Child abuse is a subject many would rather sweep under the rug because it is such a vile and heinous crime against humanity. Yet, child abuse continues to happen and will continue to prevail until we bring it out of the darkness and into the light of day.
The main two things child sexual predators have going for them is the fact no one wants to talk about or admit sexual abuse occurs and the silence of society.
This piece is going to challenge the silence and will make an in-depth examination of how child predators use grooming of children to trap and abuse their victims.
What is Grooming?
Grooming is when a predator befriends and establishes a connection with a child and sometimes their family on an emotional level. The predator lowers the child’s inhibitions against them by using well-known techniques so that they can use the child for their sexual perversions.
Child grooming, used to lure minors into sexual situations with adults, is often used to trap them into child trafficking, child pornography, or childhood prostitution.
To be quite clear, children are in no way responsible for falling for the lures of child predators. Children, all children, are the innocent victims of someone who wishes to use them for either personal abuse or trafficking of some sort of the child’s body.
Another vital piece of information to remember is that sexual predators aren’t using sexual advances for sex, they are craving power and who better to feel powerful over than a child who cannot fight back.
Sexual predators are cowards.
Grooming by a Human Trafficking Ring
Living in the United States of America may mean one believes they are safe from human trafficking and exploitation of children, but nothing could be further from the truth.
According to the United Nations, Office on Drugs and Crimes Report 300,000 American children under the age of eighteen are lured or sold into commercial sex trafficking every year. If that figure is not frightening enough, then add that these children have a life expectancy of only seven years after entering sexual trafficking dying from attacks, HIV, malnutrition, overdosing on drugs, or suicide.
The largest group of children who are trafficked are runaways, thrown away, or homeless American children who need food, shelter, clothing, etc. and use their bodies to gain these needs. Many are children who live in the streets, so the number of American children who are trafficked is probably much more than the reported 300,000.
Grooming by a Family Member Predators
Most often, when a child suffers from sexual abuse, it is perpetrated by a family member or someone close to them. The predator will gain the child’s trust in many ways including setting themselves up as a hero in the child’s eyes and other techniques we shall examine later in this piece.
There are no useful statistics on how many children in the United States face grooming and sexual exploitation by family predators, but it is known that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys face such abuse.
Children love their parents, and other members of their families are entirely dependent upon them for their emotional and physical needs. Knowing these facts, it is easy to see how a child can be duped into believing their family members would not hurt them even if what they are doing to them seems wrong.
Predators are good at seeming harmless. They may be the pillars of the community and often work or volunteer in positions where they have ready access to children. Their illusion is complete if the child they are preying upon has parents who are neglectful and abusive themselves. The abusive parents will never interfere in any meaningful way because to do so would invite accusations upon themselves. Thus, the child is left without an advocate, alone and abused.
Five Grooming Techniques Used by Child Predators
Grooming a child for sexual abuse doesn’t happen overnight if the predator doesn’t want to get caught. Predators use the innocence of the child against them using techniques that break down any inhibitions the child might have against sexual behavior against their bodies.
While there are many techniques that child predators use, in this article, we shall outlive five.
Forming a Relationship. Predators look for vulnerable children and near them, and it is unusual for a child predator to hunt children who are loved and cared for well by their parents. Predators will spend extra time with their prey pretending to be more interested and even supportive of that child than any other adult in their lives.
Childhood sexual predators will use special treatment and extra attention to bond with their prey and may buy clothing to make the child look more exciting to them.
Testing the Child’s Comfort Levels. Sexual predators will examine the child’s boundaries to see how far they can go with their sexual approaches to them. They may use sexual jokes, objects, or pictures to see how the child will respond. Sexual monsters may attempt to lure the child into playing sexualized games and touching and enter the room where children have the right to expect privacy such as the bathroom or their bedroom while dressing.
Testing how far they can go helps a sexual predator know if they can go on escalating their sexual approach without getting caught. Will the child tell? Do they understand what the predator is trying to do?
Touching the Child. Predators don’t usually sexual assault a child without first using innocent-looking touches from which they build to penetration. First, the sexual monster will use innocent touch such as hugging, rubbing the backs of children, or having them sit in their lap. Sexual predators will then move on slowly to less innocent touching to test the child’s reaction to see how far they can go.
Using Intimidation. Sexual monsters use intimidation to keep what they are doing to their victims secret. At first, they may use guilt, blaming the abuse on the child to see if the child argues the point and pushes back by telling another adult about what is going on. If the child remains silent, the predator will then progress to threatening to cause the child or someone they love harm if they tell.
Some predators will also intimidate their child victims by killing animals doing other frightening things to make the point that if the child tells, these things will happen to them or someone they love.
Showing the Child Sexual Material. Sexual monsters often share sexual materials to the child in an attempt to prove to their prey that what they are doing is normal. These materials may include pictures, videos, or sexual novelties like ink pens that reveal a naked person when turned upside down.
Today, sexual predators have a new tool, the Internet. By sending files full of sexually explicit pictures, they can make the child believe they are being treated normally when their abuser performs sexual acts upon them.
The Warning Signs of Sexual Predator Grooming
If you are a concerned adult who is not sure if they are witnessing the effects of sexual grooming on a child you care about, here are the signs with which to be concerned.
- The child appears disconnected from their family and friends.
- The child has had a sudden change in behavior.
- The child is known to engage in sexual acts beyond their years.
- The child appears disoriented, confused, or shows signs of mental or physical abuse.
- The child has bruises on their body that appear to be in different stages of healing.
- The child appears fearful, shy, or too submissive.
- The child appears withdrawn and afraid to speak up.
- The child appears to be dehydrated, hungry, sleepy, or sick.
- When asking questions of the child, they seem to have been coached on what to answer.
- The child seems drawn to or attached to an adult that is beyond normal bonding
- An adult in the child’s life spends an enormous amount of time showering them with gifts and attention beyond what is considered normal.
- The child announces they have a “boyfriend” they met on the Internet who is overly attentive and wants to meet them in person but not safely.
If you see these signs or more, do not hesitate to contact the authorities. Even if you are proven wrong, the chances that you right far outweigh any possible embarrassment you might face. You might save the life of a child.
Some Closing Thoughts on Child Grooming
This article has been challenging to write and probably hard to read because it deals with a subject matter that is often considered taboo. However, unless Americans begin talking about childhood sexual grooming, childhood abuse, and childhood trafficking, sexual predators will continue to harm our children.
No nation can remain strong if its weakest and smallest citizens are allowed to be preyed upon by the child monsters that groom and use hundreds of thousands of children every year.
Child abuse in any form must become our number one priority. The exploitation of children, just as polio and smallpox, need eradicating from our country and brought out of the shadows for good.
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi