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Content warning: This page contains information that readers may find confronting or distressing.

Help is available if you or someone you know has experienced or is at risk of child sexual abuse. Our Get support page has a list of dedicated services if you need help or support. For information on reporting child safety concerns, visit our Make a report page.

If you or a child are in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000).

In order to keep children and young people safe, it is important to understand what grooming is and how to prevent it. The term ‘grooming’ refers to behaviours that manipulate and control a child, as well as their family, kin and carers, other support networks, or organisations in order to perpetrate child sexual abuse.

The intent of grooming is to:

  • gain access to the child or young person to perpetrate child sexual abuse
  • obtain sexual material of the child or young person
  • obtain the child or young person’s trust and/or compliance
  • maintain the child or young person’s silence, and/or
  • avoid discovery of sexual abuse.1

Grooming can occur online or in-person. Online child grooming is the process of establishing and building a relationship with a child or young person while online, to facilitate sexual abuse that is either physical (in person) or online.2This is achieved through the internet or other technologies such as phones, social media, gaming, chat and messaging apps.

Online grooming may involve perpetrators encouraging children and young people to engage in sexual activity or to send the perpetrator sexually explicit material. It may lead to perpetrators meeting the child or young person in person or blackmailing them to self-produce explicit materials. To evade detection while grooming children and young people, perpetrators may also convince them to use different online platforms, including those using encrypted technologies.3 Encrypted technologies are used to protect data from being stolen, changed, or compromised by scrambling data into a secret code that hides the information’s true meaning. Only a unique digital key can unlock the secret code.

Socialising online is a great way for children and young people to build friendships and have fun, but it is important to ensure online technologies are being used in a way that keeps children and young people safe. You can find resources about how to stay safe online on the eSafety website- external site.

How grooming occurs

Child sexual abuse and grooming can occur within families, by other people the child or young person knows or does not know, in organisations, and online. Behaviours related to grooming are not necessarily explicitly sexual, directly abusive or criminal, and may be consistent with behaviours or activities in non-abusive relationships. They can often be difficult to identify and may only be recognised in hindsight. In these cases, the main difference between acceptable behaviours and grooming behaviours is the motivation behind them.4

Grooming of a child or young person, online or in-person, may include:

  • building their trust, sometimes through special attention or gifts
  • treating them like an adult to make them feel different and special
  • gaining the trust of their parents, family or carers
  • isolating them from supportive and protective family and friends
  • coercing them, including through threats, stalking and asking them to keep secrets
  • manipulating them to blame themselves for the situation
  • encouraging them to produce child sexual abuse imagery or enticing them to participate in sexualised virtual chats
  • non-sexual touching of the child or young person that develops into sexual behaviour over time.

Signs of grooming

Being aware of the signs of grooming can help protect children and young people from child sexual abuse. A child or young person may show signs of being a victim of grooming in different ways. They may show all or some of the following signs:

  • developing an unusually close connection with an older person
  • having gifts or money from new friends that they cannot account for
  • being very secretive about their phone, internet or social media use
  • going missing for long periods of time
  • appearing extremely tired, including at school
  • being dishonest about who they have been with and where they have been
  • substance misuse
  • assuming a new name, having false identification, a stolen passport or driver licence, or a new phone
  • being collected from school by an older or new friend.5

How to prevent grooming

Teaching children and young people what is appropriate and inappropriate contact (both online and offline), and encouraging open and honest communication, without shame or stigma, will help to better protect them. This includes supporting children and young people to:

  • understand safe and unsafe behaviours and situations, including being able to identify early warning signs and their body’s natural reactions when they feel unsafe, worried, or scared. These may include feeling butterflies, and having sweaty palms and a racing pulse
  • practice safe online behaviour, including deleting and blocking requests and messages from people they don’t know, and reviewing and updating privacy settings
  • know what to do and who to talk to if something feels uncomfortable, as well as what support services are available if they are unsure or if something has happened
  • say no to requests to engage in unsafe behaviours or sexual advances
  • block unsafe users, make a complaint to social media companies and report online grooming
  • understand body boundaries, respectful relationships and consent
  • feel safe and protected when disclosing what is happening to them.

What to do about suspected grooming

Your child may not understand they are being groomed, and may not tell you that they are being groomed directly. It is important to understand the signs of grooming and talk to your child if you notice changes in their behaviour and suspect something isn’t right.

If you suspect a child or young person is being groomed or is at risk of being groomed, contact your relevant state or territory child protection agency. Visit our Make a report page to find out more.

You can also report online grooming or inappropriate contact to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation- external site.

