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This Graphic Will Help You Spot the Signs of Sexual Grooming

Editor's Note

If you have experienced abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

What Is Sexual Grooming?

Sexual grooming involves an adult befriending a child with the motive of committing sexual abuse. The process is slow, methodical and intentional. It involves developing a close emotional connection with the child and can take place over weeks, months or even years. It is important for parents to be able to understand the grooming process to avoid child sexual abuse.

Hard fact: Over 90% of the children who are sexually abused know their abuser.

Six Stages of Sexual Grooming

1. Choosing a Victim

The predator often chooses a child who is obviously vulnerable. Children who are withdrawn, low on confidence, emotionally deprived and with less parental supervision are particularly at risk.

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2. Building Access & Trust

Sexual abuse often begins with friendship. The abuser can also take on other roles such as a romantic partner, a mentor, a caregiver or an authority figure. The abuser spends time in getting to know the victim’s likes, dislikes and habits and pretending to share common interests.

3. Filling a Need With Gifts & Favors

Giving the victim small gifts and favors is a strategy used by perpetrators to make the child feel indebted. Trust is further built by sharing intimate life details, going on special outings and giving the child access to drinks, drugs or cigarettes depending on the child’s age.

4. Isolating

The groomer actively tries to isolate the child from people who may be watchful or helpful. This kind of isolation creates deeper connection & dependency. The offender also exhibits exemplary behavior before parents of the victim & manipulates them into trusting the relationship.

5. Sexualizing or Desensitizing to Touch

This is the stage before the actual abuse. The abuser increases non-sexual touching that will prepare the child for abuse. This may include hugs, snuggles and tickling. The offender creates situations with nudity involved (swimming, massages, watching pornography) where the adult exploits the child’s natural curiosity and uses sexual stimulation to excite the child and advance abuse.

6. Secrecy & Maintaining Control

The offender uses emotional blackmail and blame to continue to be sexual and maintain secrecy of the relationship. They warn the victim that no one will believe them if they open up or that he/she was the one to “start it.”


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A post shared by Dimple Punjaabi (@selfworkco)

Signs to Watch Out For

  • Highly secretive behavior. You don’t know who your child goes out or hangs out with
  • Underage drinking or drug-taking
  • Sexualized behavior or an understanding of sex that isn’t appropriate for their age
  • Having money or new belongings like mobile phones that they cannot explain
  • Being upset, aloof or distressed
  • Spending more time away from home or going missing for long periods of time

What You Can Do to Prevent It

  • Teach your child to recognize grooming behavior. Educate them about appropriate & inappropriate touch
  • Discourage secret-keeping at home. Develop a safe space where children can openly communicate
  • Know your child’s teachers, coaches, caretakers, friends’ parents and other significant adults involved in their lives. Do not hesitate to make regular unannounced visits when your child is alone with other adults
  • Monitor your child’s online activity. Children can be groomed online through websites, games, apps and social media platforms

If Your Child Reveals Abuse:

  • Believe them. Reports of sexual abuse made by children are rarely false
  • Tell them it’s not their fault
  • Listen carefully & let them know they’ve done the right thing by telling you
  • Avoid confronting the abuser
  • Contact your local child protection service & report the abuse

Remember, it is the responsibility of adults to take action and keep children safe.

To see more of Dimple’s work, follow her on Instagram.

Images via Dimple Punjaabi 

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