How Do Children Get Abused?
6 Stages of “Grooming”
At Childhood Victories, we believe in telling it like it is which includes using accurate terms like, “sexual abuse” and “grooming”. If this is tough for you, as it is with many adults and children, Victor also came up with the term, “Tricked into Trust©”. This simple way to describe what grooming is has brought our “Be Seen and Heard” program to a child’s level and made It easier for them to talk about. With that being said, Here are the 6 stages of Grooming or being, “Tricked into Trust©”:
People who abuse children will look for vulnerability in their victims. Is there parental involvement? Single parent household? Is the child often isolated, with lowered self-esteem, and an obvious need for emotional connection? Children with little to no support in the home lack the protection that many children receive from caregivers, and are at a heightened risk for sexual abuse.
An abuser doesn’t just start with touching. They slowly manipulate not only the child but the child’s environment. They gather information surrounding the child and their needs, wants, and how to best fulfill them. Seeming caring, compassionate, and kind are powerful tools that the abuser will use to gain the trust of a child. Parents and caregivers who are busy or disconnected from their children will often misinterpret these behaviors as kindness, and may even feel relief that someone so sweet is taking an interest in this child.
As an abuser recognizes what a child needs, they start to meet those needs and further trick them into trust. Gifts, special attention, affection, and even kind words from adults should be looked at closely. A child who feels neglected and unloved at home will feel comforted and want to spend more time with this person.
After trust has begun, an abuser will start seeking out situations where they are alone with their victim. Ultimately this strengthens the “special bond” between the two. Car rides, movies, babysitting, and even coaching can all be seemingly harmless ways to isolate a child. When a perpetrator tricks the child into believing they are loved and appreciated, the relationship is reinforced. Even caregivers can have a sense that this unique relationship is normal and positive for their child.
Once a trusting bond has been established, an abuser will initiate their ultimate goal: sexual abuse. Through desensitization, like introducing pornography, inappropriate sexual talk, and creating situations where a child needs to change or become unclothed, the overt abuse can begin. Perpetrators will exploit a child’s innocence and their inability to distinguish between “safe and unsafe touch” to advance their abuse.
Using secrecy, shame, and guilt, an abuser will be able maintain a child’s silence and participation. If a child tried to stand up for themselves or avoid the abuser, they may be met with, “But think of all the nice things I have done for you!” Or even, “If you really cared about me or the time we spent together you would keep quiet!” Abusers have even been known to tell children, “You will be in as much trouble as I am if you tell anyone. No one will want to be around you!’ This guilt and fear are powerful, especially if a child has never understood grooming or being “Tricked into Trust©”.
This is a terrifying reality. A reality that no parent, child, social worker, teacher, or caregiver should need to worry about. But we know better now, so you know what? We need to do better. Educating not only us adults about grooming but our children too. Understanding that kindness is more than gifts, time spent together, and words of affection. Kindness is shown through respect, boundaries, and the absolute ability to listen when a child comes to you and says, “I need to talk to you.”
(The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Be Seen and Heard Journey. Please note that this episode, like all BSH Journey episodes, features Victor speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited.)
Hey it’s Victor and I want to welcome you to another Be Seen and Heard Journey. Today’s episode is very interesting to me because I’ve experienced this. There is a topic within the topic of abuse and first of all, let me just say this. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to this or to watch this. I am very passionate about helping children not be voiceless, and not just in abusive situations, but anything that’s hurting them. I strive to help children to have the courage to speak up and to be able to share their feelings because I think that is the key to healing. In fact, it was for me. What I really want to focus on today is this question, “How do children get abused?” I mean, how is it possible for people to abuse children? I mean, what has to happen in order for this to take place?
There are six stages to grooming and I just want to go through them really quick and then you can read more about this on my page below. Number one stage to grooming is the term or the phrase, Targeting the Child. The person or perpetrator is very aware of the child’s background, meaning, what kind of family they come from. Is the child isolated or are they by themselves may times. And again, this is really difficult to talk about, but this is the reality of it all. Number two is, Gaining the Trust of the Child, which is what I’m going to talk more about in just a little bit. Number three is, Meeting a Need. Number four, something called Isolation. Number five is Sexualization, and number six is, Maintaining Control. I want to put this in perspective based on my story.
When I go to schools and I talk to kids about grooming, which is a very, I think, taboo topic within the taboo topic of abuse. I try to really talk about it in a term that they can understand and that is easy to not be uncomfortable with. I mean the whole thing is uncomfortable. I get it. But I sat down one day and I thought about this…I was groomed. That is the reality of it. And when I read these six stages, I pretty much can relate to all of them. But I thought if I’m going to educate kids on how to stay safe and to recognize if someone is overstepping a boundary, how can I put grooming in a very easy to understand term. And so I came up with, Tricked into Trust© and that’s how it happens. All these stages fit within this concept called, Tricked into Trust.
And here’s how he did this to me. He tricked me into trust by buying me presents. He tricked me into trust by watching my favorite movies with me. He tricked me into trust by playing my favorite video games. He filled all kinds of needs that I was missing out at home. I believe, because my father was a violent alcoholic I was trying not to be surrounded with that negativity. So I went towards this person because I thought I was safe and ultimately I wasn’t safe.
So I was at a school recently and I had an amazing question asked by, I believe it was a seventh grader, and she said, Victor, how do you know if someone is genuinely a friend and a genuine trusted hero or someone who is tricking you into trust? I said, at first you probably don’t know. You don’t know that because you are trusting that person. Hey, I am not saying don’t trust anybody. I’m saying trust people because most people are trustworthy. However, listen to your gut feelings. If you start to feel that this person is crossing a boundary and they’re acting overly nice to you to a point where it’s starting to feel uncomfortable, don’t ignore that. You definitely don’t ignore it. I think if I would’ve known this as a child and I would have started seeing those signs, granted I was only eight, but if I were to start seeing the signs that this person was getting physically too close to me, and when the abuse was starting to actually happen, I could have potentially stopped it right away and said, Nope, this is wrong. I need to leave now.
So this is a tough, tough episode this week, but it’s a topic that needs to be talked about. And again, the way in which I do talk to kids in a non-threatening way is called being Ticked into Trust. All kids that are abused by someone that they know and trust are ultimately, tricked into trust. I want to thank you for spending the time with me today. Please share this with your friends and family. Have a great day and let’s keep our children safe and don’t forget, let’s encourage our kids to be seen and heard. Thank you.