What is Child Grooming?
Know The Signs of Child Grooming
Know The Warning Signs of Child Grooming
What Is Child Grooming?
Child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a minor under the age of consent, and sometimes the child’s family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse. Child grooming is also regularly used to lure minors into various illicit businesses such as child trafficking, child prostitution, cybersex trafficking, or the production of child pornography.
Grooming can take place online or in-person. It’s usually employed by a family member or someone else in the victim’s circle of trust, such as a coach, teacher, youth group leader or others who naturally have some interaction with the victim.
Though grooming can take many different forms, it often follows a similar pattern.
- Victim selection: Abusers often observe possible victims and select them based on ease of access to them or their perceived vulnerability.
- Gaining access and isolating the victim: Abusers will attempt to physically or emotionally separate a victim from those protecting them and often seek out positions in which they have contact with minors.
- Trust development and keeping secrets: Abusers attempt to gain trust of a potential victim through gifts, attention, sharing “secrets” and other means to make them feel that they have a caring relationship and to train them to keep the relationship secret.
- Desensitization to touch and discussion of sexual topics: Abusers will often start to touch a victim in ways that appear harmless, such as hugging, wrestling and tickling, and later escalate to increasingly more sexual contact, such as massages or showering together. Abusers may also show the victim pornography or discuss sexual topics with them, to introduce the idea of sexual contact.
- Attempt by abusers to make their behavior seem natural, to avoid raising suspicions. For teens, who may be closer in age to the abuser, it can be particularly hard to recognize tactics used in grooming. Be alert for signs that your teen has a relationship with an adult that includes secrecy, undue influence or control, or pushes personal boundaries.
Examples of Child Grooming
Attention-giving Grooming Behaviors
- Being overly interested in a child
- Finding ways to frequently be alone with a child
- Offering special privileges to a child
- Favoring one child from a family with multiple children
- Giving a child advice or acting as a child’s confidant
- Giving a child gifts
- Taking a child on a trip
- Communicating with a child privately online
Boundary-breaking Grooming Behaviors
- Bathing a child
- Walking in on a child undressing or using the restroom
- Touching a child in seemingly harmless ways, such as tickling, wrestling or hugging
- Engaging in activities with a child that involve little clothing, such as swimming or giving a massage
- Playing games with a child that involve removing clothing, such as “doctor” or strip poker
Sex-oriented Grooming Behaviors
- Teasing a child about the development of their sexual body parts
- Discussing sexually explicit information with a child
- Telling sexually explicit jokes to a child
- Showing a child sexually explicit content
Documentaries on Sexual Grooming
How To Help
To help you recognize warning signs or to get support if you find out a child or teen in your life has been abused, you can speak with someone who is trained to help. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online. It’s free, confidential, and 24/7.