How to Recognize the Signs of Grooming  

Grooming refers to actions and behaviors taken by a person who aims to sexually abuse a child. It is a process of manipulating a potential victim and people close to the targeted child to gain a position of trust. Ultimately, this position is abused and exploited to commit crimes of sexual abuse. Recognizing the signs of sexual grooming is critical for identifying potentially harmful situations.

What Does Grooming Look Like?

Grooming is an attempt by a sexual abuser to form a relationship with a child he or she has targeted as a potential victim. Grooming typically involves an offender gradually luring a victim into a sexual relationship and maintaining that relationship through secrecy. This method is highly successful because of its gradual nature and the position of trust the offender establishes with the victim and the victim’s family.

Grooming can come with signs such as:

  • Building a relationship or creating a bond with the victim.
  • Becoming friendly with the victim’s family.
  • Sharing secrets or personal information to get close to the victim.
  • Establishing an emotional connection with the victim to create a sense of dependency.
  • Lavishing the victim with gifts, compliments or special attention.
  • Isolating the victim from friends and family.
  • Attempting to get the victim alone, such as for overnight stays or trips.
  • Monitoring or controlling the victim’s activities.
  • Convincing the victim that they are in a loving or consensual relationship.
  • Emphasizing the need for secrecy.
  • Threatening, intimidating or coercing a victim to maintain control.

After a period of time, a groomer may test boundaries to see what the potential victim is willing to do. This may involve introducing sexual topics into conversations, sharing explicitly sexual images or attempting inappropriate physical contact with the victim. If left undetected, grooming can eventually lead to outright child sexual assault, abuse and exploitation.

Stages of Sexual Grooming

Grooming often occurs in stages that can be recognized if a parent, caregiver or teacher knows what to look for. While every case is unique, grooming stages often include:

  • Targeting a preferred child.
  • Gaining the child’s and caregiver’s trust.
  • Cultivating emotional dependency.
  • Isolating the child.
  • Sexualizing the relationship.
  • Maintaining control over the child.

Sexual groomers are most often people a child knows. Any adult who appears to be taking a unique interest in a child and attempting to get the child alone can be viewed as a potential groomer.

What to Do if You Suspect Sexual Grooming

If you notice potential signs of grooming, seek help. Report your concerns to the appropriate authorities, such as the police or Child Protective Services. If the suspected groomer is affiliated with an institution, such as a school or church, notify authorities at the organization. Talk to the child directly about sexual abuse, doing your best to make the child feel safe, protected and believed.

If evidence of child sexual abuse is discovered upon further investigation of the grooming issue, your family may take legal action against the perpetrator. This includes filing criminal charges as well as bringing a civil lawsuit against one or more parties for failing to protect your child. Contact the Los Angeles child sexual abuse lawyers at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi to learn more about your legal rights.