Offenders rely on techniques to mask their behavior, with many establishing themselves as too nice to be a sex offender, or an upstanding member of the community. It’s a tactic that allows the offender to embed themselves in the community, and be involved in a variety of social activities providing them with access to a pool of potential victims. This causes parents to drop their guards, allowing access to children without realizing the person is a child sex offender. Additionally, it sets up a reputation where the child will be afraid to speak out, as everyone respects that person. Who would believe them? The majority of child sex offenders are family members, or known to the family.
Another tactic is a charming and likeable personality. They radiate truthfulness and sincerity. This is a crucial aspect in gaining access to their victims. Many offenders establish relationships with people much younger, rather than finding age appropriate relationships, because they prefer being in the company of children.
How They Start
Sex offenders take time to listen to children and spend time with them, in order to establish a relationship of trust. They tend to offer compliments and presents, treating the child as special. This is a method to manipulate the child into silence. It can also isolate them from friends, siblings, and parents. The offender may establish a relationship with the family, too, in order to gain further access to the child. It is much easier to abuse the child when the offender has the trust of both the family and the child. Remember, child sex offenders may try to groom the family, just as they did the child, by helping around the house or buying gifts.
The sexual abuse is planned, with the offender desensitizing the child by violating their boundaries gradually. They may aim to be present when the child is getting dressed, bathing, or going to bed. They may hug and kiss the child frequently, and incorporate sexual touching in the form of a game, or as accidental. There may be wrestling, rough housing, tickling, sex talk, and jokes about sex. If it isn’t stopped in its tracks, the behavior will progress towards more intimate acts.
The abuser will rely on manipulation, bribes, threats, blackmail, or punishments to ensure the child keeps the abuse a secret. They will assure the child that they’re not doing anything wrong, what’s happening is right, and if they tell anyone something bad will happen. They threaten harm to the family, or suggest no one will believe them, and use any means necessary to keep the abuse quiet. They also make the child believe that it is a relationship, and they have consented to it. They try to shift the blame to the child, leaving the child scared, or too ashamed to speak out.
Open Lines of Communication
If you suspect your child is being groomed, act on your instinct. Keep open lines of communication with your children so that they feel more comfortable opening up about what is going on. They may say something that confirms your suspicions.
Arm your children with tools to identify inappropriate behavior, and talk about how they can protect themselves if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
Remember, these tactics are used because children aren’t aware of what is happening. It can take years before they realize that what has been going on