Grooming is a process in which an abuser sets the stage for exploitation and abuse. Predators create an emotional connection with the victim and gain their trust. They build the trust of weaker, younger, or otherwise less powerful victims. Later, predators lure victims into inappropriate and harmful relationships.
As sex counselor and author Eric Marlowe Garrison explained in an interview with Allure, “Grooming is the slow, methodical, and intentional process of manipulating a person to a point where they can be victimized.”
The grooming process can take many forms. This could be buying gifts for your child or sending them messages of love or affection. If you notice any of these red flags in your home, then it may be time to talk to someone about what’s going on.
1 – Gift Giving
Adults often groom children by buying them gifts. If you notice an increase in the number of presents your child is receiving from someone who isn’t a relative, then it’s important to talk to them about the situation and monitor their relationships with that person moving forward.
2 – Taking Trips or Going Out for Fun
If someone is taking your child on special outings or is trying to get them alone away from the home, then it’s important to acknowledge that something might be wrong. This person could be taking your child out to build a sense of trust or just because they have an ulterior motive in mind. Gaining your or a caregiver’s trust is often cited as the second stage in the grooming process. Be aware of this behavior, even if you’ve come to trust other adult figures in your child’s life.
3 – Online Relationships: A Key Area for Human Trafficking and Preying on Children
“The proliferation of technology has made it easier for human traffickers to search for and groom potential victims,” writes DeliverFund, a non-profit that aids law enforcement in detecting and combating online predators involved in human trafficking children. When it comes to human trafficking and children, social media and online messaging platforms are crucial for predators to access their victims.
It’s not unusual for a child in this day and age to be spending a lot of time online. Yet, if you notice that a child is being contacted by someone who isn’t a relative or peer, then it’s important to track the situation.
If your child has started dating online without permission or if you have noticed any other concerning online behavior, then it’s important to look into the situation further.
4 – An Adult Pretending to Be a Child or Someone They’re Not
With online grooming, it’s not unusual for predators to create fake profiles or personas to gain trust. This can be done by posing as a child, an older teen, or someone that the victim is interested in dating.
If your child is being contacted by someone who they suspect might not be who they say they are, then it’s important to talk to them and investigate the situation. Predators try to gain access into the lives of young teenagers or pre-teens. They try to convince them that dating would be appropriate at such an age. Parents must step in and protect their children.
It’s Up to Us
If your child is targeted, it is essential to know what stages an offender will go through to control them and keep them silent. Children are unable to detect the ulterior motives of a predator’s affection. Without adult intervention, by the time a child speaks up about the abuse, he or she might have been groomed to stay silent for months or years. A child may feel the abuse is their fault, and they are too embarrassed or traumatized to speak up about what has happened to them.
Child sexual abusers know how to manipulate children into thinking that this behavior is normal. This is because it happens all the time in our culture, be it Hollywood, the music industry, or even in schools. Parents and caregivers need to talk with their kids about predatory behavior. Set boundaries for how they should interact with other people online. If you notice any of these red flags in your home, then it may be time to talk to someone about what’s going on.