kids in the park

The Grooming Process

How Abusers Groom Children

Grooming is a subtle, gradual, and escalating process of building trust with a child. It is deliberate and purposeful. Abusers may groom children for weeks, months, or even years—before any sexual abuse actually takes place. It usually begins with behaviors that may not even seem to be inappropriate.

Grooming children may include:

  • Befriending a child and gaining his or her trust.
     
  • Testing a child’s boundaries through telling inappropriate jokes, roughhousing, backrubs, tickling, or sexual games.
     
  • Moving from non-sexual touching to “accidental” sexual touching. This typically happens during play so the child may not even identify it as purposeful, inappropriate touching. It is often done slowly so the child is gradually desensitized to the touch.
     
  • Manipulating the child to not tell anyone about what is happening. The abuser may use a child’s fear, embarrassment, or guilt about what has happened. Sometimes, the abuser uses bribery, threats, or coercion.
     
  • Confusing the child into feeling responsible for the abuse. Children may not notice or may become confused as the contact becomes increasingly intimate and sexual.

How Abusers Groom Adolescents

Grooming adolescents may include additional strategies, such as:

  • Identifying with the adolescent. The abuser may appear to be the only one who understands him/her.
     
  • Displaying common interests in sports, music, movies, video games, television shows, etc.
     
  • Recognizing and filling the adolescent’s need for affection and attention.
     
  • Giving gifts or special privileges to the adolescent.
     
  • Allowing or encouraging the adolescent to break rules (e.g., smoking, drinking, using drugs, viewing pornography).
     
  • Communicating with the adolescent outside of the person’s role (e.g., teacher, or coach). This could include, for example, texting or emailing the teen without the parents’ knowledge.

How Abusers Groom Adults

It is not just children and adolescents who are groomed. Abusers also work hard to gain the trust of the adults around a child/youth (e.g., parents, other family members, and coworkers). This may include:

  • Befriending the parents or other caregivers.
     
  • Looking for opportunities to have time alone with a child (e.g., offering to babysit or inviting the child for a sleepover).

Know the significant adults in your child's life. Pay attention.Ask questions. Stay involved.