What is sexual grooming?

Predators frequently groom children before abusing them.

Child grooming is a process used by adults with a sexual interest in children or minors to prepare their victim for sexual abuse.  It involves establishing a friendship or relationship of trust with the child and sometimes the family of that child in order to lower the inhibitions of the family and the child.  Although not all child grooming results in sexual abuse, a victim of child grooming may still suffers many negative and lasting side effects.

There are several ways in which a predator may establish a relationship of trust with their target child and sometimes with the child's family.  These include befriending the child, offering special treatment to the child, giving gifts or money to the child in exchange for favors or sometimes for no apparent reason, and almost always includes seeking to gain one on one time alone with the child, 

Grooming progresses through several stages in order to acclimate the child to inappropriate behavior.  Once a predator is successful in gaining one on one access to a child, they are able to more quickly and easily progress through the stages of child grooming.  These stages include (not necessarily in order) befriending the child, getting one on one access to the child, acclimating the child to physical touch, normalizing sexual conversation, and finally normalizing sexual behavior.

There are a number of things parents and responsible adults can do to prevent sexual grooming.  Below is a list of recommendations:

  1. Do not allow your child to be alone with an adult.
  2. Teach you children that adults may not ask them about their sexuality. This includes asking a child if they masturbate or look at pornography.  Some exceptions to this may apply including a parent or legal guardian, a state licensed therapist, or a state licensed doctor.  However even in these situations boundaries need to be established and respected.
  3. Be aware of situations where grooming may happen and ensure proper adult supervision is available.
  4. Teach your children about using the internet safely.  This is a space where predators can gain easy access to their victims.
  5. Recognize the most at-risk groups including children who have behavioral issues such as "high attention seeking."