Grooming or Recruiting
Sexual predators tend to be patient. At times they're even willing to put in days or months of prep-work before actually doing anything illegal; this is called grooming, or recruiting in the context of Human Trafficking. Perpetrators approach kids as a friend, usually someone who can help meet some of the kid's perceived needs. Then they start to give "gifts" -- exactly what the victim said she wanted or needed. If a child has already experienced neglect, abuse, or any Adverse Childhood Experiences, her sense of trust is distorted. She'll tend to trust anyone who gives her what she wants and distrust authority. This is what makes kids vulnerable to the manipulation of predators.
Of course, the process is gradual, so that by the time sexual boundaries are crossed, the grooming process has left the victim nearly indefensible. He or she may believe they can't live without the predator (whom they see as a friend or lover). The victim has grown to trust the predator and can point to several occasions when the predator seems to have acted in the victim's best interest. Many predators tell victims that this is "our little secret," and nobody can know. Because of the power differential, a victim may interpret this to be a threat to her safety. Sometimes, of course, the predator does explicitly threaten physical harm if the victim tells.
Goals of Grooming for Abuse:
- gradual sexualization of relationship
- control over victim
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