Research from the American Psychological Association has shown that most sexual abuse occurs at the hands of a person that a child knows and trusts.
To earn a victim’s trust and prevent them from exposing their secret, sexual predator’s often use a systematic process called “grooming.” Grooming draws the victim into the cycle of abuse and keeps others from finding out about it.
Grooming works by making the victim feel special or important, and alienating them from their peers and loved ones.
A forensic psychiatrist describes the six stages of grooming as follows:
The offender targets children who are especially vulnerable and in need of love and attention. Children whose parents are physically gone or emotionally uninvolved are more appealing to a predator.
A sex offender carefully observes and analyzes the victim’s needs, so they know how to fill them. Predators are sneaky and subtle. They may poke around asking for information about the personal lives and habits of their victims, and masquerade that inquiry as concern.
The offender earns the victim’s loyalty and trust through affection, attention, and even material gifts. The child may in turn idolize the predator and see them as one of the most important people in their lives.
At this stage, the predator begins creating situations where they can be alone with the child. They convince the child they love and appreciate them more than even their own parents do. Parents often subconsciously encourage this dynamic, especially when the offender is a trusted coach, teacher, family friend, or babysitter.
Eventually, the relationship becomes physical. The offender desensitizes the victim with sexual language and images. The predator then creates situations where they can be physically intimate with the victim, like changing in the locker room or going swimming. The adult senses and exploits the child’s natural curiosity to continue to advance the relationship.
Blame and secrecy are used to manipulate the child and compel them to continue the relationship. Children are threatened by the loss of whatever reward they receive, should they tell someone. Child victims fear humiliation and rejection if they expose the abuse.
Parents who know the signs of grooming are more likely to sense when adults become too familiar and curious about their child. At a very young age, children should be taught about “body safety,” why it is important to listen to that nagging feeling that something is not right, and the difference between good and bad secrets.
It does not matter how long ago your abuse occurred, you can still hold your abuser accountable. Bringing sexual predators to justice is important not only for the victim’s healing process, but also to protect the countless other potential victims out there. Since 2004, we have been litigating childhood sex abuse and assault cases.
To discuss your situation with a compassionate, experienced Delaware sexual abuse lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. call 302-656-5445 or use the convenient online contact form. Our offices are located in Georgetown and Wilmington, Delaware and our attorneys practice nationwide.