Overhead view of a young girl covering her face and crying in a school yard.

Statistics on child sexual abuse paint a disturbing picture: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. The majority of childhood sexual abuse cases involve a process known as “grooming.” Grooming is a slow but deliberate process that an abuser uses to gain trust and intimacy with their victim, and sometimes the child’s family. On the surface, it can appear like a strong friendship or bond between the perpetrator and their target, but underneath, there is a much more sinister goal: to overcome boundaries before the abuse takes place.

Recognizing red flag behavior of grooming

Fortunately, there are warning signs of grooming a child for sexual abuse that parents and caregivers can watch out for – subtle behaviors and actions that indicate something is amiss. When there is evidence that a child has been exploited by a predator, a Dallas sexual abuse victim lawyer can ensure that the abusers are held liable for their actions.

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By some estimates, at least half of all children who are sexually molested are groomed by the abuser first. Grooming a child gives the abuser the upper hand. They are much less likely to be caught once they have infiltrated the world of their victim. Experts describe six stages of grooming a minor for sexual abuse as:

  • Targeting a child’s specific vulnerabilities
  • Gaining the child’s trust and that of their primary caregiver
  • Filling a need in the child’s life
  • Isolating their victim
  • Sexualizing the relationship once emotional dependence is established
  • Maintaining control through intimidation, fear, or invoking sympathy

There are both subtle and clear warning signs that grooming is taking place, and it’s often committed by a person who is either close to the family, or in a position of trust and authority. Perpetrators often choose young victims who are easier to manipulate emotionally. Perhaps they have an unstable home life, low self-esteem, or a history of substance abuse problems.

A personal injury lawyer at Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP, can help recover meaningful compensation for victims of child sexual abuse. Reach out for a private consultation if you have noticed the following signs of grooming and other questionable behavior.

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Potential signs of grooming for abuse:

  • Giving gifts to flatter the victim
  • Showering the victim with lots of attention
  • Sharing secrets with the child
  • Become the sole provider of the victim’s needs – giving rides, special outings, friendship, a place to stay, a sympathetic listener
  • Discuss their personal life and adult ‘matters’
  • Provide cigarettes, or prohibited substances to teens
  • Send texts, emails without the parents’ knowledge
  • Communicate privately with the child on social media
  • Find excuses to isolate themselves with their victim
  • Initiate touching such as hugs, tickling, and massages to desensitize the child to touch
  • Express unusual interest in the victim’s dating status or romantic life
  • Prefer the company of young children more than adults
  • Offer to help the caregivers to gain alone time with their victim

Steps you can take after sexual abuse

If a child tells you that they have been sexually touched or molested, alert the authorities right away. Experts caution that it is best to avoid confronting the abuser directly until investigations are underway.

It is not unusual for children and teenagers who were sexually abused to suffer lasting effects from the experience. Depression, general anxiety, PTSD, and behavioral problems are common. The process of healing can be lengthy and financially draining, given the costs for ongoing counseling and therapy.

Texas has statutes of limitation for filing a civil suit in child sexual abuse cases. It is important to be represented by a knowledgeable Dallas personal injury attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases and understands this complex area of the law. Civil litigation provides victims the opportunity to secure money damages for the injuries and trauma they have endured, and the sexual abuse victim lawyers at Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP know how to fight for maximum compensation.

If you suspect a loved one was sexually abused, please reach out for free and confidential consultation today.