Consent and Adult Grooming

Adult grooming is hard to understand because it blurs boundaries.

A mental health screening professional described an ended grooming relationship to me, just last week, as a ‘broken love affair’.

This is concerning.

Consent lies at the core of adult grooming. Groomer’s targets have been duped into consent, deceived, lied to, tricked. Often there are no physical bruises, no distinguishable harm. Just trickery: it may be promises, belonging, love bombing, gifts (less than you would assume)…. whatever tricks the groomer uses, people end up to consenting to something they wouldn’t otherwise have done.

  • Consent can be express (a verbal statement, for example), or implied (by
    behaviour, for example)
  • Consent given for a specific act does not imply consent to others
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time
  • Consent once does not imply consent always

The groomers purpose is never what they state and their ‘persona’ is never as presented.

So does current law cover adult grooming? I believe it should.

I suspect it’s a lack of understand what adult grooming is, or empathy with its victims, that leads to a certain unwillingness to prosecute.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (SOA 2003) was designed as a ‘catch all’ piece of legislation.  It removed ‘sex by deception’ from the statute book, although ‘rape by deception’ remains. The latter, however, been diluted over the years by judgements in high profile cases, and appears to me to be inconsistently applied. Certainly the police seem nervous of it.

So is there any protection for the deceived or is it a wild frontier?

Section 74 of SOA 2003 defines consent: a person consents if (s)he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

1. Choice

Being able to exercise real choice about whether to engage in sexual activity or not is removed by the groomers deceit.

A commonly repeated history is that women who would not sleep with a married man, let alone one who was having sex with multiple partners at the same time, offer consent on the basis that they are in an exclusive, loving relationship.

Some groomers use violence or threats or detain victims against their will, or other threats, in which case there is more legal recourse, but the core offence, the grooming, is usually overlooked by the legal system.

2. Freedom

In most grooming cases, the adults dragged in seemingly  step in willingly.

Perhaps they’ve entered a loving relationship. Perhaps they’ve joined a religious group.

It’s rare that they were overtly ‘forced’ (although some are coerced or enter through circumstance)

The groomer has removed their freedom to choose based on facts. The facts are hidden.

The freedom to enter these relationships is often what the outside World sees, what victims felt they had when they entered a relationship, but….

3. Capacity

Capacity is not defined in the SOA 2003, but government documents describe having mental capacity as a person is’ able to make their own decisions’. Or to’ be able to make a reasoned, informed decision’.

The definition is vital and needs clarifying.

A person is unable to make a particular decision if they cannot do one or more of the following:

  • Understand information given to them
  • Retain that information long enough to make the decision
  • Weigh up the information available
  • Communicate their decision

A person is unable to make a reasoned, informed decision if they have been deceived.

Reasonable belief in consent

A defendant will not usually have a reasonable belief in consent if:

  • (s)he knows or believes that the ‘complainant’ has not consented;
  • (s)he is reckless (does not care or is indifferent to) whether or not (s)he has consented.

So many people who have been groomed have made their consent explicit on the basis that their partners are neither married, nor in relationships with others. Others give up their lives believing it’s for a higher cause.

Groomers know they are ‘getting one over’ on these individuals. They are utterly reckless (‘do not care’ or ‘are indifferent to’) whether or not their targets have consented.

They deliberately manufacture consent: lie to get laid. But depending on the purpose of their grooming , they also know that unless they break another law, they will not be called upon to answer for their grooming.

UK law is – or could be – here: it just needs to be applied and adult grooming recognised for what it is. We have some educating to do.

I would urge you to sign the petition to have the laws reviewed: Anna Rowe’s petition

Join us in changing things: get involved!

Published by Claire (claireatwaves)

Founder, Waves PR To be found as claireatwaves in most social spaces. Helping people's reputations, online and off. Passionate advocate against adult grooming and groomers at

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