Grooming

Who Sexually Abuses Children?

Individuals who sexually abuse and exploit children come from all walks of life and cannot be easily identified. It is essential to pay attention to behaviours and situations that present risk, rather than to focus on an individual’s appearance, character, and/or marital status/relationship history. A well-liked individual that contributes to their community is not exempt from having the capacity to sexually exploit or harm a child. Research reveals that individuals who sexually abuse children usually know their victims in some capacity.

What is Grooming?

The process known as “grooming” comprises a variety of techniques used by an offender to access and control potential and actual child victims. The process requires the offender to have access to the child, time with the child and a certain level of interpersonal skills. The goal is to gain the child’s trust and co-operation (and is also sometimes used to gain the trust of the child’s family), decreasing the likelihood that the child will tell anyone about the abuse. Offenders may use a combination of attention, affection, kindness, privileges, recognition, gifts, alcohol, drugs, and/or money to groom a child for the purpose of lowering inhibitions and increasing the chance of successfully offending against a child.

The purpose of grooming is:

  • To reduce the likelihood of the abuse being detected;
  • To gain prolonged access to and control of the child;
  • To manipulate the perceptions of other adults around the child;
  • To manipulate the child into becoming a cooperative participant;
  • To normalize inappropriate behaviour;
  • To reduce the likelihood of a disclosure; and
  • To coerce the child into believing that s/he instigated and is in control of the activity.
Grooming is often a slow, gradual and escalating process of building trust and comfort with a child. It usually begins with subtle behaviours that do not appear to be inappropriate, and that may, in fact, suggest that the individual is very good with children. Many people who have experienced child sexual abuse do not recognize the grooming process as it is happening, nor do they realize that this process of manipulation is part of the overall abuse.

Why are Children Vulnerable to Grooming?

  • They are still developing socially and emotionally, and therefore it can be easy to confuse, control or coerce them.
  • They are taught to respect and listen to adults.
  • They do not have a developed understanding of sexuality.
  • They cannot interpret or identify an adult’s intent.
For more information, visit Commit to Kids and Teatree Tells.