Educating Yourself on Predatory Grooming

child abuse casts a shadowBelow is an article by Valerie Jacobsen, posted to her FB, which I hope everybody can read and share with others.
This is not a subject people feel comfortable discussing, but it’s important. This grooming is also about making you doubt your own instincts. Boundaries aren’t broken right away, they are barely touched, a nudge here, an almost imperceptible pressure applied there- and one of the reasons for that is to make you question your own concerns. When you do notice something, you second guess yourself because you have been trained to trust this person, you have been trained to be ashamed of yourself for wondering if you are just being overly suspicious.

I first saw this on Carmon Friedrich’s FB status just because that was the order I checked. She introduced it with:

This is super important information for parents. You MUST understand how abusers “groom” their victims. This information can prevent your family from being taken in by a clever predator:

NOTE: Valerie updated her article and you can read it here.  Please, please, do read it. Share it with your family members and church friends, family, and leadership.

“Grooming is presenting a very appealing persona to both children and adults in the target community, including anyone in authority.

Grooming convinces everyone in the community that the abuser is especially trustworthy, very safe, lots of fun, very helpful, and (in Christian contexts) very godly with a servant’s heart, etc. Time and again when abusers are found out, adults will say, “I can’t believe it! There must be a mistake. He is the godliest man in the whole community! Are you sure that the victim isn’t confused, or lying? This is just unbelievable.”

A child molester will be very helpful with the children. He will look for opportunities to help them with their needs–change their diapers, take them to the bathroom, comb their hair, help them get ready to swim, help them towel off, lift them up, fill their plates, tie their shoes. It’s the extra helpful male who feels like a godsend to a harried mother.

He may be very free with compliments–the children are beautiful, their parents are wise. He may want to be Facebook friends with children, or send them encouraging e-mails or cards. He may tell the children stories or true histories of relationships with a wide disparity in ages. (For example: “I’m 20 and you’re 10? Wow! Isn’t your dad exactly 10 years older than your mom? That’s so cool!”)

Grooming includes “can’t refuse” offers–candy, treats, trips–“come ride my horses”, free tickets to desired events, gifts etc. Depending on the child and the age of the child, it may include items that parents have forbidden–cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, movies, porn.

Grooming includes keeping secrets. Giving the child something forbidden and making it “our secret”. This may include encouraging the child in a lie and then using the guilt against the child. It may escalate to threats, “If you tell, I’ll….”

Grooming can include treating the child like an equal, like a confidant, telling the child secrets about the perpetrator’s life and problems and telling the child that he is the abuser’s most trusted friend, the one he counts on most, the one who always keeps his secrets. Religious figures will tell the child that he is a gift from God, and a blessing to the abuser. He makes the child feel loved, trusted, honored, wanted, needed. He may say flamboyant things like, “My life was never so happy until I met you.”

Grooming starts with mild suggestions, mild touching, loving affection, all sorts of things that will be easily explained if anyone gets alarmed. Hugging, back rubs, tickling, etc. It progresses slowly, over time, gradually pushing boundaries. It includes promises that this isn’t bad, everyone does it, it’s “grown up”, it’s educational, etc.

Grooming can include separating children from parents and wearing away trust–they don’t love you like I do, they don’t trust you like I do, I heard what they said to you and that wasn’t respectful, their rules are not appropriate for someone as mature and wise as you. Your parents don’t understand your needs, they don’t understand how mature you are, etc. Anything to divide, encourage doubt, foment a little rebellion.

At some point an abuser may use porn to normalize behaviors and convince the child that this is what his friends and family members are doing too.

With sexual abuse, the offender doesn’t just grab a child and touch him. He takes a great deal of time convincing the child of his love, his affection, his honor, his godliness.

He gives the child things that the child does not want to forfeit if he tells–not just things but “love”, “respect”, “trust”, etc. The point is to elicit the child’s love, affection, and trust. The point is to create a relationship that the child does not want to lose.

Negatively, grooming includes telling the child he won’t be believed, that people will blame the child, that people will be disappointed or disgusted with the child, that the child was the real seducer, that the abuser (whom the child feels loved by and feels that he loves) will go to jail if the child tells, that friends or family members or friends will be hurt if the child tells, that other people don’t understand what they share, etc.

Child molesters include pastors, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, parents, grandparents, uncles, older brothers, psychologists, school teachers, police officers, all kinds of people in positions where they are especially trusted. Child molesters can be married and seem to have happy marriages. Some seem immature and focused on children’s activities, but not all.

For a child molester, part of the excitement, sometimes most of the excitement, consists in the number of people who are taken in by his elaborate and often grandiose web of lies, the number of people who think he is awesome, amazing, indispensable, etc.”


As appealing as it may be, I don’t want us to become so paranoid we move to a hut in the woods where you will never have to deal with another human soul again, but it’s long past time we stopped being ignorant.

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