 hours a day selling her body to strangers for money.  

As the case was for Ana, when she was walking alone on the streets as a runaway, the man who approached her was 20 years her senior. We have learned from so many cases that one of the most important “red flags” a child should be taught to recognize is a “marked age difference” in someone taking an interest in her. Another critical “red flag” is someone who is seeking to take her to a different “location.” This is true in any public place like a mall, movie theater or park. It is even more critical in a private or isolated place like the streets at night. Ana’s predator was driving by, saw her alone and stopped to talk to her. Ana accepted his invitation to his house. This began a five year cycle of sex trafficking as well as physical abuse by more than one trafficker to Ana. By age 14, she was pregnant and returned home to deliver the baby. Ana’s child was given up for adoption.

Sources: My San Antonio (Link)  Kens 5 (Link) National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (Link)

FYP Article

Trafficking Ring Broken

Young girls are often naive and unable to recognize signs of deception. Knowing this, traffickers will often use this form of naivety to lure girls into trafficking. Traffickers will often offer girls a wonderful life by indulging them with gifts in order to lure them into the world of trafficking. Girls are often fooled into thinking they are part of some lavish lifestyle or party. The traffickers may offer them guarantees of money, clothes, and shelter. However, for most girls this “guarantee” of a lavish lifestyle turns into a nightmare in reality.

For many young girls, the opportunity to be indulged with attention and gifts appeals to them. They may believe that their trafficker genuinely cares for them because the trafficker is buying them gifts and promising them a great life. However, what most young girls don’t know is that traffickers use these promises of a great life to lure them into prostitution.

The grooming process is  the most commonly used form of deception employed by traffickers.  Grooming is a process the trafficker uses to "mentor" a young victim into human trafficking.

They might buy them nice clothes, give them a place to stay and make them feel like they are taken care of. They may even promise affection,  love, and commitment.  It’s no wonder young girls are fooled. Eventually, though, the trafficker’s  support and promises turn into mental, physical and sexual abuse as they force victims into trafficking. Many victims are so “successfully groomed" by their traffickers that they do no realize their support turned into abuse.

Source: Star Tribune (LinkFYP Article


Video Name: What I’ve Been Through is Not Who I Am

Time: 2:04-2:48, (short version) 2:04-5:02 (long detailed version)

Summary: Explains the Grooming Process of Traffickers


Copyright © 2013 Freedom Youth Project Foundation, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Content  is original.  Sources and Credits are Referenced Below.
Content may not be republished without expressed written permission.
The best way to share is with a link back to this webpage  


Help Us End the Shelter/ Treatment Crisis   
Change Cannot Happen Without You.    
Learn How You Can Help.
Think Freedom Campaign is an initiative of Freedom Youth Project Foundation