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The signs

​​​The signs​​ – what should I look for?

Family, friends and acquaintances are often the first to notice the early changes in behaviour that can signal interest in violent extremism.​

​The term ‘radicalisation’ describes the process where a person becomes extreme in their thinking and behaviour. If you are aware that a person has radicalised to the point of promoting or threatening violence, you have a responsibility to report it. You can find out how at Seek help and report.

Each person is unique and there is no single pathway of radicalisation towards violent extremism. However, there are a number of behaviours that are commonly observed in people who are on a radicalisation pathway.

Ideological changes

During radicalisation, a person’s ideology will become increasingly extreme. People tend to become less tolerant of other points of view and may vilify those who disagree with them. Increasing religious devoutness or commitment to beliefs is not the same as radicalisation towards violent extremism. Hateful ideologies might be disturbing or offensive, but if someone has not advocated the use of violence or other unlawful activities, it is not considered violent extremism. The use of the internet to view, download and spread violent extremist material is often part of the radicalisation process. Some people may occasionally view such material out of curiosity, but people who are radicalising tend to collect and share this material with others.

Social changes

Many people join extremist groups for social reasons. As people start to radicalise, they will often pull away from common, mainstream activities and friendship groups. They may argue with family and friends over political or ideological views. Some people will start to interact more often with smaller, tight-knit networks of people who share their beliefs. Some groups may even require a person to go through an initiation or take an oath of allegiance to prove their commitment. Recruitment into violent extremist groups may occur face-to-face or online.

Negative experiences

A significant negative incident, or a series of incidents, could trigger or accelerate an individual’s radicalisation process, such as:

  • exposure to hateful attitudes and actions, either as a victim or as an offender
  • adverse changes in their living, education or employment situation
  • overseas events that harm their community, family or friends
  • personal issues such as health problems, addiction, anger or social problems
  • breakdowns of friendships and/or personal relationships
  • mental health issues; and
  • the experience of discrimination.

People dealing with these issues will benefit from strong support from their family, friends and community.

Criminal activity

During the radicalisation process, a person may start to ‘act out’ to draw attention to their beliefs or send a message. These actions might include:

  • vandalism
  • minor property damage
  • trespassing; or
  • illegal protesting.

Radicalised individuals might try to influence a government or a section of the community by making threats. Once a person commits to violence, an actual violent attack may take place very quickly. They may also become increasingly suspicious or nervous about the activities of governments or law enforcement.​