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Child Molestation Grooming Process: Knowing the Steps and Preventing Them

Child sex offenders possess the ability to groom their victims so as to eliminate any suspicion before beginning their attack. They do this by engaging the victim and gaining trust. Manipulation is direct and most of the time, very effective. The child is subjected to different techniques that have the dual objective of weakening his/her defense and deceiving him/her to trust the offender. The grooming process even goes to the extent of convincing the parents or caretakers that the offender is a friendly and wholesome individual.


As parents, we need to know the common techniques used by offenders in grooming children so that we can be a step ahead of them. Nothing is more effective than educated vigilance.


By also identifying the inherent vulnerabilities of our children, we can do a much better job in protecting them.


Emotional seduction is a common method used to groom children. Unlike adults, they can be manipulated in just a few encounters because of their innocence, naivety and lack of rational judgment. Just as lawyers are experts at law and doctors are experts at medicine, child sex abusers are experts in their field – the manipulation of children in order to exploit them.


What happens in the grooming process?

As said earlier, child grooming is a process which is composed of several steps:


First, the offender identifies the specific area where he plans to look for a potential victim. He is a master of blending in to any locationQuotationHe is a master of blending in to any locationQuotation
. He will set up shop where there is easy access to children like schools, community clubs and especially churches. Because he is an expert in manipulation, he is able to project a fake persona that will bring him closer to his potential victims. Many sex predators try to establish relationships with single moms, for example, and use the relationship to get closer to a potential child victim.[i] In reference to the issue of sex abuse in the church, they are able to find and fill a need among children such as a teacher, mentor or coach.

Next, the offender chooses and begins to groom his victim(s). Contrary to popular opinion, there is actually no single profile of a child victim. This means that anyone can be victimized regardless of age, gender, social status, and emotional/mental state. However, what’s clear is that offenders and predators frequently aim at those who possess clear vulnerabilities. These include:

  • Being neglected by parents
  •  Lack of self-esteem, confidence, and independent judgment
  • A child who is a natural loner and aloof
  • One who is consistently subjected to family and domestic problems
  • One who has experienced prior sexual abuse by a family member or relative

There are several ways that predators entrap their victims, but the common thread is strong use of manipulation and deception. The process usually starts by befriending the child. Then, the predator is able to gain not only the trust, but the curiosity of the potential victim. He offers wholesome activities like going to playgrounds and children’s parks, paying for rides, giving treats, toys, or candy. For older victims, he will offer mentoring, tutoring and a listening ear to teenager problems. Predators make sure to present a certain kind of image that is very friendly, approachable, fun, and understanding.[ii]


All of it is pure deception. Right after providing the kinds of things a child desires, like rewards and gifts, the offender starts to offer something much darker, like drugs, alcohol or pornography. Because the victim has built trust and confidence towards the offender, it's easier for the predator to convince the child to use these things.


Other than convincing the victim to use alcohol, drugs and pornography, predators are able to groom their victim to a point that the they become emotionally attached. By always being there, by listening to whatever they say, and by sharing the same sentiments for problems and issues, the victim is totally deceived in creating a strong bond with the predator.


The third part of the grooming process has to do with secrecy and building trust. Secrecy is the best weapon in guaranteeing that the victim becomes bonded to the predator. For instance, he might convince the victim to try and take some drugs. Right after using them, he tells the victim to keep it a secret because if the parents found out, they’re going to get in huge amounts of trouble. Or perhaps he gives an innocent child some gifts and then reminds her not to tell anyone about it because other children may ask for the same gifts. When the child asks why she would not give gifts to the others, then he can lie and say that she’s the only one who should be given a gift because she’s special to him. This use of “bad secrets” is also effective for kids victimized within the church. The predator can use the drugs and pornography to hang over the victims head with the threat that everyone in church will think they’re dirty and they’ll be kicked out. They may even go so far as to use the lie that God is angry with them for their sin. A sin that the offender tricked them into doing in the first place.


Eventually, when the grooming process is complete, the bond created by it leads to sexual contact. It will usually start with non-sexual touching first, as the predator tests his boundaries and pushes them further. As soon as the predator gains full trust, it becomes a lot easier for him to convince the victim to take part in a sexual act.[iii] Although the experience does not always cause instant trauma and pain for the victim, the reality is many victims struggle to survive the experience as they grow. One of the most difficult things for the church and society to understand is that many molesters know how to molest their victims without physically hurting them. They can even cause physical pleasure in their victims. However, the emotional and spiritual damage is what can take a child’s life.


It is vital for every parent to understand the behavior of their own children, so that they can identify when something is wrong. If you don’t give them your full attention, there’s no chance of gaining this understanding. That is why it is imperative for parents to pay enough attention to the kids in order to prevent them from seeking it from other people.  You should bear in mind that young kids do not have the ability or capacity to know what things can place them in danger.[iv] They aren’t capable by instinct of identifying which people are bad and good. You especially cannot assume that they will figure it out on their own, since the majority of children’s movies consist of a simple hero and villain plot where it is easy to visually identify between the “good guy” and “bad guy”.  You do have the ability, as their parent, to teach them how to judge a person by their actions, not their looks. You also have the ability to empower your kids by talking openly about "right touch" and "wrong touch". Many child sex abusers use their victim's ignorance of their own body parts and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate touch in order to deceive them.


To make everything simple, our children are far safer from predators as long as we put in significant time talking to them and asking questions. By talking to them, you can see if your kid is currently being groomed or perhaps is vulnerable. By talking to them, you will feel a lot more secure that they’re not in danger. And by talking to them, they also start to talk to you, and that alone makes them safer and more protected.





. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Fifth Edition. 2010.


[iii] Ibid. 1


[iv] Ibid. 1


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