“I couldn’t tell mum and dad because he was their friend and I didn’t want to upset them, and I didn’t want to bias anyone. I couldn’t tell anyone else because he said I would be sent away if I did. But I do ask myself every single day, ‘Why didn’t I tell someone?” Unforgotten S2E6
Predators are master manipulators. They plan and groom to abuse our children sexually. In most cases, the first stage of child sexual abuse is a series of subtle and gradually escalating behaviors and statements, which is referred to as “grooming.” The grooming process allows the abuser to build trust with and desensitize a child, preparing him or her to be tricked into being abused. Children most at risk for grooming are children who have experienced a degree of emotional, social or economic disadvantage or dysfunction.
Abusers will also “groom” critical adults in a child’s life so that the abuser’s relationship with the child is accepted and welcomed.
For those very reasons, parents need to equip themselves with information and education about grooming tactics perpetrators use.
A master predator never starts with the abuse, but he/she usually start by winning the trust of the child or the adolescent: playing with the child, listening to the child; becoming the child’s and adolescent’s confidant.
The predator becomes to your child what you are not. For this reason, we as parents need to spend time with our children on a daily basis: a time when we can talk about life, about love, about faith, about secrets. We need to learn how to be our children’s confidante because disclosure can be very challenging for a child, from both an emotional and developmental perspective. If the child has not been forewarned about sexual abuse, he/she might not find the words to explain what happened.
The abuser lies to the child/ adolescent to keep the secret of abuse.
Today, I want to share with you a few lies the predator might use to prevent the child/adolescent from telling you.
- No One Will Believe You
This is the most common lie. Unfortunately, so many times, it is a true lie (if there is such a thing). If we, as parents have not educated ourselves about sexual abuse, we might think that the child/adolescent is making this up. Why would a child make this up? Consider this as an excellent opportunity to build trust with your kids. If the child says that someone touched him/her in a way that makes him/her feel uncomfortable, ask them what they mean by that. It does not necessarily need to be that they have been abused, but it might be that someone pinched his/her cheek and it was painful. In that instant thank the child that he/she told you. In other instances, it might be the beginning of grooming. Open your ears. Be available for your child.
If we are not available, the child will never tell you anything else that is troubling him/her. The child feels, he cannot trust you with his/her secrets.
- You wanted this. See how your body reacted?
A master predator takes his/her time in grooming the kid to accept the abuse. For that reason, a child/adolescent might have an orgasm adding to the shame and guilt the child experiences. This makes the child/adolescent believe the abuser, keeping the secret.
- You made me do this.
The abuser places his/her responsibility for the abuse on the child/adolescent. The abuser might blame the child/adolescent for dressing provocatively, or for sitting on the predator’s lap thus arousing him/her…etc.
- If you tell your mom, she will beat you to death!
This is another lie we can avoid as parents if we have forewarned our children. A secret reported loses its power. Let us encourage our children to report as early as possible.
- I will kill your parents if you tell them anything!
Predators are cowards. They love to operate in the dark. Tell this to your child to defuse the fear of reporting.
- I’ll kill you if you say anything!
Instilling fear and terrorizing the kid/adolescent into silence.
- I will tell your parents you are doing pornography, drugs or alcohol
The abuser might use porn as part of the grooming. The predator might force the child to watch relationships between adults and children to make the child think that this is something normal and harmless. Other times, the predator might give the child/adolescent drugs and alcohol, and it becomes another secret added to the secret of abuse, but it also becomes a weapon for terrorizing the child/adolescent into silence.
Do warn your child about lies the predator uses. Inform your child in age-appropriate language. Tell your kids that these are the lies a predator might use to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Tell your children that no one has the right to touch them in their private parts even if it is a parent, a teacher, a coach, a pastor or a family friend. Tell them that no one should ask them to touch their private parts or make them look at their private parts whoever it is. Tell them that if this happens, it is always the other person’s fault and that if this happens not to be afraid to report it to you. You need to tell them that nothing is scary about their telling you if this happened, that you would always believe them. Always accompany this conversation with a massive dose of, “Mom will always love you, mom will always believe in you; mum will always protect you. Nothing can make mum love you less; nothing can make mum disrespect you. There is nothing that can change the fact that you are my son/daughter and you are such a precious and important part of this family”.
“And whoever gives honor to one such little child in my name, gives honor to Me: But whoever is a cause of trouble to one of these little ones who have faith in Me, it would be better for him to have a great stone fixed to his neck, and to come to his end in the deep sea.” Matthew 18.5,6 (Bible in Basic English)