Thanks to network television shows, we see examples of grooming all the time. Unfortunately, sexual grooming is also happening in the real world and could happen right next door.
Child and adult grooming can happen when a predator pursues a relationship with a child, teen, or adult so they can eventually sexually abuse them. As predators continue cultivating this relationship with their victims, they isolate and manipulate them into thinking that they love and care about them.
If you or someone you love has experienced sexual exploitation or abuse, you have the right to file a lawsuit. The Houston sexual abuse lawyers at Reich & Binstock understand how scary it can be to stand up to an abuser and will treat your case with the utmost care and compassion. To schedule a free consultation with one of our sexual abuse attorneys, call us today at (713) 622-7271.
Sexual Grooming Definition
Grooming is when a sexual predator develops an emotional connection with a child, vulnerable teenager, or adult. The predator uses grooming to strengthen their relationship with the child or young person so they begin to trust them and form an emotional bond with them. They will also create a relationship with a family member of their victim so that their guard is lowered as well. When a victim’s family trusts an abuser, reporting abuse can be difficult for a victim.
Once the trust has been established with the victim and their family, the abuse can become sexual. A predator can even manipulate a child or young person in sexual exploitation activities like prostitution, trafficking, child pornography, etc. In many cases, grooming and covert sexual abuse go hand in hand.
What Is “Grooming Someone”?
Grooming someone is gaining trust and establishing a bond with a child or vulnerable young person or adult. A sexual predator uses grooming to target children with no adult or parent around often. Adult grooming can happen when the target is someone older that the predator decides is weak and easily manipulated.
When a predator can gain a child’s trust, that child believes that they genuinely love and care about them. By establishing that emotional bond with their victim, they can manipulate them into doing things the child knows are wrong, like sexual activities or drugs. As the bond between abuser and victim strengthens, so does what the child is willing to do for their abuser. Often, the abuser will resort to physical abuse if the victim begins to pull away.
What Is Online Sexual Grooming?
Thanks to technological advances and online communications, grooming can happen to anyone, anywhere. Predators will use the following online platforms for grooming:
- Texting or messaging apps
- Online forums and chat rooms
- Social media apps
- Chat features in online gaming
Thanks to technology, predators can use online grooming and remain anonymous. Predators can lie about their age, gender, and sexual preference to gain access to their victims and establish trust. Once the predator gains a victim’s online trust, they don’t need a physical meeting.
A predator can abuse their victim online by sending them sexual images and convincing them to take sexual pictures of themselves. Once the abuser has sexually explicit photos of their victim, they can use it as blackmail.
The warning signs for online grooming can be difficult for a parent or other adult to identify. To protect children from online predators, they must know about online grooming and how they can be on the lookout for predators.
What Is a Groomer?
A groomer is a person that uses predatory tactics to gain the trust of a child or young person. Many groomers can also be characterized as narcissists, con artists, anti-social people, and sexual aggressors that target young people or children for sexual exploitation and other sexual favors.
Common characteristics of groomers are:
- Overly attentive
- Verbal seduction
What Are the Stages of Sexual Grooming?
Sexual predators can groom their victims in various ways but generally follow the same process. Those stages are listed below.
Targeting the Victim
When predators are looking for victims, they usually target those who are vulnerable, making the abuse easier. Abusers will watch their victims for a while and learn their routines and how often an adult is around (if the victim is young). Young people and vulnerable adults risk becoming victims if they aren’t accompanied by an adult often.
Getting Access to the Victim and Isolating Them
After the predator has made their victim selection and monitored their activity for a while, they’ll approach them. They may start a seemingly innocent conversation with the child. During this initial conversation, the predator will come off as friendly and charming in order for the victim to lower their guard.
As the abuser establishes trust with their victim, they will start emotionally and physically isolating them from their friends and family. It’s common for an abuser to teach their victim that they’re the only one who understands and cares about them. This is one of the warning signs of childhood grooming.
Developing Trust with the Victim and Their Family
As the predator continues to gain their victim’s trust, they will also begin to gain the confidence of their family members and friends. Developing a trusting relationship with a victim’s family is essential to gain access to their victim. Predators will likely give their victims gifts and show them attention to make them feel special.
Once the predator begins to abuse their victim, it may be difficult for the victim to report abuse because of the trusting relationship the predator has developed with their family. It’s challenging for victims to report abuse if their abuser is in a position of power, like an adult at school or church.
