Much of this is often done right in front of other people. Why? Because it creates false sense of security that if this person is doing these things in front of other people 1. the child believes it is acceptable and 2. other people believe the persons intentions must be harmless.
This is what you can look for to potentially identify grooming behaviors of sexual abusers of children - this applies not only to your children but even for friends/relatives - you may see behavior that the child's parent may miss or fall prey to.
But, keep in mind, too - that seeing these signs does NOT mean this person is most definitely trying to abuse your child. What predators do what nice people would do and they emphasize that behavior to gain trust & access to your child. Nowadays, people are afraid to be nice & helpful because they're afraid of being suspected of something bad - good people have to go above and beyond to show their intentions are good while groomers will often seek out the people that will more easily trust them.
While the vast majority of those that use these forms of grooming tend to be male offenders, if you witness any of these behaviors with anyone and your gut is sending you a signal - listen.
Here are 9 situations to be vigilant of.
2. The Kid Magnet. Someone that spends more time socializing with children than people their own age. To the children this person may seem like the "fun" adult and meanwhile you might be thinking "gee, that person really likes kids." Sure, most people like kids, but generally we also want to take a break and chat with people our own age - not always the case with groomers.
3. Mr Touchy Feely. Groomers need children to feel physically comfortable with them. They may hug, kiss, tickle, hold, wrestle, or maintain close proximity to a child they are targeting. Sometimes they may even "accidentally" touch a child inappropriately to gauge their reaction and test the situation to see if they will mention it to someone. This is often done right in front of people. They may ignore a child's cues that they do not want to engage in physical contact and try to persuade them that it's all in "fun" or because they "love" them.
4. The Special Friend. Gift giving, favors, solo trips, and/or the "pet" child. If someone is giving special attention to a particular child, or seems to have new favorites from year-to-year they may be more than nice - they may be grooming or buying this child's silence.
5. The Lure. The person that has no kids but lots of kid-friendly stuff. Video games, train sets, BB guns, drum set whatever it is - if you know someone who invites kids over to see the "cool stuff" that they have, by all means - tag along.
6. The Cool Adult Friend. All kids get frustrated by discipline and not being allowed to do all the "grown up stuff" - they don't like being treated like a kid. Well, this person, they get it - they're going to tell your kid they understands them, that you don't. They knows what a drag parents can be and they're going to sympathize and lend an ear. They might even buy them some beer or let them smoke some weed. They're creating a wedge between your naturally frustrated child and you - the one who really cares about them. Your kid may even let you know how cool this person is, too, that they get them and you don't.
7. The Bait and Switch. It happens. You hire a nanny or send your child to a daycare provider, they seem legit, you may have even used a qualified agency to find them, they have experience & references. One day, they can't make it and send their spouse or boyfriend to fill in for them or you find out he's a volunteer employee. It catches you off guard, but you don't want to offend them by seeming suspicious, so you give them the benefit of the doubt. In situations like these, their is an element of enabling - usually by a female accomplice, and the often male abuser has manipulated their partner/spouse to give them the "cover" to access children, or may even involve the female to perpetrate abuse as well. If you ever have the opportunity to meet the boyfriend/husband of a female caretaker - listen to your intuition.
8. The "Star" Child. If you have a child that is talented in sports or the arts and you are utilizing one on one coaching or tutoring to further your child along, be aware of how much time your child is being trusted alone with this person. You may think this person's goal is the same as yours - to perfect your child's art, but what you might not realize is they are capable of using their power, the relationship, and the opportunity of isolation to exploit your child.
9. The No-Way Person. Unfortunately, some of the people you would never suspect exploit their perceived weakness or goodness to abuse children. They're the one volunteering, on the board for this and that, too old, too attractive, too frail to even attempt, the straight A student, in a seemingly happy romantic relationship, or even handicapped. Unthinkable? Yes. Impossible? No. Remember - no free passes for anyone.
The statistics paint a very scary picture when it comes to the people that are sexually abusing our children. 90% are known and trusted by the victim and their family. As many as 40% are family -parents, siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents, and the remaining 50% are friends, teachers, coaches, community members etc. Our children are many more times likely to be sexually abused by someone we know than to be kidnapped by a stranger. It's time we started protecting our kids appropriately and effectively.