An electronic publication of Survivors And Victims Empowered
|Volume 1, Issue 10|
March 13, 2008
The best way to recognize grooming behavior is to pay attention to your child and the people in your child's life. Gavin de Becker sensibly reminds us that "[c]hildren require the protection of adults, usually from adults. Their fear of people is not yet developed, their intuition not yet loaded with enough information and experience to keep them from harm." Read More There are many demands placed upon our time, but nothing--nothing--is more important than the welfare of our children. When we blindly surrender responsibility for them to others without question, we invite trouble. Parents should know their child's teachers, coaches, day care providers, youth group leaders, and other significant adults in their lives. Make unannounced visits. Ask questions. Stay involved.
Is my child being "groomed" by a pedophile?
Grooming is a process. Read More According to Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Gregory M. Weber, it begins when the predator chooses a target area. He may visit places where children are likely to go: schools, shopping malls, playgrounds, parks, and the like. He may work or volunteer at businesses that cater to children. Other predators strike up relationships with adults who have children in the home--single parent families make particularly good targets.
Victim selection and recruitment are next. There is no prototypical victim of child sexual abuse. Any child may be victimized. Not surprisingly, predators often target children with obvious vulnerabilities. A child who feels unloved and unpopular will soak up adult attention like a sponge. Children with family problems, who spend time alone and unsupervised, who lack confidence and self-esteem, and who are isolated from their peers are all likely targets.
Predators engage or "recruit" their victims in different ways. Many use a combination of forced teaming and charm. They may offer to play games, give rides, or buy treats and gifts as tokens of friendship. They may offer drugs or alcohol to older children or teenagers. And they almost always offer a sympathetic, understanding ear. Your parents don't understand or respect you? I do. Other kids make fun of you? I know what that's like--it was the same way for me when I was your age. They don't trust you at home? Boy, I know what that's like--your parents never really want you to grow up. But I trust you. I respect you. I care for you more than anybody else. And I love you. I'm here for you.
Successful predators find and fill voids in a child's life
A predator will usually introduce secrecy at some point during the grooming process. Initially, secrecy binds the victim to the predator: "Here's some candy. But don't tell your friends because they'll be jealous, and don't tell your mother because she won't like you eating between meals." Later on, secrecy joins hands with threats: "If you tell your mother what happened, she'll hate you. It'll kill her. Or I'll kill her. Or I'll kill you."
The forging of an emotional bond through grooming leads to physical contact. Predators use the grooming process to break down a child's defenses and increase the child's acceptance of touch. The first physical contact between predator and victim is often nonsexual touching designed to identify limits: an "accidental" touch, an arm around the shoulder, a brushing of hair. Nonsexual touching desensitizes the child. It breaks down inhibitions and leads to more overt sexual touching--the predator's ultimate goal.
In testimony before Congress, Michael J. Heimbach, of the FBI Crimes Against Children Unit, Criminal Investigative Division, described the role of pornography in the grooming process. Read More "The Subcommittee has asked whether child molesters use child pornography to seduce children. Our experience has shown that the answer to that question is undeniably--yes. The FBI's Innocent Images Task Force has conducted several hundred online investigations where the agents pose as children. The agents report that sexual predators routinely send images of child pornography to them as part of the grooming process to increase the likelihood of a sexual encounter. The child pornography typically depicts a child of the same age as the Agent's cover having sexual acts with an older man. The purpose behind this is clearly to lower the inhibitions of the person the offender believes is a child and to convince the child that the activity is fun and acceptable."
"Specifically, we have found that child pornography is used by child molesters to:
- Demonstrate sex acts to children. Offenders commonly use pornography to teach or give instructions to na´ve children about how to masturbate, perform oral sex and/or engage in sexual intercourse.
- Lower the sexual inhibitions of children. Some children naturally fear sexual activities. Some offenders show pictures of other children engaging in sexual activities to overcome these fears, indicating to their intended victims that it is all right to have sex with an adult because lots of other boys and girls do the same thing.
- Desensitize children to sex. Offenders commonly show child pornography to their intended victims to expose them to sexual acts before they are naturally curious about such activities.
- Sexually arouse children. Offenders commonly use pornographic images of other children to arouse victims, particularly those in adolescence.
Groom them into a sexual relationship. Some offenders take advantage of the fact that some children are curious about sex. They show them images which appear to depict other children enjoying sexual activities with adults to encourage their victims to engage in sex. Others take advantage of the guilt and shame commonly experienced by their victims by taking pictures or videos of the sexual activities with their child victims to use as an insurance policy against disclosure by them."
Pedophiles tend to be very patient and manipulative. They use four basic tactics, called "the four F's"; Friendship, Fantasy, Fear and Force. Read More
Friendship And Fantasy
"Friendship" is built with a technique pedophiles use called "grooming". Grooming a child is nurturing a friendship through bonding. The adult will usually give the child gifts, take him or her on special outings and show a lot of attention.
Once a child trusts an adult, the adult can influence the child's attitude regarding sexual behavior. Grooming may include introducing sexual content to the child as an example of what the perpetrator desires and to give the impression that the depicted acts are acceptable. If the child thinks that sex between children and adults is ok, it's easier for the pedophile to victimize the child.
Then pedophiles will introduce "Fantasy". They will manipulate the child with a false sense of security. They will pay a lot of attention to the child's problems and personal matters and offer advice and counseling. They will tell the child how much they love them and that they want to have a long term, loving relationship with the child.
Fear And Force
Once the child has opened up to the pedophile, he or she will begin to instill "Fear" by threatening to share the child's secrets with their classmates or their parents. Sometimes the pedophile will even threaten the life or safety of the child or of family and friends. It's all a manipulation tactic to get the child to do what the pedophile wants to do.
Ultimately, the pedophile uses "Force" to sexually exploit the child.
Reminder of the week: In his column, Assistant Attorney General Weber of Wisconsin reminds you to talk to your children. Teach them to recognize grooming behavior. Teach them to be wary of any physical contact initiated by an adult. And teach them to trust you with their problems and their pain. The safest child is the child who knows he can bring his problems and concerns to parents and adult caregivers without reproach or retaliation.