Since the 1980s, laypeople in Texas have used the term grooming to mean activities leading up to inappropriate sexual behavior with a child. When laypeople misuse the term, they normalize the behavior by applying it to family films and children’s library books.
Grooming is any antecedent inappropriate behavior that increases the likelihood the perpetrator can carry out sexual abuse in the future. There must be substantial evidence tying the behavior to future abusive activities.
Common grooming behaviors
Research shows that preparators who engage in grooming share some common characteristics, including:
- Place themselves in positions where they had contact with children, such as teachers, youth pastors and daycare workers
- Spend a lot of time getting to know an individual child
- Create an environment where children feel shame or regret for speaking out about behaviors making them uncomfortable
Six Steps of Grooming
Most grooming takes place in a series of six steps that follow the same pattern regardless of the perpetrator. The first step is choosing the child they want to groom. Most perpetrators have one gender and age that they prefer. The second step is to gain the child’s and caretaker’s trust. Next, the perpetrator identifies a need the child feels and works to meet that need. Until now, they are pretty content to have the child’s family or friends around. Then, the perpetrator isolates the child and starts sexualizing the relationship. Finally, the perpetrator makes themselves feel powerful in the child’s eyes and threatens terrible things if they tell.
Is grooming unlawful?
Grooming is a crime, but law enforcement has trouble persecuting these cases before sexual abuse occurs because people who only want a healthy relationship with the child may carry out many of the same behaviors.
Grooming is the series of events leading up to sexual abuse in children, and it almost always follows the same pattern.