Identifying Child Sexual Abuse: Grooming
Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation.
Children and young people can be groomed face-to-face or online, by a stranger or by someone they know.
Groomers may be male or female and could be of any age.
Many children and young people don’t understand that they have been groomed or that what has happened to them is a form of abuse. They may tend to feel that what is developing between them and the perpetrator is a ‘relationship’.
How Grooming Happens
Some of the methods used by perpetrators to groom the child are a follows:
Bribing the child: This can range from offering money and gifts to the child. The gifts may even be in the form of even points, lives and in-game rewards in an online game.
Flattering the child: Perpetrators try to win the affection of the child by giving them constant attention and praise.
Sexualized Games & Intimacy Building: The perpetrator will test the child’s vulnerability by introducing subtly sexual allusions in conversation or during play. If the child positively responds to his overtures, he will attempt to build further intimacy with the child.
Desensitization: Groomers will attempt to desensitize the child to sexual acts by showing the child, pornography and child sexual abuse imagery. Constant exposure to explicit content may ‘normalize’ sexual behavior for the child and ‘desensitize’ her/him.
Threats & Blackmail: Groomers may use methods of forceful coercion to gain access to the child
Scattergun approach: When the groomer does not know what the child will respond, he will try all of the above in an effort to win the child’s attention and interest.
How You can Identify Grooming
(The below is not an exhaustive list but some common symptoms that may or may not indicate grooming. However these may be considered as warning signs that need your attention)
- Child is secretive, including about what they are doing online
- Child has older boyfriends or girlfriends
- Child goes to unusual places to meet friends
- Child has new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
- Child has access to drugs and alcohol.
In older children, signs of grooming can easily be mistaken for ‘normal’ teenage behaviour, but you may notice unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, or inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age.
What You can Do
Organise Personal Safety Sessions where children are taught to recognise & report grooming behaviour. Alsos involve parents in these trainings.
Teach children that any physical contact between child and adult is something to be wary of and questioned.
Let children know that they can always come to you and trust you with concerns.