by Jon Atack

Luring Children into Abuse

The goal of grooming is to gain trust, so a pedophile will groom both the child and the caregivers. This process, which can take months or even years, uses specific techniques, such as:

  • exploiting the child’s vulnerabilities
  • exploiting the child’s need for affection and approval
  • exploiting the pedophile’s standing in the community
  • undoing the boundaries the child’s caregiver has set
  • training the child to tell lies and keep secrets
  • alienating the child from caregivers
  • giving the child gifts
  • creating a web of threats, guilt and feelings of obligation

Whether the grooming is happening via the Internet or in “real” life, the grooming will follow predictable stages, which may include:

  • contact and introduction
  • relationship-building
  • information gathering
  • testing and desensitizing boundaries
  • honeymoon and “exclusive” relationship
  • full-blown sexual abuse

During this last stage, the child may be trafficked, lured away from home and taken from safe surroundings to be used in the sex trade. Although the child may be convinced through the grooming that they are in an exclusive, “loving” relationship, predatory pedophiles collect a “stable” of children, in different stages of the grooming process.

Too often, the predator, in grooming not only the child but the family and the community, has acquired a position in the community which gives them unrestricted access to children: although most coaches, teachers, medical professionals and members of the clergy who work with children are good, decent people, there are predators who deliberately seek these positions in order to abuse children. So, it is often the person we would least expect – the person entrusted with the safety of our children – who is the wolf in the fold.

For more information on how to recognize a pedophile, the symptoms of sexual abuse, and where to go for help, see our full article on pedophile grooming.