Know the warning signs of child grooming

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2022 | Survivors - Resources & Help

Kids are often told to stay away from strangers. However, strangers are rarely the people who sexually abuse them. They’re often people your child trust and know well.

Parents may also befriend and trust a child sexual abuser without knowing it. Abusers often position themselves as moral and respectable individuals in the community, such as scout troop leaders, sports coaches, religious officials, doctors or schoolteachers. Abusers often use these positions to build close relationships with families and the children they prey upon. This is what’s often referred to as grooming.

What is grooming?

Grooming is a process where abusers slowly engage others in a sexually inappropriate relationship. Grooming can let predators become valuable friends, mentors and confidants to a child and others the child is close with. This often allows sexual predators to continue engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a child while keeping parents in the dark about their actions.

Signs someone may be grooming your child

Here are a few red flags to watch for:

  • Your child receives numerous gifts from an adult figure: Whether it’s sports equipment, candy or a new toy your child wants, if they’re receiving frequent gifts of any kind from another adult figure, this can be a very early sign of grooming.
  • Your child is spending a lot of alone time with another adult figure: Is this adult figure constantly wanting to spend time with your child, particularly alone time? When predators do this, they often try to isolate the child from friends and family members so they can develop a relationship of control and secrecy with the child.
  • The adult figure crosses physical boundaries with your child: Do you see your child giving this adult figure long, full-frontal hugs or sitting on their lap. Or do you see this individual “accidentally” touching your child’s private areas? If so, this is often an immediate cause for concern.
  • Your child showcases unusual sexual behavior: It’s normal for kids to explore their sexuality in different ways at different development stages. However, if that exploration involves frequent conversations or information about sexual topics, or constantly imitating graphic sexual acts after repeatedly telling them to stop, it could be a sign of early grooming and/or abuse.

Knowing what to look for can help you seek justice

When children endure sexual abuse from an authority figure you know and trust, it can be easy for their heinous actions to fly under the radar. But when you can spot the warning signs of grooming, you can reduce the risk of these individuals harming others. And if they abuse your child or someone else’s, you can get the justice you, your family and your community deserve by holding them accountable.