Last week, we discussed how to minimize your child’s risk of sexual abuse in our Safety Tip Tuesday (CQISTT) blog post. We shared a number of aspects that parents need to be vigilant of in order to prevent or stop child sexual abuse. One of the points we made was that sexual predators that prey on our children usually use coercion and manipulation, not physical force, to engage our children. That process is often referred to as the “Grooming” process.
“Grooming” is the process predators use to engage a child victim in sexual activity. The process usually involves an imbalance of power used to exploit emotions that lead to the manipulation of trust and coercion.
The purpose of the grooming process is to ultimately sexually abuse the child, but there is more to a predator’s deception. Almost as import to the predator as the sexual engagement with a child is the need to keep the potential victim manipulated and controlled enough to maintain private access to the child, and to keep the sexual abuse a secret.
While all children a potential targets given the right circumstances, offenders generally target children with obvious vulnerabilities such as low self-esteem and confidence, is unpopular, feels alone and unloved or may even be experiencing family problems and is left unsupervised regularly for long periods of time. Once these vulnerabilities are exposed, a predator can now identify and exploit its prey… our children.
5 aspects every parent must know about the typical “grooming” process:
- Build trust and break down child’s defense: this means being aware of the people your child gets close to or spends an “odd” abundance of time with or communicating with. At this stage, predators will pretend to share common interest/experiences/background or shower a child with gifts and attention while offering a fake sympathetic understanding to build this “bond.”
- Reassure the family: this is the stage where a predator calms a parent’s worry by befriending them directly in order to exploit trust and undermined concerns and suspicions.
- Gradual erosion of boundaries: this is where inappropriate interactions begin to take place. While they may not be as severe as sex abuse, they may include such activities as hugging or touching non-threatening parts of the body, pretending to accidentally brush up against inappropriate parts of the body or giving the child access to alcohol, drugs or porn in order to uninhibit the child in an effort to start touching and fondling inappropriate body parts.
- Develop secrecy: at this point, the sick-o will want to start to secure his “prize.” Predators begin to make the child believe that their relationship is special; that their touching is a good thing but no one will understand. They begin to threaten their victim with coercion by making the child fearful that this is their fault and will get in trouble if they tell anyone (thus making the child withdrawal from family and friends even more).
- Securing compliance and control: this is a predator’s end game. At this stage, it is all about escalating intrusiveness of sexual behavior by any means necessary. Predators will use threats of violence on the child or someone important to the child in order to manipulate the child into performing or permitting desired sexual abuse.*Source: Parenting.org
Final Tip: Not everyone that shows interest in your child is a monster, but anyone who is on the straight and narrow won’t mind you asking a few concerning questions if you have them… so ask them, and talk to your children if you ever see any “red flags.”
LINK: CQISTT Posts
Safety Tip Tuesday (#CQISTT) is a weekly post that addresses child safety, ideas, concepts and fundamental approaches that help protect children from kidnapping, abuse and exploitation. Sign-up to follow this blog and receive updates. Written by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International