How to Spot the Signs of Child Grooming

One of the most common ways a predator will establish a relationship with a child is through grooming. Typically, grooming involves building a connection with a child to manipulate, exploit and abuse them. This could be a relationship that involves an authoritative figure, a mentor or even a romantic interest in a child’s life.

The first step for a groomer is to establish trust with the targeted child. This is done through gift-giving, sharing interests, sharing secrets and/or giving the child special attention. Next, the person will try to fill a void in the child’s life. This may be done as an authority figure, a mentor or even as a romantic relationship. Then they will try to provide something the victim needs such as money, support or even rides. The goal is to nurture trust within the relationship. Finally, the groomer will begin to increase physical contact from innocent to intimate.

            Due to the nature of the relationship, children often feel at fault for the situation. There are also instances where the child is threatened or manipulated into secrecy. Here are a few red flags to look out for if you suspect your child is being targeted:

  • Secrecy from the child in relation to who they are in contact with or even shielding/minimizing phone or computer screens from you.
  • Finding things you did not provide or buy for the child i.e., unexplained gifts.
  • Sudden mood swings not normally seen in their behavior.
  • Seeming distracted or preoccupied often while being worried or stressed when turning off their devices.
  • Changes in their personality i.e., withdrawal, suddenly becoming quiet or even appearing sad or depressed.
  • Sudden change in their immediate circle.
  • Hiding things about their day-to-day life or not communicating daily occurrences as per usual.

Please note these red flags are usually used for a typical grooming relationship but grooming can occur digitally now as well. Be on the lookout for our next article on how to spot and lookout for Digital Grooming. If there are any other situations you’d like us to explain or discuss on this blog, please leave a comment below or send us a message on social media. Always remember to be aware and keep you loved ones safe!

Source: Georgia M. Winters & Elizabeth L. Jeglic (2017) Stages of Sexual Grooming: Recognizing Potentially Predatory Behaviors of Child Molesters, Deviant Behavior, 38:6, 724-733, DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2016.1197656

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