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

Signs of a Child Predator

Learn how to recognize red flags that may indicate sexually predatory behavior.

  • Close Contact with Minors: A sexual predator may associate with elementary, middle, or high-school aged-children and form close bonds with their targets. They seldom have friends their age.
  • Build Emotional Dependency: Chosen victims are showered with gifts, praise, and affection and are manipulated into a false sense of dependency on their perpetrator. Predators then take advantage of this vulnerability.
  • Manipulative Language and Behavior: Predators may employ gaslighting tactics and ridicule many aspects of their victim’s personal life–mocking their friends, appearance, or choice of clothing.
  • Controlling Behavior and Jealousy: Predators often become extremely possessive of their victims and are jealous of their family members and close friends. As a result, they may try and limit social interactions with others, especially if they suspect any type of romantic interest. In addition, predators may monitor the child’s social media accounts to control their personal lives.
  • Overstepping Physical and Sexual Boundaries: Initially, this starts as seemingly innocent pats on the leg, back, or arm as the predator attempts to normalize physical touch. This may progress to cuddling, hugging, or even fondling the child without consent. Finally, they may tell victims that a sexual act is a game or show them pornographic material to push sexual boundaries and encourage compliance. 

Two Main Types of Child Predators

Two main types of sexual predators prey on children. Researchers have collected specific characteristics of sexual abusers and rapists, and they include the following:

Child Abusers: Not all who abuse children sexually have pedophilic tendencies. The fixated offender fosters relationships with young children to satisfy their sexual desires. Fixated offenders prefer to interact with children whom they identify with both socially and sexually. A regressed offender’s actions are purely situational, as these perpetrators prefer the company of adults. They often commit incest by assaulting adolescents and children in their families.

Both assault children to alleviate depression, loneliness, and anxiety, whereas rapists do so out of vindictiveness, anger, and hostility.  Child abusers differ from rapists in describing their predatory actions as uncontrollable and internal; rapists ascribe their wrongdoings to unstable and external causes.

Rapist: When compared to child abusers, rapists are more likely to have had romantic relationships during their lives and some level of social competence. Historically, they are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs and tend to resemble violent offenders. In addition, they often display deficits in self-regulation, negative peer influences, and feelings of entitlement.

Acquaintance rapists are considered less violent and opportunistic than stranger rapists, who are more apt to use violent force. Rapists often have distorted perceptions of sex roles and will blame their victims for the assault. By contrast, individuals who sexually abuse children lack information-processing skills and will deny the impact of their actions.

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.