Over the years most of us have heard stories from survivors of child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking (and convicted predators for that matter) discuss the tactics of their abuser to gain their trust (and that of others) to gain access to the child and coerce/lure them into sexual, drug and/or criminal activity.
More time than not, the pedator used tactics that was 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.
That’s why being able to recognize the Grooming process is a vital key to helping keep the youth in our community safe.
The perpetrators of trafficking employ a “grooming process” to draw victims away from their homes or to gain the trust and dependency of young victims who may have run away from home. The first step is often the development of a relationship with an older man or female, who the victim comes to regard as her “boyfriend” or "friend". The perpetrator assesses the victim’s needs (vulnerabilities) and offers flattery, material items such as money, jewelry or clothes, and/or displays other “acts of love”. The adolescent female may be enticed to begin a sexual relationship with her “boyfriend”. The adolescent will be encouraged to stay away from home for increasingly longer periods of time, eventually leading to her not returning home at all.”
When trying to idenifiy grooming behaviors 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.
While there are many different forms of grooming, I my career, I have found these grooming tactics to be the more common tactics used by predators praying on our youth, particularly young teens.
1. "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.
2. "The Lure". The person that has but lots of "cool" stuff. Video games, pool, alcohol, drugs and a never ending party – if you know someone who invites kids over to see the "cool stuff" that they have, by all means, you have a right to be worried.
3. "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 know 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 and how they get them and you don’t.
9. "The No Way in hell 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 when it comes to our children.
The statistics paint a very scary picture when it comes to the people that are or have plans to sexually abuse and exploit our children. 90% of perpetrators are known and trusted by the victim and/or 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 harmed or abused by someone we know, while being kidnapped by a stranger does happen, most the time the victims has met or knows the perpetrator. It’s time we come together as a community and started protecting our kids appropriately and effectively. This means our government officials need to start enforcing laws we have in place to protect our children. For example; Harboring A Runaway, Interference With Child Parental Custody, Enticing A Minor, Contributing To The Dilinqincy Of A Minor and Statatory Rape are just some of the many laws designed to protect children, yet rarely ever do you see someone prosecuted for braking these laws.
Why? Because we live in a victim shaming society. Most of society blame the 13 or 14 year old child for doing drugs and/or running away, leaving criminal that supplied the drugs and Harbored the runaways free to find more children he/she can con or pressure into doing drugs.
Drugs are the number one tool a predator uses to gain control of their victims. A drug dealers, groomers and/or pedophiles con children into taking drugs in hope they will develope a dependency to the drugs. Once a child becomes a full blown drug addict, the perpetrator has full control over them.
Children and teens are naturally gullible and unaware of the dangers that lurk around them, that’s why they are concerned "children", "minors" and/or "underage". It’s our jobs as parents and adults to protect the children in our communities.
I can guarantee, the number of child drug addicts and child sex trafficking victims would be significantly less our justice system would start prosecuting the adults supplying the drugs and harboring the runaways.
As a child, we all made mistakes, Or at least I know I did. Our mistakes and life lessons helped shape us into the people we are today. Blaming a teenager for making a bad decision is like blaming dog for peeing on a tree. Teens are naturally bad decision makers. Our Kids learn from watching us. Holding the drug dealers, pimps and the ones Harboring runaways accountable, will teach our youth accountablity, in addition to making our communities a safer place.
With all that being said, please stop blaming children for being children, and start placing blame on the criminals harming our children.