Grooming is the Anglo-Saxon term used to describe the process by which a sexual offender selects and prepares a child to abuse him.
Offenders of this type use a variety of manipulation and control techniques towards the vulnerable person, in this case a child, in order to gain their confidence and normalize harmful sexual behavior.
Studies conducted on the way these sex offenders work have shown that the tactics used to select the minor who will be their victim are deliberate and often seek to identify the most vulnerable children, such as those who are least capable of talking to someone about abuse, those who are needy, helpless, or upset about something.
There are a whole series of specific techniques that criminals use to mask their behavior before the assault, but also during and after it. A tactic that has been observed in grooming is that many abusers offer an image of great kindness, becoming outstanding people in the community thanks to giving selfless help to other people, in short, someone that no one would suspect for a moment that may be a sex offender. Working and helping the community is a tactic that, in addition, offers a wide range of possibilities, since it allows you to enter it and participate in a whole series of social activities within schools, youth groups, churches, etc. that give you easy access to a number of potential victims without being suspicious This double life causes parents, educators and others to lower their guard and allow access to their children without suspecting anything. It is also important to note that most offenders are known to the family, and all too often are members of the family..
The second tactic is their ability to be charming and personable, radiating an aura of sincerity and truthfulness. This is crucial in gaining access to children, so the power of this tactic should not be underestimated. Some offenders will try to establish relationships on a regular basis with people much younger than themselves, as they prefer the company of children to that of adults.
Sex offenders recruit children by establishing a relationship of trust, for example by spending a lot of time with them, listening to them… They can treat them as someone 'special', giving them gifts and congratulating them often. They also use gifts and deception to silence them about everything related to sexual abuse, thus keeping it a secret between the two. All these manipulations usually isolate the child from siblings, friends and even parents. The offender can also establish a relationship of trust with the child's family and friends, in order to have access to the child when he is alone. In this way, once the aggressor has the trust of the child and the family, it will be much easier for him to sexually abuse the child. It is also important to remember that the offender often gains the family's trust in a similar way, buying gifts or helping around the house..
Sex offenders often plan the abuse of children carefully. They can gradually make approximations and push the limits little by little. For example, they may spend a lot of time with the child when he is bathing, dressing, or going to bed. They can kiss and hug you often. There may also be some 'accidental' inappropriate touching or sexual contact such as gambling. He may have sex talks or jokes, as well as tickling, wrestling, or any other game that requires physical contact with the little one, as if it were a sign of affection. If the abuse is not stopped, the behavior progresses to increasingly intimate acts.
After gaining the child's trust and continuing to abuse, the abuser teaches the child, through threats, manipulation, blackmail, bribery, and punishment, to keep these acts secret. He assures the child that what is happening is the 'right thing', and convinces him that if he says something about sexual abuse, something terrible is going to happen to his family, he tells him that he is going to hurt them or their pets. At the same time, he makes the little one believe that he has given his consent and that they are in a 'relationship', or even that it was he who initiated the relationship. In this way the criminals put the blame for their despicable acts on the child. The child may then feel responsible for the abuse, and feel ashamed or afraid to tell someone..
Sometimes it is important to follow our instincts and investigate any indication or suspicion we have, no matter how small..
Sometimes parents may be afraid of how their children will react if they forbid them to see a person they like, but if we are concerned about the type of relationship that person is having with the child, we must be willing to prevent all contact from righ now. It is also important to listen to the statements or questions that our child may ask us to determine if our suspicions are founded, and to encourage the child to give us more information about what he does while he is with that person..
Something extremely helpful is teaching your child some prevention tools to help them identify inappropriate behavior, and explain ways they can say no or protect themselves if someone makes them feel uncomfortable..
We must bear in mind that the manipulative tactics used by the aggressors are so strong that children are almost never aware that sexual abuse practices are not "normal" and believe that it happens to all children. It may take years before they are able to understand that what is happening is something bad. Many times they are not aware of it until they learn what sexual behavior is, either through education classes at school, watching television programs or talking with the family.
When someone, unfortunately, discovers that their child has been sexually assaulted, a whole series of emotions invade them, ranging from shock, anger, guilt, frustration, shame, fear and pain. That is why it is often advisable to seek professional help not only for the child, but also for the family..