Child sex abuse starts with grooming the victim
Grooming is a method of building trust with a child and adults around the child to gain access to and time alone with her/him.
Offenders can assume a caring role, befriend the child, or even exploit their position of trust and authority to groom the child and/or the child’s family. These individuals intentionally build relationships with the adults around a child or seek out a child with fewer adults in her/his life. This increases the likelihood that the offender’s time with the child is welcomed and encouraged.
The purpose of grooming is:
- To reduce the likelihood of a disclosure.
- To reduce the likelihood of the child being believed.
- To reduce the likelihood of being detected.
- To manipulate the perceptions of other adults around the child.
- To manipulate the child into becoming a cooperating participant which reduces the likelihood of a disclosure and increases the likelihood that the child will repeatedly return to the offender.
The grooming process does not just occur with the intended victim. Offenders may groom not only the child but also their families and even the local community, who act as the gatekeepers of access.
Although not all child sexual abuse involves grooming, it is a common process used by offenders. It usually begins with subtle behavior that may not initially appear to be inappropriate, such as paying a lot of attention to the child or being very affectionate. Many victims of grooming and sexual abuse do not recognize they are being manipulated, nor do they realize how grooming is a part of the abuse process.
- An adult seems overly interested in a child.
- An adult frequently initiates or creates opportunities to be alone with a child (or multiple children).
- An adult becomes fixated on a child.
- An adult gives special privileges to a child (e.g., rides to and from practices, etc.).
- An adult befriends a family and shows more interest in building a relationship with the child than with the adults
- An adult displays favoritism towards one child within a family.
- An adult finds opportunities to buy a child gifts.
- An adult caters to the interests of the child, so a child or the parent may initiate contact with the offender.
- An adult who displays age and gender preferences