Statistics show that over 90% of sexual predators are people who parents know and trust. They can be relatives, neighbors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, church officials, older teenagers who babysit...the list goes on and on! Therefore, it's important to understand how most predators operate. After viewing decades of previous cases, one thing is certain- the processes predators use to develop trust that lead to sexual abuse are always similar. It's called "grooming".
- Predators look for childrens who feel ignored or unaccepted by parents or peers because the need for attention allows them to manipulate their victim.
- Predators slowly "groom" with attention, special favors or gifts that must be kept in secret. If the child keeps the secret(s), they pass the test that leads to sexual abuse. If the child discloses any secrets, the predator looks for another victim because secrets are essential to the grooming process.
- Predators may then gradually introduce pornography or sexual games to test the victim’s resistance. Larger gifts/bribes may be offered to encourage sexual activity.
- Predators will use fear, intimidation & risk of embarrassment as manipulation weapons to maintain secrecy so that the sexual abuse can continue. This guarantees the victim won't tell
It's important for parents and community leaders to understand that victims usually fear retaliation and legal consequences as well as public humiliation. Oftentimes, they feel no one will believe them, especially if the predator is a family member or well respected leader within the community. If the predator is the family's breadwinner, victims may fear for their safety and security. If you have any suspicions, gather more information by asking your child open ended questions. This will give insight into the situation that provoke suspicions. If your child discloses that they are being abused or if your child is being groomed for abuse, you must call 337-233-7273 immediately. This not only protects your child, but a report will protect other children that this person may be grooming or abusing.
Always trust your instincts. If someone is making you or your child feel uncomfortable, contact your local law enforcement agency. As a parent, you are your child’s most trusted adult. Never hesitate to intervene in a situation that could potentially lead to abuse. You have a right to protect your child and stop the abuse before it even starts.
THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY THE HEARTS OF HOPE EDUCATION DIRECTOR, VAL SENEGAL.