How do abusers do what they do?

criss-crossing railway lines

Photo: Ian Sane

Abusers operate by getting close to both children and adults - this is what we call the grooming process.

People who abuse children:- 

  • Often build a relationship with the child and the caring adults who want to protect them
  • Are good at making ‘friends’ with children and those who are close to them
  • May befriend parents who are facing difficulties, sometimes on their own 
  • May offer to baby-sit or offer support with childcare and other responsibilities 
  • Seek trusted positions in the community which put them in contact with children, such as in childcare, faith settings, schools, children’s groups and sports teams
  • May frequent places such as arcades, playgrounds, parks, swimming baths and around schools where they can get to know children

They are clever about silencing children:

In order to keep the abuse secret, abusers may:- 

  • Offer a combination of gifts or treats and threats about what will happen if the child says ‘no’ or tells someone
  • Make the child afraid of being hurt physically - although more often the threat is about what may happen if they tell: for example, their family breaking up or the perpetrator going to prison
  • Play on the child’s fear, embarrassment or guilt about what is happening, perhaps convincing them that no one will believe them 
  • Make the child believe that he or she enjoyed it and wanted it to happen

There may be other reasons why a child stays silent and doesn’t tell. Very young or disabled children may lack the words or means of communication to let people know what is going on. 

They sometimes develop and make use of a peer network:

Perpetrators who seek to sexually abuse and exploit children and young people may seek to draw children into their social network. This may be particularly applicable to older children and teenagers who are subject to less supervision than younger children. Abusers may target children via their friends or may use older children to befriend the victim first.

Some abusers use a range of media to befriend and groom children, including text messages and social networking sites. Children who use these media without age-appropriate restrictions, supervision or monitoring can be especially vulnerable.

If you have concerns it is best to seek help. Confidential help and Information is available from the Stop it Now! Helpline on 0808 1000 900

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