FROM ACQUAINTANCE TO ABUSER –
GROOMING BEHAVIOUR TO LOOK OUT FOR!
An abuser often first wins the trust of the parent(s) and the children that he has targeted, thereby allowing himself the chance to move closer to the inner circle of your family, and counts on this familiarity and trust to create opportunities to engage with his potential victim. The term ‘grooming’ describes the process through which an abuser (often quite patiently) over a period of time proceeds to win over his prey. Afterwards we often hear that the person was ‘such a help’ or conveniently always available to help with errands or would be someone that seemed socially acceptable and friendly.
Even experts who have interviewed jailed offenders remark on how likable they come across. It’s the grey area where most exist- predators that come off as “good” and charismatic “every day” kinds of people. Most often their charm is one of their greatest tools when targeting their next victim.
Sexual abuse is often not about sex, but more about control and dominance. Sex often serves merely as an outlet that offenders are using to fill a perceived need. And it is difficult because no two abusers look, talk, or act the same.
Spotting the warning signs listed below does not mean that you are definitely in the presence of a sexual abuser – your instinct is a good indicator – if you feel that something is off – listen, observe, and minimize this person’s access to your kids – especially in a one-on-one situation as that is when the most sexual abuse takes place.
From Strangers to acquainted danger:
Initially, you may not necessarily know these people very well, or only by name/face alone (a neighbor, a coach, a parent of another child you know). In order to gain access to your child, they usually try to establish a rapport with the parent as well as the child, but in some cases, they are less careful about hiding their intentions. Be cautious for the following behaviors/characteristics:
Volunteers or works with children but does not have children of their own
He might offers toys or access to video games, the latest trendy toy or has a collection of children’s DVDs or gadgets.
Spends more time with children than adults or peers – may even come off as immature and childish themselves
Gives gifts or special privileges for no apparent reason
Very affectionate/playful with kids – hugging, tickling, wrestling, holding or inviting a child to sit on their lap
Disregards “no” “stop” or other efforts from a child to avoid physical contact
Long stares or periods of watching a child
Comments or conversation about a child’s appearance – which may even take a turn for the inappropriate
Has children they ‘favor’ with extra attention
Eagerness to learn details of your personal life and your children and their activities/interests
Flattery of yourself or your children, or their talents and likewise, they may boast about their own successes/accomplishments, charitable work, generosity etc
If you are a single parent (especially a mother) – anyone that seems interested in filling in as a fatherly role for your child.
Seems to like the very same things that your child is interested in
Tries to establish a sense of camaraderie with your child and draw your child away from you “I know how parents are” “you’re old enough to go alone”.
Attempts to make you doubt your protective instincts “you’re not one of those helicopter parents, are you?”
Offers to “help out” with your child – a stranger that may offer to walk them to an arcade while you’re shopping at the mall, or an acquaintance that offers to watch or give your child a ride to soccer practice when you find yourself in a bind.
If your child is particularly talented (musically, artistically, athletically, or is involved in pageants etc) and someone approaches you with opportunities that seem like they would benefit your child – private lessons/photography shoots/meeting scouts etc
Someone that suggests a child is “troubled” or prone to lying (to discredit future claims of abuse by the child.)