It Is Not Your Fault, Tell Someone: Case Studies of Young Women’s Experiences of Online Grooming in England

Published date01 April 2023
Date01 April 2023
Subject MatterOriginal Articles
It Is Not Your Fault,
Tell Someone: Case
Studies of Young
Women’s Experiences
of Online Grooming
in England
Emily Smith1, Emma Short1, Roshan Rai1, Pinky Rajput2
and Amanda Wilson1
This research study aimed to explore how young people experience cybercrime,
with the study being inductive. Thus, the type of crime(s) emerged from the con-
venience sample and so happened to be online grooming of young women. Using
the case study method, two semi-structured inter views were conducted with
young women who were ages 12 and 16 (at the time of the study) with in-depth
information provided for each case. The data were then triangulated between
the research team and the Victim Service who co-created the study (including
materials) and co-produced the manuscript. This method of triangulation also
occurred to ensure the similarities and differences identified in the discussion.
Similarities included that both young women had a trusted adult to tell and that
they were not to blame. Differences occurred with the police involvement as
well as contradictions in the advice of ‘just block them’. This study calls for
better school-based interventions and police response using actual case studies
for training and education. Suggestions for future research are further explored
and include more tailored quantitative projects, further case studies and other
qualitative methods, and a standardized curriculum for safety that can be devised
with the Victim Service . Most importantly, if online grooming occurs, this is not
because the individual has done something wrong or deserves it, rather they
should tell an adult and seek help to end the behaviour.
Justice, online grooming, victim protection, victimization, young women
Original Article
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
6(1) 7–24, 2023
2023 National Law
University Delhi
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/25166069221144794
1 De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK
2 Catch 22 Victim First Leicester, Leicester, UK
Corresponding author:
Amanda Wilson, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK.
8 Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 6(1)
Technology has become an ingrained part of society, which has bought about a
series of new crimes now committed through the internet. Generally speaking,
these new crimes are often referred to as ‘cybercrimes’. There is a lack of consen-
sus within the literature on how cybercrime or online crimes are operationalized,
however, it is acknowledged at a basic level that it can occur to an individual. The
internet also provides many more ways in which offenders can interact with
potential victims, providing enabling factors and removing many obstacles to
contacting a potential victim.3 Young people in particular are highly engaged with
technology and the internet, with Instagram being the most popular medium used
followed by Snapchat and Facebook.4 Whilst there are data available from the
Office of National Statistics, this looks at young people 16–24, missing data cap-
tured on younger adults. This includes how the pandemic has influenced the per-
spectives of young people’s online usage. In particular, anxiety and depression
have increased among young women during 2017–2020, and whether this is
related to the increased use of the internet during the pandemic requires further
There are a range of risky behaviours young people are susceptible to online,
which could lead to young people individually experiencing cybercrime. This can
include the receiving of sexual messages, communicating with strangers online
(which potentially leads to meeting offline), data misuse and cyberbullying.6 There
are several additional ways whereby a young person can be impacted by cybercrime.
These can consist of hacking, grooming or identity theft. Social networking sites
(SNS) have been used in several ways to facilitate the sexual exploitation of young
people. Researchers have found that in the United States, approximately 2,322
arrests were made for sex crimes against minors, in which SNSs’ were used as the
platform of preference to commit the crime.7 With SNSs’ having a significant
involvement in the sexual exploitation of young people, it is important to include
information on using SNSs safely when educating young people on the risks that
make them susceptible to cybercrimes. Although international research has shown
that sexual harassment is only one form of cybercrime, with violent threats and
slander being more common in 15-to-30-year-olds surveyed in Finland, Germany,
the United States and the United Kingdom,8 the experience of reporting cybercrimes
3 David Smahel et al., EU Kids Online 2020: Survey Results from 19 Countries. EU KIDS Online,
Oct. 2, 2022,
4 Statista, Social Media Sites or Apps Used by Children in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2020. Stastica,
Oct. 2, 2022,
5 Ofce of National Statistics. Social Networking by Age Group, 2011 to 2017. ONS, Oct. 2, 2022,
6 Smahel et al., supra note 1.
7 Kimberly J. Mitchell, Use of Social Networking Sites in Online Sex Crimes Against Minors: An
Examination of National Incidence and Means of Utilization, 47(2) J. Adolesc. HeAltH. 183 (2010).
8 Matti Näsi et al., Cybercrime Victimization Among Young People: A Multi-nation Study, 16(2) J.
scAnd. stud. criminol. crime Prev. 203 (2015).

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