Child Molesters Work To Gain Your Child’s Trust
It’s called “grooming” and it’s the way would-be pedophiles and child molesters earn your child’s trust, and often your own.
The process is a perversion of romantic courtship: a multistage process in which abusers create a bond with your child, making it more difficult to detect sexual molestation under the guises of friendship, support, and care.
We Teach Children To Be Wary of Deviant Strangers
Our children learn to scream “No!” at the first sign of suspicious gifts and inappropriate touching. However, children are easily subject to feelings of pressure and obligation to secrecy, and only preparing your child for the most blatant attempts leaves them unprotected.
Because the process of grooming molestation victims takes time, awareness is key. By simply learning predatory grooming stages, you can protect your child from bonding with someone who means them eventual harm.
How the Grooming Process Works
Targeting a Victim
There is no prototypical victim of molestation- All children may be victimized. However, because predators want to separate targeted victims from their peers, they may focus on children who are already vulnerable. Emotional neediness, lower self-confidence, or excessive rule breaking may attract an offender seeking to team up with a child and exploit their vulnerabilities. Those seem unpopular or isolated may be more eager to soak up the attention and look to be easier targets.
Gaining a Victim’s Trust
Sexual predators recruit their victims in different ways but often through a combination of teaming up and laying on charm. By seeming harmlessly interested in a child’s likes or habits, a potential offender can learn how a child responds to affection, when to deliver praise, and what is the child’s greatest concern. They may also use this information to cajole parents into feelings of comfort and trust.
Filling a Void
A sexual predator almost always offers a sympathetic ear- After all, they know just what to say. They exploit a child’s need for love, sympathy, and support. Whatever the child needs or wants, the molester is happy to provide, with or without a parent’s knowledge or consent. Some molesters will even instigate a sexual relationship with a single parent just to gain access to her children. The greater the family need and the molester’s position of trust, the less ability a child has to say, “NO!”
Isolating the Child
The grooming sex offender has worked diligently to earn a child’s trust, and will now exploit it to create situations where they are alone together. This isolation may be entirely physical, by means of playtime, study time, coaching or special trips. It may also be emotional isolation, by way of secrets and promises. Within this special relationship, the sex offender may start to cultivate the idea that a child’s parents don’t love them the way the offender does and that their relationship is unique, even superior.
Sexualizing the Child
By the time a predator shows sexual interest in a child, their relationship is so well developed that it shows little resemblance to the inappropriate sexual behavior your child was warned about. Sexualizing a groomed victim may involve desensitizing them to pornographic images, moving touches from “acceptable” areas into private ones, and even creating situations in which both the victim and the offender are naked.
Offenders commonly use blame and shame to maintain a child’s secrecy at some point during the grooming process. This binds the victim to their predator and reinforces the feelings of dependency.
Protecting Your Family
A molester’s ability to lie, exaggerate and manipulate a child greatly exceeds the victim’s own ability to reason. The child may begin to feel responsible for their molestation, and to their offender. As frequent manipulations occur, the molester may begin to shift from offering positive reinforcement to silent treatment, and threats become more prevalent that expressions of affection and love.
The best way to recognize grooming behavior is to pay attention to the attachments and friendships your child develops. Because children have not yet learned a healthy fear for certain traits or situations, it is your responsibility to both talk to your children and be aware of the significant adults in their lives.
At Keep Kids Safe from Sex Abuse, we believe that all children should be kept safe from dangerous sexual predators. We also believe that this is best achieved through extensive education and by getting involved. Understanding how predators go about grooming their molestation victims is important for all adults, so that we can all better recognize the signs of abuse.