Desensitizing the Victim to Touch
Once the predator has gained the trust of everyone close to their victim and isolated them, they may begin to touch the victim sexually. The abuser introduces touch innocently, like tickling, wrestling, or hugging their victim before they graduate to more sexual advances. A predator will also likely offer their victim alcohol or drugs, or show them sexual images. They may even begin to take sexual photos of their victim.
Controlling the Victim and Hiding the Abuse
Once the predator has established control over their victim, they may manipulate or scare them into not telling anyone about their relationship. They may threaten your loved ones or blackmail you if you do not perform sexual activity with them. The predator may even result to violence in order to maintain control.
Abusing the Victim
As the abuse continues, the victim may not even be aware that what’s happening is actually abuse. They may be under the impression that they are in a romantic relationship with their abuser. Often, survivors of child grooming still struggle to see what happened to them as a child as abuse and not a loving relationship.
The predator will continue to abuse their victim as long as they can or until they find a new victim to abuse. It’s common for predators to have an age range that they prefer their victims to be within. Once their victim “ages out,” they may move on to another younger victim.
What Are Examples of Grooming Behaviors?
Many predators will begin the grooming process with innocent behaviors that may not raise any red flags. Some common examples of grooming behaviors are:
- Looking for opportunities to be alone with the child or young person
- Showing particular interest in the child
- Becoming involved in routines like school carpools, after-school activities, or tutoring them
- Singling out one child in a family by buying them gifts or treats
- Becoming close to family members but only showing interest in a child or young person they’ve targeted
- Gaining the family’s trust so they allow the child to remain close to them
- Showing a particular age or gender preference
How to Identify Grooming Behavior
Parents and family members should be suspicious of anyone interested in their child or younger family members. However, noticing the signs of grooming can be difficult because they can be subtle, minor behaviors. In the sections listed above, you can look for signs of grooming behaviors in adults that may take a special interest in one of your children.
Below, we’ll list signs indicating that your child or young family member may be a grooming victim.
- The victim has started using drugs or drinking alcohol.
- The victim is secretive about gifts or money they’ve received.
- The victim has begun spending time with an older person.
- The victim is spending less time at home.
- The victim does not share how they spend their time, including online activities.
- The victim has been exhibiting extreme emotions, like anxiety or being more withdrawn.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Grooming?
Sexual grooming can have long-term effects, no matter how old or young the victim is. Some of the effects that victims of grooming may live with are:
- Problems sleeping
- Problems with sex
- Substance abuse problems
- Relationship issues with family, friends, and partners
- Feelings of shame and guilt
Researchers have only recently begun to fully understand how sexual abuse affects the brain. Both physical and chemical changes can potentially affect victims for the rest of their lives.
How to Report Sexual Grooming
If you believe someone is targeting your child online or in-person to groom them, you can report them to the local police. Unfortunately, there is not much they can do until sexual abuse or sexual advances takes place. Even though law enforcement may not be able to do much until an illegal activity occurs, it’s still important to report suspected grooming. Once the predator has been reported, it may deter them from pursuing further communication or a relationship. If the grooming happens online, you can report the predator and content to the app or online platform.
Is Grooming Illegal?
When grooming becomes sexual, it’s considered a crime. Sexual activity, showing sexual photos, or observing sex is illegal and can be prosecuted. Predators can be charged with child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, child pornography, and more. In addition to lengthy prison sentences, the predator must register as a sex offender.
How to Prevent Sexual Grooming
Teaching children and young people about the warning signs of grooming is the first step to prevention. Other ways that you can protect children and young people from grooming are:
- Listen to your child: Ask them questions and avoid making any judgemental comments. Creating an open line of communication with your child helps them feel more relaxed when talking to you about things that might be uncomfortable.
- Talk to your child about consent: Children should understand they have the right to say “no” to an adult or other authoritative figure that makes them uncomfortable.
- Talk to your child about secrets: Children need to understand that it’s not ok for someone to tell them to keep secrets from their parents.
- Be careful with what information you share: Social media is a way that parents can share all aspects of their lives, including their child’s activities, etc. However, predators can use this information to gain your child’s trust and learn more about your child.
Contact a Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual grooming and abuse, you can take legal action against your abuser. At Reich & Binstock, our compassionate sexual abuse attorneys will ensure those responsible are held accountable for their actions. We will also seek financial compensation for the emotional and sexual trauma that you experienced at the hands of your abuser. It’s time to end your suffering and begin your road to recovery and closure. To discuss your case with one of our attorneys, call us today at (713) 622-7271.