For information about what to do if something goes wrong online, visit the eSafety website- external site.

Our Get support page provides a list of dedicated support and assistance services.

Helpful resources

eSafety- external site is Australia’s national independent regulator and educator for online safety. It provides tools and resources for parents- external site and carers to help keep children safe online, including access to free webinars. Issues covered include:

For young people (secondary school age), eSafety’s page about unsafe or unwanted contact- external site has specially tailored advice. eSafety also has resources forkids- external site (primary school age).

Educators can also use the unwanted contact and grooming- external site scenarios with students – these are designed to start conversations that help build online safety skills.

You can also find out more about grooming on these websites:

1 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017, Final Report: Our Inquiry – Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Volume 1, page 323.

2 ECPAT International 2016, Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, Interagency Working Group on Sexual Exploitation of Children. Accessed November 2020 from: external site.

3 Five Country Ministerial 2020, Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, page 4. Accessed November 2020 from: external site.

4 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017, Final Report: Our Inquiry – Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Volume 1, page 323.

5 Victorian Department of Education and Training, Child Sexual Exploitation and Grooming. Accessed April 2021 from:


Complicated grief – Symptoms and causes


Losing a loved one is one of the most distressing and, unfortunately, common experiences people face. Most people experiencing normal grief and bereavement have a period of sorrow, numbness, and even guilt and anger. Gradually these feelings ease, and it’s possible to accept loss and move forward.

For some people, feelings of loss are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes. This is known as complicated grief, sometimes called persistent complex bereavement disorder. In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble recovering from the loss and resuming your own life.

Different people follow different paths through the grieving experience. The order and timing of these phases may vary from person to person:

  • Accepting the reality of your loss
  • Allowing yourself to experience the pain of your loss
  • Adjusting to a new reality in which the deceased is no longer present
  • Having other relationships

These differences are normal. But if you’re unable to move through these stages more than a year after the death of a loved one, you may have complicated grief. If so, seek treatment. It can help you come to terms with your loss and reclaim a sense of acceptance and peace.


During the first few months after a loss, many signs and symptoms of normal grief are the same as those of complicated grief. However, while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over time, those of complicated grief linger or get worse. Complicated grief is like being in an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing.

Signs and symptoms of complicated grief may include:

  • Intense sorrow, pain and rumination over the loss of your loved one
  • Focus on little else but your loved one’s death
  • Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
  • Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
  • Problems accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Bitterness about your loss
  • Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one

Complicated grief also may be indicated if you continue to:

  • Have trouble carrying out normal routines
  • Isolate from others and withdraw from social activities
  • Experience depression, deep sadness, guilt or self-blame
  • Believe that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death
  • Feel life isn’t worth living without your loved one
  • Wish you had died along with your loved one

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor or a mental health professional if you have intense grief and problems functioning that don’t improve at least one year after the passing of your loved one.

If you have thoughts of suicide

At times, people with complicated grief may consider suicide. If you’re thinking about suicide, talk to someone you trust. If you think you may act on suicidal feelings, call 000 or 112 (if calling from a Mobile Phone). Or call a suicide hotline number: In Australia, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) to reach a trained Counsellor. For NRS Applications call 1800 555 677. Interpreter: 13 14 50


It’s not known what causes complicated grief. As with many mental health disorders, it may involve your environment, your personality, inherited traits and your body’s natural chemical makeup.

Risk factors

Complicated grief occurs more often in females and with older age. Factors that may increase the risk of developing complicated grief include:

  • An unexpected or violent death, such as death from a car accident, or the murder or suicide of a loved one
  • Death of a child
  • Close or dependent relationship to the deceased person
  • Social isolation or loss of a support system or friendships
  • Past history of depression, separation anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect
  • Other major life stressors, such as major financial hardships


Complicated grief can affect you physically, mentally and socially. Without appropriate treatment, complications may include:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Anxiety, including PTSD
  • Significant sleep disturbances
  • Increased risk of physical illness, such as heart disease, cancer or high blood pressure
  • Long-term difficulty with daily living, relationships or work activities
  • Alcohol, nicotine use or substance misuse


It’s not clear how to prevent complicated grief. Getting counseling soon after a loss may help, especially for people at increased risk of developing complicated grief. In addition, caregivers providing end-of-life care for a loved one may benefit from counseling and support to help prepare for death and its emotional aftermath.

