Grooming of Children – What All Parents Need to Know

grooming-of-children

This blog article is not an easy post to write. It’s something I never thought would happen to my family, but it has. As a result, I feel it’s imperative that I share this personal experience with you in order to educate other mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunties, uncles, family friends etc about the grooming of children. What to look for, to break the myths and to follow your gut; because parents always know best.

A couple of months ago Finlee, Chloe and I had the opportunity to hang out with 12 of our closest friends for the weekend down at the Gold Coast. It was a wonderful chance to catch up with our friends as we hadn’t seen them in ages and Finlee & Chloe were missing their friends so much.

When we arrived at the campsite, I was introduced to Colby, a friend that my friends had brought with them for the weekend. Instantly when I met Colby my gut said somethings not right about this guy. He made little eye contact, had this creepy look about him and asked the kids right away to go and jump on the trampoline vs hanging out with the adults. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why my gut was saying somethings not right, but it was. I also didn’t want to be that judgemental person who wasn’t willing to give someone a chance, so I agreed in my head to be nice to Colby, but to keep a close eye on the kids.

Over the next 24 hours my gut instinct was still up, but this time I had confirmation that my gut was right. The following are some examples of things I noticed:

  1. Colby would only play with the younger children (1 year old, 3 year old, 4 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old and a 10 year old).
  2. Colby never hung out with the adults, he only hung out with the kids.
  3. Colby always wanted to take the kids away from the adults. For example, he would take them on the trampoline and say thing like “fall on me or tickle me.” I thought this was odd as I don’t even do this with my own kids.
  4. Colby also took the kids on golf cart rides, but without any adults and away from the campsite.
  5. When we were playing a family game of Pie Face and Colby got whip cream on his face, he looked at one of the kids and asked the child to “lick it off.”
  6. Colby also rubbed one of the children’s’ shoulders, kissed another child’s back and was also seeking some level of touch.

As you can imagine, I was a wreck. I was on constant watch of my children but also all the kids. Not only was my gut picking up on things, but as a mental health clinician of 13 years I’ve seen to many individuals who have suffered child abuse and I was not prepared for my kids or my friends kids to be compromised in anyway.

I could go into the details of what happened next between all the friends but that would take forever. However, in a nutshell I and another friend brought it to the attention of all the families what was going on and Colby was eventually asked to leave.

Even after all these weeks since this incident took place, I still feel sick in the guts talking about it or even thinking about what “could” have happened if I wasn’t educated about grooming of children or followed my gut instincts.

What is Grooming of Children Mean?

Child grooming (defined by Wikipedia) is a term which describes the following situation. When an adult becomes friends with a child, this is sometimes done for a reason. The reason is to lower the inhibitions of the child and to prepare for sexual abuse. So, action taken by an adult to form a trusting relationship with a child, with the intent of later having sexual contact, is ‘child grooming’.[1]

The act of grooming a child may include activities that are legal, but later lead to sexual contact. The grooming is done to gain the child’s trust, and the trust of those responsible for the child. Children are less likely to report a crime if it involves someone the child knows, trusts, and cares about. Also, a relationship with the family means the child’s parents will be less likely to believe any accusations.

It is important to note, that children can be groomed by male or females and this grooming can happen online or in the real world. The grooming can happen by someone a child knows (friend/family member) or by a complete stranger.

How Does Grooming of Children Happen?

Grooming typically starts by a person simply being nice to a child, giving the child more attention and in some instances buying the child gifts. All of these tactics are for the child to start building trust with the offender.  Once that trust is built, the offender will abuse the trust that has been built and take advantage of the child.

If the offender is not able to gain direct access to the child, they may groom the adults first and build a relationship with the adults in order to gain access to the child

With technology taking over the world, there is an increase of grooming online. Similar to building trust with a child face to face, offenders online will try to spark up friendships with children through different social media networks (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc). They typically use fake profile pictures in order to hide their identity and often pretend to be someone else.

Signs An Adult May Be Grooming a Child

The Network of Community Activities have put together a very comprehensive list of signs an adults may be grooming a child for sexual abuse.

They state that there may be cause for concern about the behavior of an adult or young person if they:
  • Exhibit frequent physical affection such as kissing, hugging, stroking hair or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it or it is not required.
  • Encourage child or particular children to sit on their lap and offer regular physical comfort or reassurance to a particular child without a recognised cause.
  • Seek out opportunities to be alone with a child with no interruptions.
  • Spend most of their spare time with children and have little interest in spending time with people their own age.
  • Solicit invitations to sports, events or parties where a child will be.
  • Frequently arrive uninvited to places where the child or their family will be in a series of ‘coincidences’.
  • Spend a lot of time around places like arcades, playgrounds, parks and sports venues to get to know children so they are not seen as strangers.
  • Regularly offer support to the family members of the child such as offering to babysit children for free, transport children to events, help out at social occasions involving the child or take children on outings alone.
  • Offer to drive children home or collect children from events on a regular basis.
  • Frequently walk in on children in the bathroom or their bedrooms.
  • Treat a particular child or group of children as favoured, making them feel special compared with others in a group.
  • Find out as much as possible about the child and use that information to engage the child and drive a wedge between the child and any protective adults, eg parents, teachers or coaches.
  • Purchase gifts or collect items of interest regularly for a specific child or group of children.
  • Tell secrets to a child and encourage the keeping of secrets.
  • Display ambiguous sexual behaviour, eg showing the child pictures of other children wearing swimsuits or less.
  • Display clearly inappropriate sexual behaviour, eg showing the child pornographic pictures, using explicit sexual language around children.

