Often, before a child is sexually abused, predators can spend up to years grooming a child by befriending them and establishing an emotional connection to lull them into a false sense of security. But beyond the child, predators groom the child’s family as well to earn and gain their trust. According to National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR), “an estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors.” Here are signs to look out for (do note that this isn’t a hard and fast rule but if an individual fulfills multiple criteria, it could be a red flag):
1. Too close
Predators will often try to win children over and lavish them with gifts to make them feel special or privileged. Does take person take too much of an interest in the sort of toys or a particular hobby your child likes?
2. Alone time
They will also create situations and opportunities that will allow your child to be alone with them. So, pay attention to how much time your child spends with certain individuals and if it’s behind closed doors or done secretively.
Predators may often casually drape their arms around your child’s shoulders or touch your child innocuously so as to demonstrate to you that your child is comfortable with their physical touch. This is also to break down barriers with your child as they often start out as non-sexual to get your child to warm up to them. Observe your child’s reactions carefully. Does he or she seem uncomfortable or try to squirm away? Never force your child to accept physical touch from anyone – even if it’s to hug grandma or kiss the cheek of their aunt. This only teaches them that forced physical touch is okay.
4. Sexual behaviour
Should your child begin making sexual remarks or anything related to sexual activity, there should be a cause for concern. Predators often manipulate a child’s curiosity by introducing them to dirty jokes and pornography to lower their inhibitions. If you catch your toddler masturbating or trying to touch others inappropriately – those are major red flags as someone is clearly doing that to them.
Monitor your child’s online activity as predators will often send sexually explicit material to children to normalise the act.