What Is Sexual Grooming?   

Children and teens are sexually abused at staggering rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse in the United States. Many cases of child sexual abuse start with sexual grooming – a process in which a sexual predator targets and cultivates a relationship with a victim to make it easier to manipulate and abuse the child later.

Understanding Sexual Grooming

Sexual grooming precedes a large percentage of child sexual abuse crimes. Grooming refers to a perpetrator or predator cultivating a relationship and showing special attention to a child in order to gain easier access to the child, and ultimately to sexually abuse the child. Grooming behaviors may include giving the child gifts, complimenting or praising the child, and searching for opportunities to be alone with the child.

Someone guilty of sexual grooming may try to get close to the child through what might appear at first as a normal or healthy relationship, such as the bond between a coach and athlete, teacher and student, clergy and parishioner, or friends. The perpetrator may appeal to the target’s family and try to secure a position of trust with them. Over time, however, the groomer’s actions can evolve into child sexual abuse and assault.

Once sexual grooming has led to a strong relationship between the perpetrator and victim – and, oftentimes, the victim’s family – the sex offender will seize the opportunity to commit sex crimes against the target. At this point, the victim may trust the groomer and be deceived by him or her. The victim may not realize that what is happening is wrong, or may be convinced that they are in a loving and consensual relationship. This makes child sexual abuse cases that involve grooming more difficult to detect.

Who Are the Most Common Perpetrators of Sexual Grooming?

Sexual groomers can be anyone with access to a child. However, statistics from the CDC show that 91 percent of child sexual abuse cases involve someone that the child or child’s family knows and trusts. Comments examples include:

If any adult or teenager attempts to get close to your child, be alert for signs of sexual grooming. These may include unusual interest in your child, lavish gifts, trips or sleepovers, attempts to isolate the victim, acting as a confidant to the child, offering special privileges, and communicating privately with your child online.

How to Protect Your Child From Sexual Grooming

Sexual grooming can have physical, emotional and verbal signs. A groomer may start small by fostering a relationship with the target. Then, he or she may manipulate the family or child with gifts, quality time or frequent touching, such as playing, tickling, wrestling, massaging or hugging that may at first seem harmless. Finally, the relationship will progress to child sexual abuse.

If you suspect someone of sexually grooming your child, cut off all contact with the perpetrator. Explain to your child that the predator is not a friend, and to tell you if the offender attempts to contact or reach out to them. Report the incident to law enforcement for an investigation. You can also report it to Child Protective Services if the groomer is in the child’s family or a legal guardian. If you believe that an employee at an establishment, such as a school or summer camp, is guilty of sexual grooming, report it to the employer.

If you believe your child is a victim of sexual abuse in Kansas involving sexual grooming, contact DRZ Law immediately for a free and confidential case evaluation.

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