Grooming in childhood sexual abuse or exploitation

imageThanks to BOBBI PARISH…

Its common for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to feel worthless, powerless and to blame for the horror they endured. Making it worse, they receive repeated pressure from people in their lives to “put it behind you,” “get over it,” and “just let it go.” I’ve received the same demands and judgment from people in my own life. What those people fail to realize is the power of grooming – the brain washing most child victims of sexual abuse go through at the hands of their abuser.


Grooming is the process that predators use to gain control over a child for the purpose of sexually abusing them. They use a series of manipulative behaviors, involving tangible and intangible means, to exploit the child while maintaining control over them so that they do not resist or report the abuse. There are generally considered to be six stages to the grooming process:

Targeting the Victim: The predator selects a child that he or she perceives as being needy, easily isolated and responsive to manipulation. This can be their own child – if they have several children, they will choose the one they feel is most susceptible to manipulation.
Building Trust: The predator actively engages with the child, showing them special attention and favour.
Filling a Need: In this stage, the predator begins to provide the child with something he or she perceives the child is missing and craving: attention, affection, approval or even protection against bullies.
Isolating the Child: Now that the predator has built trust and filled a need, they leverage that to isolate the child. They tell the child that their relationship is a secret, or that others wouldn’t approve of their friendship and would try to break up their friendship. When the secret is built upon shame and fear, the child begins to isolate himself or herself and the predator doesn’t even need to do it.
Sexualizing the Relationship: The predator now has all components of the grooming process in place in order to begin sexually abusing the child. The abuse will typically escalate over time.
Maintaining Control: At this point the predator actively abuses the child, while continuing to fill their needs and keep them isolated. Oftentimes, the abuser will now actively shame the child for “agreeing” to be an active participant in the sexual relationship. The shame is a very powerful silencing and isolating tool. The abuser has now become a significant source of meeting the child’s needs, so much so that the child fears losing the relationship and will acquiesce to the abuser’s requests. The child is now doubting his or her capacity to perceive reality, and relies upon the abuser’s statements about reality.
After the Abuse

Eventually, through reporting or circumstance, the abuse ends and sometimes the relationship with the abuser does as well, but the damage persists. The child grows into an adult riddled with shame, unable to trust their own perceptions of reality, and with contorted perceptions of what a loving relationship looks like. They feel unworthy, guilty and powerless. Long after the physical wounds of the abuse end, the emotional abuse lives on. Getting it out of our head is not as simple as declaring it gone. Not easily evicted from where it’s resided for years, it has powerful squatter’s rights. It is ingrained, by years of grooming, into the fabric of our thoughts and beliefs.

Picking out the threads of lies woven into our mind by our abuser takes time and care. We have to figure out what is the truth and what is the lie that our abuser taught us. It’s hard to tell the difference, because they have both existed in our minds for so long. They all look the same. We have to test one thread at a time, with judgment that is often skewed by the grooming we receive. It’s a flawed system trying to detect flawed thoughts. Grooming sets us up by creating a distorted thinking system. Even when someone tries to tell us the truth we question it.


In my experience the only therapy that is really helping me is talking therapy with a counsellor who is experienced in understanding the dynamics of childhood sexual abuse & ideally a trauma therapist too. I am fortunate to be able to afford this. Sadly many survivors of child abuse are not and the provision of specialist long term therapy in NHS is sorely lacking. There are many fantastic charities in UK who do their best to provide such a service but are  struggling financially to try to fill this huge gap.

Meanwhile thousands of survivors battle on – largely unsupported – with the legacy of this horrendous childhood trauma.

If you come across one of them asking for donations – please give what you can.

Thank you.

One thought on “Grooming in childhood sexual abuse or exploitation

  1. Pingback: My thoughts on Andrew Picard ( Boeckman ) & his father Phillip | shinybluedress's Blog

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