Abusers devise a thorough plan to manipulate the child and his/her family. By manipulating the child and his/her family, the abuser grooms the child and the family to gain trust. The abuser now uses his/her relationship with the family to take advantage of one-on-one time with the child. Once the victim has been groomed, it becomes difficult for a child to escape abuse or feel comfortable telling someone about the abuse. The grooming has created a sense of loyalty from the child to the abuser; in approximately 98% of abuse cases, the child knew and trusted their abuser.
Grooming is when a perpetrator builds a relationship with a child and builds trust. Grooming makes it difficult to escape the abuse and keeps the child from telling, as he/she likes the person and feels loyalty to him/her. It makes the child feel that it is his/her fault. At times, power and authority is used as a tool.
It is important to recognize when grooming may be occurring; once a child is groomed, they internalize the abuse as their own fault, making the possibility of them telling someone minimal. Some signs of grooming to look for:
Perpetrators downplay the defenses of children by explaining they were merely playing a “game.” Abuse usually begins with touching and kissing and progresses to more severe sexual activity. The perpetrator often creates names for the child’s and his/her own genitals to lessen the child’s alarm at what is happening.
Abusers manipulate children into keeping the abuse a secret. Children feel helpless to disclose the abuse, due to the fact that the abuser has told them many reasons why the child shouldn’t tell.
Some reasons why a child would not tell include:
Some signs to look for in a child suffering from abuse are:
It is important to note that many times children and adolescents display no symptoms (over 1/3 of confirmed cases). For this reason, it is important to do whatever you can to prevent and educate your children about abuse. Talk to your children about “welcome” and “unwelcome” touches. Empower them to say “no” and what to do in uncomfortable situations. They should know to tell you or another trusted adult if someone has made them uncomfortable. If you can’t see the symptoms of abuse, giving your child the opportunity for open dialogue can make all the difference in preventing and treating sexual abuse.
Common mental health issues that plague children include:
Children rarely lie about abuse. Only 2%-8% of allegations are false; therefore, the overwhelming majority of true allegations beg you as a parent to believe your child. Additionally, questions of a child’s credibility arise when court cases involving divorce and child custody are involved. We urge you to always believe your child and follow through with the next step of reporting.
It’s never too late to start receiving services. However, we only refer clients or past clients of Harold's House. Please call 936-634-1999 and ask to speak to a Family Advocate.
Counseling is not necessary in all cases of abuse, but it can be very helpful for many children. Although sometimes parents feel they would like their child to just forget about what happened and move on, this may actually increase the stress on a child. When the situation is handled in a direct and sensitive way, the negative effects on the child can be reduced. With consistent attendance, most children are able to successfully complete therapy over the course of a few months.
Dallas Children's Advocacy Center, Children's Advocacy Center of Texas
and National Children's Alliance