It is an unfortunate reality that there are people, potentially even within your circles, who may be hiding harmful intentions towards children. Statistics on child sexual abuse paint a disturbing picture: a majority of victims know their abusers. This can happen due to grooming, where the perpetrator builds trust to lower both the child’s and sometimes the parent’s guard.
Even more alarming is that sexual grooming and abuse cases can stay undetected for years if they are ever discovered at all. Knowing how it happens may help parents better strategize how they can safeguard their children.
How sexual grooming happens
Child predators are aware of the risks tied to acting on their desires. They employ a manipulative and calculated tactic called grooming to reduce their chances of getting caught.
Through grooming, predators can win the trust of the child, which they eventually use to coax the child into agreeing to the abuse. Generally, grooming happens in several stages:
- Targeting the child: Abusers carefully scope for candidates and often choose the one that presents the least risk. They tend to go after unsupervised children and those who lack self-confidence and have disabilities.
- Earning the child’s and their guardian’s trust: Many groomers act as a friendly face to gain the child and parent’s trust. They pay special attention to the child, showering them with gifts or sharing secrets.
- Providing the child’s needs: The groomer strives to be a consistent presence by fulfilling a void in the child’s life. By acting as their confidant, they can make the child feel special and heard.
- Isolating the child: The groomer convinces the child to think that no one else, even their friends and family, can understand them. They start isolating the child, whether by volunteering to pick up the child or taking them on trips and other activities where they can be alone.
- Abusing the victim: The abuser will initiate sexual contact, starting with touching that appears harmless, such as tickling or hugging. They eventually progress into more sexual contact until the child is desensitized.
- Maintaining control: To keep the abuse going, the perpetrator will manipulate the child to keep them quiet. They may shame the child or threaten the child and their loved ones.
To parents like you, groomers will strive to portray a charming and helpful image to gain your trust and access to your child. While not everyone has ill intentions, it’s crucial to be vigilant. Teaching your child about boundaries and assuring them of your support is one way to protect them from harm.