Grooming is the process child sex predators use to train a child victim for the purpose of a sexual relationship. The groomer gains the trust of the child, and often their guardians too. From that point forward, the predator breaks down the child’s defenses to manipulate the victim to engage in sexual acts. Child molesters are often trusted adults, and many predators position themselves in professions or environments where they have access to children. They can be family members, neighbors, teachers, coaches, clergy, and counselors.
Stages of Grooming
- Target the victim.
- Earn trust from the victim and their guardian(s).
- Fill a need.
- Isolate the child.
- Lower inhibitions.
- Sexualize the relationship.
- Maintain control over the victim.
The predator will establish trust and affection with the victim and make the child feel special. The predator may seduce the child and the child’s guardians with gifts, bribes, special privileges and even vacations. The offender often starts with nonsexual touch and then progresses toward sexual contact. The groomer will also manipulate the child into becoming a cooperating participant. This increases the likelihood the child will return to the offender and decreases the odds of being detected. The groomer then will demand the child keeps their sexual relationship a secret and sometimes will use threats or blackmail to achieve this.
Spot a Groomer
- The adult is overly interested in the child.
- The adult creates opportunities to be alone with the child.
- The adult is more interested in a relationship with the child than the adults.
- The adult has age and/or gender preferences for children.
Social Media and Online Grooming
In this day and age, child predators frequently use social media sites, gaming rooms and other online forums and chats to target and groom children via electronic communications.
Signs of Online Grooming
- Child becomes secretive about online activities.
- Child is online too frequently.
- Child receive gifts, money or messages from strangers.
- Child is asked to meet up with people they’ve met online.
- Child has knowledge of inappropriate sex.
- The child is told to keep their online communications secret from their guardians.
Online Grooming Prevention
- Hold family meetings about the dangers of online grooming.
- Know what apps your children have on their phones.
- Monitor your child’s social media use.
- Teach your children what is not OK behavior such as sharing personal
- Information with strangers online or agreeing to meet up with them.
- Talk to your children and keep the lines of communication open.
- Be clear with your children what sites and apps are allowed.
- Consider installing parental control software on their devices.
- Use Google Alerts with your child’s name to keep track of tags of comments and photos of your child.
- Report online grooming.
It’s easy to think your child could never fall victim to these monsters; however, crimes against children happen more often than most realize in all kinds of communities, and the media fails to cover these stories enough. Below are only two examples of tragic stories that have not been widely reported.
- Investigation Discovery has a new three-hour docuseries currently airing on convicted pedophile Jared Fogle called Jared from Subway: Catching a Monster. This informative series showcases how the Subway spokesperson – famous for his 245-pound weight loss from eating Subway’s low fat sandwiches – groomed children and their parents. Jared launched a charity in 2008 called the Jared Foundation, which pledged to give money to schools to help promote healthy eating, and this placed Fogle in a position where he had close access to children.
- Jorge Camacho, 34, used social media to groom a 13-year-old Texan girl for months and then lured her from her home in the Dallas area to his car. He brought her to North Carolina where he raped her and locked her in a shed. The victim’s mother told a Dallas news affiliate that her daughter met the predator while playing an online video game, and they had been chatting online via Discord for months. Fortunately, authorities found the child and arrested Camacho in March.
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