Child abusers groom and pedophiles use grooming strategies to make sure their child abuse remains a secret. Learn these strategies here and take a step towards better protecting your family.
This article is part two in a series about child abuse. If you have not read Silent Warning Signs for Child Abuse and What To Do About It, I recommend that you start there.
For this post, I’d like to talk about how child abusers gain access to their victims.
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Generally speaking, there are two types of offenders: predatory offenders (who seek out victims in advance) and opportunistic offenders (who take an opportunity presented to abuse).
How Child Abusers Groom Their Victims
There are typically four stages of child sexual abuse.
1. Child Abusers Gain Access to Your Child
First of all, if an abuser is within a family, they’ll create opportunities to be alone with a child away from other adults.
If the offender is not from the family, they’ll target a child who seems shy or insecure. They may also look for children who will be trusting and scared enough not to tell their parents what’s happening.
However, even children who are not typically “Insecure” can be chosen and groomed.
Abusers often target single parents, Busy Families, and children who are involved in extra-curricular activities where they’ll have access and frequent opportunities to get the child away from their families.
2. Child Abusers Gain Trust
Often abusers will work to gain trust of the families first, if they don’t already have it.
By gaining a family’s trust they are given access and are able to use that trust over the child to scare them into silence.
They’ll threaten the family “won’t believe” the child anyway. Lastly, Abusers often shower the child with attention, time, and gifts to help establish a bond of affection.
3. Child Abusers Take Their Time
Some abusers may take months to actually abuse the child. In other words, they may test the waters to determine how the child reacts, whether they tell their parents, and how their parents react.
4. Child Abusers Control the Child and Situation
An abuser wants to maintain access to the child and will try to control the situation as much as possible. They will threaten or employ other tactics to keep a child silent throughout the duration of the abuse.
Consequently, they may threaten harm, tell the child no one loves them or would believe them, or even threaten to harm their family if they are told.
Of course, this puts a cruel burden of confusion on a child.
How You Can Help Safeguard Your Kids From Being Groomed For Child Abuse
Now we know the basics of how abusers groom their victims. (Of course, it’s not set in stone, but abusers typically follow the above method.)
I understand, it feels scary to talk about, but good to get it out in the open and think on these things because – ultimately – for abuse to occur a few things need to happen.
Here are a few ways to try and safeguard your child from abuse, even within your own family.
Note: Much abuse occurs from older children towards younger children.
1. Be Clear about Body Safety in Front of the Whole Family to Prevent Grooming
- At first, when kids are smaller, this might mean repeating often in front of all siblings, what right and wrong touch are.
- It may mean telling a family member (or the whole family) your child isn’t allowed one on one time with any male family member.
- Be clear that even siblings are not to inappropriately touch one another.
- Keep clear guidelines when it comes to keeping secrets. Be sure to teach that parents will trust any disclosure.
2. Teach Your Kids Proper Body Part Names and Functions
Let’s be truthful, no need to create pet names for body parts.
Whereas, calling their body by its anatomically correct body parts will also help signal to an abuser the parents are switched on and watching.
Also, should abuse be attempted or take place, a child will be able to recount explicitly what type of abuse has occurred.
In addition to this, be sure to teach your children no one can touch their body nor should they ever touch another person’s body in the private areas.
This second part is often forgotten, but is how much abuse occurs.
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3. Regularly Communicate with Your Children
Ask your child about their day, who they talked to, what they did. Be switched on to your child’s life.
Young children may say many things that help you “switch on” to a possible red flag situation.
Make your kids feel comfortable talking about anything. (This may require keeping your reactions under the surface.)
Without a doubt, pedophiles often groom families and children who are not open about such discussions and the whole issue can go under the radar for far too long.
4. Be Honest with Children about Child Abuse
You don’t have to use scary verbiage, but Be Honest with Your Kids about abuse.
- Teach them who can and cannot touch their bodies.
- Show them safety. Who should and should not attempt to be alone with them.
- Let you kids know what is considered abuse and how to look out for themselves.
You see, abusers often single out kids who seem oblivious to whether something is “right” or “wrong” so Educate Your Child.
5. Create Rules for Who Your Children Can be Alone With
In our home, we’ve established a rule that the children cannot be alone with a male person. Period.
Uncles need aunts, husbands need wives. Everyone may not take such drastic measures, but determine what you are comfortable with and make it clear to your kids.
For example, they can’t play at someone’s house until you’ve met the parents and know the mother is home.
6. Teach Your Kids not to Keep Secrets about Their Body
Most importantly, try to explain as carefully and clearly as you can that if someone asks them to keep a secret about their body or touch, it’s never okay.
Also, it’s always okay to tell their parents and they will not get in trouble.
This is important as abusers often try to threaten children to keep quiet, as I mentioned earlier.
7. Regularly Teach Your Kids How to Get Out of Uncomfortable Situations
Teach your children how to say “no” and why they can say no!
Without a doubt, make sure they understand they don’t have to obey every single adult who tells them what to do. But obey only trusted members their parents have established as authorities over them.
50+ Connection Questions
Pull out these fun questions to share some laughs with your precious ones. Use them out at meal times, car rides, or any time the day is getting chaotic and you need a reset to connect.
8. Give Older Kids a Code Word
Have a family code word or phrase that signals the parent a child needs something. If a child is somewhere else they can call and use that code word for the mother or father to get them.
This may seem overkill, but is the exact type of situation that will help them in the moment. Also, you never know what types of situations they may want to flee from as they get older!
Read These While You’re At It
Here for more information on child abuse prevention!