Follow Your Gut

This blog post is not to scare anyone, but rather I hope by sharing my experience with you, educating you about grooming of children that it will at least help protect one child and family from having to go through any child abuse.

Most importantly, please follow your gut and always be aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to sit down, have a few drinks and not even take much notice of your friends, friend playing with your  children because you trust them. But it’s times like this (when you let your guard down) that give the offender prime opportunity to do something. Remember over 90% of sexually abused children were abused by someone they knew (Source: Radford, L. et al (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today.)

Love,

Angela xx

About the Author

Angela Henderson is an author, entrepreneur, blogger, mental health clinician and most importantly a mother. She explores various topics related to parenting/children on her blog and also in her three books: 30 Days, 30 Ways for Mothers to Take Care of Themselves30 Days, 30 Ways for Connecting with Your Child and Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and her website Finlee and Me.

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jraussie
jraussie
5 years ago

It’s a bit funny (not ha ha) that whilst reading my first reaction was ‘sounds like Autism’. “Instantly when I met Colby my gut said somethings not right about this guy. He made little eye contact, had this creepy look about him and asked the kids right away to go and jump on the trampoline vs hanging out with the adults. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why my gut was saying somethings not right, but it was. I also didn’t want to be that judgemental person who wasn’t willing to give someone a chance, so I agreed in my head to… Read more »

@Kanga_Rue
5 years ago

Wow. I can only imagine how difficult the situation and discussions were. I’m so thankful that those children had you looking out for them.

Concerned Mumma
Concerned Mumma
5 years ago

My concern is that even though he was asked to leave, how many other children’s parents is he making friends with? It’s not like he’s just going to give up at this point is he? I would have reported the behaviour to police as well so they can keep an eye on it, or check his computer cause I’m pretty sure I can guess what’s on there.

Jayneen Sanders
5 years ago

Fantastic article! Shared! You might be interested in my children’s book on body safety, empowerment and gender equality.

Pam Krstic
Pam Krstic
5 years ago

Angela, as a teacher who saw all this happening on a school camp when our priest employer joined us for a few days, I sympathise with what you have been through. Did you report this man to the police or social services? I believe that it is vital that people do this even if they have no evidence that abuse has actually occurred. This is important because if enough reports come in about a person further action must be taken and police now have sexual crimes intelligence officers who collate information received. Some states are amending mandatory reporting to include… Read more »

Mary Dee
Mary Dee
5 years ago

Angela the same people you are trying to educate are often the perpetrators of abuse. And parents who have been abused as children will often turn an unconscious blind eye to abuse happening under their own noses

Shauna M.
Shauna M.
5 years ago

How old was Colby? An adult over 18? (I don’t recall you mentioning his age.) Unfortunately, children under 18 can be child abusers too. I’ve witnessed similar grooming behavior with a teenager and a preschooler (at church!). Thank you for sharing your experience and bringing this to light!

Juliet
Juliet
5 years ago

What you wrote made me cringe as I read it, it must have been awful. I do hope you reported him to the police.
In addition it is important to say other perpetrators are far more clever and subtle. Sometimes it is not so obvious.

Arden Lusignan
Arden Lusignan
5 years ago

My hope is that you were somehow able to inform Colby’s parents or someone of authority so that he is not able to harm any other children.

Anahid
Anahid
5 years ago

Thank goodness for noticing and sending Colby away. However, I wonder where he is continuing his grooming… is it possible to notify authorities or others who might be at risk??

Joanne
Joanne
5 years ago

So much for a relaxing weekend. You would have been on high alert constantly. God bless those gut feelings. Thanks for sharing Angela.

Pip
Pip
5 years ago

I’m so glad you followed your gut & trusted your instincts. Thank you for sharing with us, it’s certainly something to be aware of. X

Melissa
Melissa
5 years ago

Oh gosh, this worries me for all other children who come in contact with Colby, has he been reported? It differs from state to state but child grooming is a criminal offence.

Grooming is now a criminal offence
The Crimes Amendment (Grooming) Act 2014, which commenced in Victoria on 9 April 2014, introduces the offence of Grooming for sexual conduct with a child under the age of 16 years. This offence targets predatory conduct designed to facilitate later sexual activity with a child.
http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/safer+communities/protecting+children+and+families/grooming+offence

Nat Wilkin
Nat Wilkin
5 years ago

Wow.. Thanks for sharing. I never think an adult would do that to childs. I’d be more aware and look out too.

Jo
Jo
5 years ago

Ugh!!! A difficult post to write Ang but thank you so much. I often wondered if there was obvious tell tale signs so this is handy to know. Thank goodness you listened to your gut!!

Bronnie - Maid In Australia

Fantastic article. I hope the kids (and parents) are all okay and I’m glad that nothing worse happened. Very important to trust your gut.

Cindy Richardson
Cindy Richardson
5 years ago

Oh, thank you!!! I am so glad that there are people who will get this information out to parents. So many folks prefer to live in their cloud & believe it doesn’t happen, or that it may happen ‘out there’ but not to their child. It happens to ordinary people, and there are many grown up versions of those children who suffer every day, STILL, because of the abuse that occurred during their childhood. Because you are a trusted and knowledgeable ‘kid person’, you have so much power. I’m so grateful that you’re willing to stick your neck out and… Read more »