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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Protecting our children from sexual predators involves grooming awareness

Protect Your Child from Sexual Predators

One of the most important steps in fighting child sexual predators is to educate yourself and your family on the “grooming process” and to recognize the danger signs of “grooming”.

What is “grooming”?

A process of targeting a child and engaging him/her for the purpose of sexual activity.

It involves elements of coercion and manipulation.

It involves the intent to sexually exploit the child.

Who is the target of the “grooming” process?

Predators typically target children with obvious vulnerabilities that they can exploit:

  • Unpopular

  • Feel unloved 

  • Seeking attention and friendship 

  • Low self-esteem and lack of confidence 

  • Isolated from peers 

  • Spends time alone 

  • Often unsupervised 

  • Experiencing family problems (divorce, death, etc.)

How does a child predators approach an intended victims?

  • Presents themselves as a positive role model for the child

  • Exhibits interest in the child 

  • Provides excessive compliments

  • Learn the child’s habits, likes, dislikes 

  • Pretends to share common interest, backgrounds, experiences, etc.

What is the purpose of grooming?

The child predator’s goal is to gradually increase access to the potential victim, eventually engage in sexual activity with him/her, and decrease the likelihood that the perpetrator’s actions will be discovered by others, including the victim.

The perpetrator’s goal also is to make the potential victim feel comfortable enough to become close to and be alone with the perpetrator, and to keep the sexual activity a secret.

Grooming is a process that typically consists of the following steps:

  • Building Trust and Breaking Down a Child’s Defenses

  • Pretend to share common interests, backgrounds, experiences, etc. 

  • Give gifts as tokens of friendship 

  • Play games 

  • Give rides 

  • Provide access to valuable items, privileges, or activities that are typically unavailable or off limits to the child 

  • Flatter and make the child feel special and somehow indebted 

  • Offer a sympathetic and understanding ear (e.g., “No one understands you like I do”; “I am here for you”; “I know what that’s like”, etc.)

  • Reassuring to the Family

  • Strike up relationships with the child’s parents (single-parent families are prime targets) 

  • Attempt to gain trust or take advantage of the trust of the child’s parents or care providers 

  • Behave in exemplary ways to alleviate concerns or possible suspicions

  • Gradual Erosion of Boundaries

  • Escalate inappropriate physical contact, such as:

  • Hugging or touching nonthreatening areas of body (e.g., hand holding, rubbing back, caressing hair, etc.) 

  • Pretending to accidentally touch or brush up against the child 

  • Positioning self in close proximity to the child (e.g., sleep in the same bed) 

  • Engaging the child in nonsexual inappropriate behaviors (e.g., drinking alcohol) 

  • Touching and fondling inappropriate areas of the child’s body

  • Construct Secrecy with the Child

  • Make the child fearful that he or she will be in trouble if their activities together are discovered 

  • Tell the child that touching between them is good because their relationship is special 

  • Tell the child there will be consequences if he or she reports the sexual behavior (e.g., “We no longer can be friends”; “Your family will hate you”; etc.).

  • Working to Secure Compliance

  • Escalate intrusiveness of sexual behaviors over time 

  • Manipulate child into performing or permitting a desired sex act 

  • Threaten to harm child or a person who is important to child if he or she does not comply

It is key is to look for patterns of behavior in both the suspected perpetrator and the suspected targeted victim that would suggest grooming is occurring.

Ask yourself: Is the child being manipulated by the suspected perpetrator? Has the suspected perpetrator gone out of his or her way to gain your trust as the parent/guardian/caregiver?

These are important questions to ask as you try to identify warning signs of sexual perpetration.

It’s important to always pay attention to your child and the people in your child’s life. Please do not ever yield the responsibility of your child to other people without carefully examining their character and intent.

As a parent or guardian, you should know their child’s teachers, coaches, day care providers, youth group leaders, their friends’ parents/caregivers, and other significant adults involved in their lives.

Ask questions, and more questions, and more questions!

Today in Fort Smith suggest that you make it a habit to make unannounced visits when your child is alone with others.

We believe these are the best ​parenting tips for protecting your child from sexual predators.

If you suspect your child is being groomed, immediately limit your child’s interactions with the individual in question. In a safe and supportive environment, engage your child in a conversation, using age-appropriate language, regarding his or her relationship and interactions with the individual.

If you discover that your child has been sexually victimized, contact law enforcement authorities immediately for further action.

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