- Do you want to know how perpetrators operate?
- How children are groomed for abuse?
Most people want so much to turn a blind eye. But in doing so we turn our backs on our children. So buckle up, gather your courage and read how the grooming process really works.
Hooking the child through intimacy
A child has a natural need for intimacy, for being special to someone and receiving one-on-one attention. A child needs cuddles and hugs as much as food and shelter. If these aren’t readily available, an abuser is generally quite willing to fill the gap. They use the childs need for intimacy, to be hugged and cuddled in order to get the child to have sex with them.
If for whatever reason you shy away from healthy intimacy with your child, you’re actually putting it more at risk because it’s needs aren’t being met.
A predator looking for prey
When an abuser is on the hunt for a new victim, quite often he or she will single out a child who isn’t safely bonded to the parent (unless of course the abuser is the parent as in the case in about 40% of the cases). It’s easy to spot a child who is unsafely bonded. They tend to present themselves as shy, not very sure of themselves. They are often pleasers and eager to perform all sorts of chores. These are characteristics that an abuser is looking for in a child.
Grooming is: giving the child what it needs
A child has needs, like loving care, physical attention, to be seen and acknowledged. Grooming is: tending to those needs to help form a bond between the abuser and the child. Quite often it’s cuddles, exclusive attention, physical warmth and attention, but sometimes it’s candy, presents and money as well. Once the child is ‘bonded’ to the abuser, the step towards sexualizing that bond is horribly easy.
Confused and scared, most children keep their mouths shut
The child, confronted with adult sexuality is likely be confused and a little scared. Most often he or she knows something is not right, perhaps its a gut feeling, sometimes its an awareness of rules. However the adult doing things to them is someone they have come to know and trust. Someone whom they have bonded with because of the careful grooming. The abusers instructs them to keep the secret, usually under threat of something awful happening, to them or someone they love.
Obedient, well behaved kids are likely victims
It’s the quite often the ‘good kids’ that are most at risk. The quiet and shy boys and girls. The ones that aren’t likely to have many people to talk to about what is happening to them. The ones that are likely to do as they are told. However once the abuse has started, these kids can turn around completely and start acting up and acting out, earning them the label ‘problem child’.
Lying, screaming, antagonizing and other behavioral issues
Things spiral out of control quickly then. The acting out behavior can be encouraged by the abuser to drive a wedge between the child and anyone in a position to help it. In order to hide the abuse, the child has to lie about it. Over time the child is likely to alienate everyone who was ever close to it. Because of the acting out behavior, pretty soon all the attention they are getting is correction for their negative behaviors and with that, they become increasingly dependent upon the abuser for any positive reïnforcement. Thus the bond between the child and the abuser is solidified.
The cycle continues, learning borderline behavior
The abuser will generally treat the child to a unpredictable mix of intimacy and agression, sometimes violence. It’s this unpredictability that keeps the child frozen in place. This attraction/repulsion cycle is repeated over and over and the child, desperate for positive attention, will try very hard to please the abuser. At the same time the child will act out more, sometimes start cutting and earn more labels, such as depressed, borderliner, rebellious teenager, no good, etc.
The process of grooming is insideous and largely invisible.
The pattern I describe doesn’t hold true for all cases of abuse. Abusers don’t all look alike and act alike. Some abusers are violent from the get go. Some are the primary caregivers, in which case the grooming is almost automatic. Some act very loving towards the child. The only thing they have in common is that they use the child to satisfy their own sexual needs. Everything, all the nice and nasty things they do, has to be seen in that context.
Breaking the cycle: Healing from child sexual abuse
As a survivor, when you grow up, you’re often caught in a pattern of pleasing others and self sabotage. In order to heal you need to become aware of the pattern. You need to learn how it plays a role in your present day life. If you’re caught in a vicious cycle of revictimization and self destructive behavior, get help. It’s important to seek out a counselor, coach or therapist, who is familiar with child sexual abuse to help you heal from your past wounds.
For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com