[Note: For the sake of easy reading all perpetrators have been referred to as males and victims are referred to as children. Please note that perpetrators can be both genders and not all victims are children.]
On the 17th September 2007, the HT published an article ‘The Government has accepted a parliamentary panel’s suggestion that pre-offence “grooming” over the Net should be made a criminal offence’. While it is laudable that the government has decided to deliberate such a step, it is important for the public to know what ‘grooming’ is and why it needs to be seen as a criminal offense.
It is a fact that the Internet has provided a new and dangerous medium for committing sex offenses to which children and adolescents are especially vulnerable. While the perpetrator of sexual offenses on the net is often thought of as a deviant, perverted, loner and often a pedophile, it is important to remember that this is a misperception. Sex offenders and perpetrators of child sexual abuse live among us. They are relatives, neighbors, co-workers and they all have families. They are not anti social and deviant in all aspects, and may even have positive qualities and attributes. They are our brothers, sisters, parents and children. It is very difficult for us to reconcile to the fact that people we know respect and love may be molesters and abusers.
The very fact that they live amongst us makes it important for us to learn how to protect ourselves and our children. The first step in doing so is for us to accept that child sexual abuse depends on secrecy and that children most often don’t tell about the abuse when it begins. This is due to a process called ‘grooming’. Parents must learn about the powerful impact of grooming to dispel the illusion that their child will confide in them when abuse begins.
Grooming is the offenders painstakingly laid plan and it has a two fold purpose. The first is focused on the victim and on overcoming likely resistance. The second is to make sure others are unaware of what he is doing. Therefore grooming is accompanied by isolating the victim from others, especially those who may discover the abuse or those who the child is likely to turn for help or confide in such as mother, siblings or close friends. e.g. A suggestion to chat over the net in secret, when no one else is around, because others would not understand their ‘special relationship’, is a simple and effective way of isolating.
Once isolated and having agreed to keep this initial secret, grooming can begin in earnest. The perpetrator begins with small talk, jokes, pays compliments, confides -in other words engages in positive emotional interaction from which the victim derives pleasure and therefore is likely to prolong the secret.
This far, if the child shows no discomfort, embarrassment or resistance the offender will begin to introduce sexual content into the conversation in a manner and tone that conveys that is it perfectly normal to talk about this without feeling alarmed. He will deliberately put the child at ease and gauge the level to which the child is comfortable.
Whenever the child seems uncomfortable, or resists, the perpetrator will retreat so that the anxiety is reduced and the child feels ‘safe’ and a pleasurable reward is usually offered at this point. During subsequent efforts the child is likely to be less uncomfortable, can be reminded that nothing bad happened last time and that a reward awaits for “a little more cooperation.". One should never underestimate the degree of sophistication that child molesters will use to entice children and the powerful effect of this “reach and retreat” method.
If the abuse is in person and physical then grooming will begin with small, non sexual touches and can end in sexual interaction. If virtual, it usually begins with a conversation, proceeds to introduction of sexually explicit content and further to graphic photographs/images and then finally to possible real life encounters. If the abuser is a pedophile then this information will probably be shared with other pedophiles thus increasing the likelihood of repeated abuse.
[Source: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/askios/message/820 ]