What is grooming? From Wikipedia, “child grooming comprises actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, to lower the child’s inhibitions in order to sexually abuse the child.” Grooming is well-organized and can be short or long term.
Offenders will groom parents also to obtain access to children. Although not all sexual-abuse is preceded by grooming, it is a very common and deceitful process, which can be used by strangers or by those known to the victim. The method can take quite a while (even months and years), and can be very subtle and sneaky. Victims of grooming often do not realize that they are being manipulated until after they have been sexually abused and even then, some victims do not see how the grooming led to their abuse.
Here are some techniques that offenders set up their victims with:
- Paying attention to a child who appears emotionally needy
- Having an inappropriate and intrusive (coming without invitation) interest into children’s physical and sexual development,
- “Accidentally” or purposefully exposing themselves (coming out of the bath, wearing shorts that allow a view of the genitals, openly praising nudity as “normal”, etc.)
- Giving gifts, money, a piece of candy, petting a dog
- Telling the child that you need to examine your body for some reason
- Sexualizing physical contact such as wrestling, tickling, pats on the butt, etc.
- Bringing yourself down to the child’s level of play (becoming the child’s “buddy”)
- Not respecting the child’s boundaries or privacy. This may be “rules” like having the front door locked and not answering, walking a certain way home, asking questions about the family, schooling, friends and what the parents want the child to do to obey
- Giving inappropriate attention to children
- Manipulating a child through threats or coercion (use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance) openly or accidentally exposing the victim to nudity and sexual material
- Having inappropriate social boundaries (e.g., telling the potential child about their own personal problems etc).
While on the surface, these activities may seem innocent enough, they are often the prelude to a sexual contact with the child. Remember, grooming is well-organized and the method can take quite a while and can be very subtle and sneaky.
Part 4 will continue “grooming” and looking at other exploitative strategies!