Child Sexual Abuse

Grooming

It’s just the first step towards child sexual abuse, and it’s a behaviour that needs to be interrupted.

Adults are responsible for protecting children from sexual abuse so it’s important to recognize behaviours, such as a sexual text messages, that present risk. By questioning these interactions by adults towards children you’re, at the least, correcting an inappropriate behaviour, and at the worst, stopping a sexual offence before it happens.

What is Grooming?

Grooming is a method used by offenders that involves building trust with a child, and the adults around them, in an effort to gain access to and control the child. Offenders groom children to manipulate them into becoming a cooperative participant, reducing the likelihood of the child telling and increasing the likelihood the child will repeatedly return to the offender. Offenders groom adults around the child to make it easier to gain access to the child.

Grooming is really the start of the sexual abuse/exploitation process, and is a damaging part of the sexual abuse experience.

Is There Really a Problem?: The Answer No One Wants to Hear

But is child sexual abuse really a problem? In short, yes. Child sexual abuse is more prevalent than most Canadians might like to believe. Research shows about 1 in 10 children in Canada were sexually victimized before they turned 181 and in the vast majority of cases the offender is known to the child.2

In the past two years, Cybertip.ca analysts have classified 305 reports as luring, an attempt made by offenders to gain access to children. Of those reports:

  • 39% involved victims 13 years old or under, with the youngest being 8 years old
  • 43% involved victims 14–17 years old
  • 22% of incidents occurred on Facebook/Facebook Messenger
  • 34% of incidents occurred on Instagram, Snapchat, or KIK Messenger
  • 9% of incidents occurred on an online gaming platform

Grooming Tactics

Offenders use a multitude of tactics to manipulate children into complying with their requests. Through operating Cybertip.ca several common techniques have emerged:

  • Offender falsely identifying themselves online as one of the child’s peers (e.g., child from another school, friend’s sport team, or known to the child in some way)
  • Flattery/compliments/support
  • Promise of a “better” life
  • Promise of a “loving” relationship
  • Promise of gifts, money, cell phones, tablets, drugs, alcohol
  • Using parents against the child (e.g., your parents are too strict, your parents don’t understand you)
  • Threats/coercion
  • Exchange of sexual pictures to make victim more comfortable in sending sexual pictures/videos in return

Does This Just Happen Online?

Absolutely not. Grooming is used by offenders to gain access to and sexually abuse children wherever children are — sport, school, daycare, youth group, etc. Some recent examples include:

Sport

In the past year, more than ever it’s being brought to light that sport presents as a high risk area for attracting individuals who are looking to gain access to and exploit children. A 2019 joint investigation by CBC News and Sports revealed at least 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sports in Canada have been convicted of sexual offences in the past 20 years involving more than 600 victims under the age of 18.3

To learn more about sexual abuse in sport and what can be done to stop it, visit commit2kids.ca.

Schools

According to a study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection approximately 750 cases involving sexual offences against a minimum of 1,200 children occurred between 1997 and 2017 by about 714 employees working in Canadian K–12 schools.

To read the final results of the study, Child Sexual Abuse by K–12 School Personnel in Canada, click here.

What can YOU do?

It’s a normal reaction to avoid something that makes you feel uncomfortable, but, keep in mind, there is a child that needs your protection:

  1. If you see, read, hear anything sexual from an adult towards a child online or in real life, report it to Cybertip.ca
  2. Empower yourself with knowledge. Learn more about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, how it happens, and how to reduce risk to your child by visiting protectchildren.ca
  3. Stay up to date on emerging trends and risks online. Visit protectkidsonline.ca, a one-stop website where parents of kids, tweens and teens can get cyber safety advice, and sign up for Cybertip.ca Alerts.

  1. Afifi TO, MacMillan HL, Boyle M, et al. “Child abuse and mental disorders in Canada.” Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2014; 186(9): E324-32
  2. Department of Justice Canada. (2013) “Sexual Offending Against Children and Youth.” Retrieved from: http://www.canada.ca/en/news/archive/2013/02/sexual-offending-against-children-youth.html. Keighley, K. (2017). “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2016.” Juristat, Vol. 37, No. 1. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Cat. No. 85-002-X
  3. CBC News (2019). “Sex offences against minors: Investigation reveals more than 200 Canadian coaches convicted in last 20 years.” Available at https://www.cbc.ca/sports/amateur-sports-coaches-sexual-offences-minors-1.5006609 [Accessed February 21, 2019]