  • Talking. Talking about your grief and allowing yourself to cry also can help prevent you from getting stuck in your sadness. As painful as it is, trust that in most cases, your pain will start to lift if you allow yourself to feel it.
  • Support. Family members, friends, social support groups and your faith community are all good options to help you work through your grief. You may be able to find a support group focused on a particular type of loss, such as the death of a spouse or a child. Ask your doctor to recommend local resources.
  • Bereavement counseling. Through early counseling after a loss, you can explore emotions surrounding your loss and learn healthy coping skills. This may help prevent negative thoughts and beliefs from gaining such a strong hold that they’re difficult to overcome.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

CONT … Diagnosis & treatment…


Long-term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse (9)


The ideal response to child sexual abuse would be primary prevention strategies aimed at eliminating, or at least reducing, the sexual abuse of children (Tomison, 1995). This review has, however, focused on issues related to the deleterious outcomes linked to child sexual abuse rather than on the characteristics of abusers and the contexts in which abuse is more likely to occur, which are relevant to primary prevention. From the information presented here, the implications are for secondary and tertiary preventive strategies aimed at ameliorating the damage inflicted by abuse, and reducing the subsequent reverberations of that damage. 

Child sexual abuse may be a necessary, but rarely (if ever) a sufficient, cause of adult problems. Child sexual abuse acts in concert with other developmental experiences to leave the growing child with areas of vulnerability. This is a dynamic process at every level, and one in which there are few irremediable absolutes. Abuse is not destiny. It is damaging, and that damage, if not always reparable, is open to amelioration and limitation.

Those who have been abused who subsequently have positive school experiences where they feel themselves to have succeeded academically, socially or at sport, have significantly lower rates of adult difficulties (Romans et al. 1995). Those whose relationship with their parents subsequent to abuse was positive and supportive fared better, and a good relationship with the father appeared to have a strong protective influence regarding subsequent psychopathology (Romans et al. 1995). Even aspects of the parental figures’ relationship to each other seem to have an influence. Expressions of physical affection between parents was associated with better outcomes, and marked domestic disharmony, particularly if associated with violence, added to the damage (Romans et al. 1995; Spaccarelli and Kim 1995). Finally, those who can establish stable and satisfactory intimate relationships as adults have significantly better outcomes. 

There is no reason why a well-organised and funded school system should not provide all children with a positive experience academically, socially or in sport. There is no need to identify and target abuse victims, but simply to make every effort to ensure adolescents have the opportunity to share in the enhanced social opportunities, the increased mastery, and the pleasure of achievement that school should provide at some level to all. 

The encouragement of sport may seem trivial, but it has a protective influence on psychiatric disorders in all adolescents, not just those with histories of child abuse (Romans et al. 1996; Thorlindsson et al. 1990; Simonsick 1991). Similarly in adult life, success in tertiary education and in the workforce is associated with reduced vulnerability to psychiatric problems for the abused and the non-abused alike, but particularly for the abused (Romans et al. 1996).

The secondary preventive strategies of relevance in reducing the impact of child sexual abuse are equally relevant to reducing a wide range of adolescent and adult problems unrelated to abuse. These include improved parental relationships, reduced domestic violence and disharmony, improved school opportunities, work opportunities, better social networks, and better intimate relationships as adults. The list is so familiar as to be platitudinous, but is nonetheless of central importance. 

The model advanced in this paper is of child sexual abuse contributing to developmental disruptions that lay the basis for interpersonal and social problems in adult life. These, in turn, increase the risks of adult psychiatric problems and disorders. If this is correct, then focusing on improving the social and interpersonal difficulties of those with histories of child sexual abuse may be the most effective manner of reducing subsequent psychiatric disorder. 

This argues for tertiary prevention strategies aimed at improving self-esteem, encouraging more effective action in work and recreational pursuits, attempting to overcome sexual difficulties, and working specifically on improving the victim’s social networks and capacities to trust in, and accept, intimacy. This does not imply that established affective disorders or eating disorders should not be treated in their own right, but suggests that focusing on current vulnerabilities and deficits may be more productive than extended archeologies of past abuse in the search of an elusive retrospective mastery. 


The hypothesis advanced in this paper is that, in most cases, the fundamental damage inflicted by child sexual abuse is to the child’s developing capacities for trust, intimacy, agency and sexuality, and that many of the mental health problems of adult life associated with histories of child sexual abuse are second-order effects. This hypothesis runs counter to the post-traumatic stress disorder model, and suggests different therapeutic strategies and strategies of secondary prevention. 

In practice, both models may be of value. The post-traumatic stress disorder like mechanisms may predominate in the short term, and in those who have been exposed to the grossest form of child sexual abuse. The developmental and social model may carry the weight of causality in the far commoner, but less utterly overwhelming, forms of child sexual abuse. 

References (see Library)

Long-term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse 
by Paul E. Mullen and Jillian Fleming