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Home > What Are the Warning Signs of Grooming?

What Are the Warning Signs of Grooming?

Child holding parents hand

Grooming is a process a child predator uses to build a trusting relationship with a child or young adult, and often their family and the community, that they can exploit for sexual abuse. The abuser uses grooming tactics to allow them to later manipulate, coerce, or force the victim to engage in sexual acts. These acts are always sexual abuse because minors cannot consent to sex. 

The child predator also attempts to gain the trust of the family and community to eventually get unsupervised access to the victim. Victims often struggle to recognize what is happening or have difficulty reporting inappropriate behavior. Thus, loved ones and others need to spot grooming to prevent abuse before it occurs. Cordisco and Saile LLC offers this information to help you know the warning signs.    

If you suspect your child is the victim of grooming or child abuse, contact a Pennsylvania child sex abuse lawyer from Cordisco & Saile LLC for help reporting the abuse and building your case.

Types and Aspects of Grooming

The American Bar Association notes that in many child sexual abuse cases, sexual grooming happens first. Grooming behavior often includes the following:

  • Targeting the victim of abuse
  • Gaining isolated access to the victim
  • Gaining the trust of the victim
  • Maintain control and secrecy over the relationship 

Grooming can happen in person, online, or within institutional settings.

What Are the Warning Signs of Grooming?

The Centers for Disease Control notes child sexual abuse is a public health problem in the United States, with an estimated one in four girls and one in 13 boys being victims. In 91 percent of cases, the child or family members know and trust the perpetrator. These relationships of trust provide the foundation to build grooming behaviors and subsequent abuse.

Grooming warning signs are often similar to those of child abuse. Grooming generally begins with emotional abuse and can lead to physical or sexual abuse. Indicators of potential grooming include the following:

  • Special attention: The perpetrator may begin giving your child extra attention. This can include unwanted touching like hugs, but it can be more than that. Groomers often target children who have unfulfilled emotional needs, are lonely, or lack consistent parental involvement. They provide this special attention as a stabilizing influence and to gain the trust of both the child and their caregivers.
  • Gift-giving: Perpetrators may offer gifts to establish trust. These gifts can include material possessions, but they can also be offers to take the child out for seemingly innocuous activities such as getting ice cream or going to the movies.
  • Offers to help out: Perpetrators may target families with chaotic home lives or where the caregivers cannot monitor the child at all times due to work or other obligations. Offering to help out by watching the child is an easy way to be alone with the child while also seeming like a good person for taking some responsibility off the caregiver’s shoulders.
  • Frequent contact: Once established in the child’s life, perpetrators will try to be in constant contact via social media, text messaging, or other forms of communication. This lets them continue to manipulate the child even when not physically present.
  • Filling the void: All the above allows the perpetrator to fill the void in the child’s life. They provide necessary emotional fulfillment and make the child feel loved and wanted. This allows the perpetrator to perform unwanted acts while passing them off as helpful and desirable to the child.

Recognizing the warning signs of grooming and abuse is an essential step to ending it, preventing further abuse, and beginning the recovery process.  

What Are the Stages of Grooming a Child?

A child predator who engages in grooming and ongoing sexual abuse differs from a perpetrator who engages in a single violent crime or abusive act.

Grooming is a process. The Connecticut Children’s Alliance notes that it often follows these stages: 

  • A child predator gains trust in your family and the community.
  • The child predator identifies a target and begins to exploit their vulnerabilities. 
  • These behaviors allow the child predator to erode the boundaries of the child or young adult.
  • Having exploited vulnerabilities and eroded boundaries, the child predator then builds up to acts of sexual abuse and control.
  • During the abuse, the child predator tries to convince the victim, their family, and others that the victim is safe in their care. 
  • With a power imbalance and abusive relationship established, secrecy allows abusive behaviors to persist.

Children and young adult victims of grooming and abuse can experience long-term physical and psychological consequences, according to the CDC, including the following: 

  • Physical injuries
  • Chronic conditions that persist through life, including heart disease, obesity, and cancer
  • Depression 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse 
  • Increased risk of suicide or related attempts

Given the long-term and life-altering consequences of sexual abuse, pursuing a claim to cover the related costs and damages is important. Hiring a Pennsylvania child abuse lawyer from Cordisco & Saile LLC gives you the best chance to receive compensation for the potential life-long psychological care and related treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. 

Can I Report Sexual Grooming?

Grooming is a form of child abuse. It involves psychological manipulation and harms the child even without sexual abuse. This includes instances of online-only grooming as well. When you recognize the warning signs of grooming, reporting it is important to prevent it from happening to your child and to potentially stop it from happening to others. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services encourages anyone who suspects child abuse to call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.

A Child Abuse Attorney Can Help

If you or a loved one has been the victim of grooming or child sexual abuse, an attorney is essential. A Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer from Cordisco & Saile LLC will pursue justice and compensation through the civil courts.

We’ll thoroughly investigate the abuse, gather crucial evidence, build a strong case, consult experts to prove the abuse and damages, prepare and file all paperwork, negotiate with opposing parties, and represent you in court proceedings. 

We provide you with a free initial case review in which we’ll consider the facts of your unique situation and determine if we can help. If we take your case, it’s on a contingency basis, meaning we only get paid if we win. 

Damages for child abuse include the cost of present and future medical and psychological care and sometimes punitive and other damages. The facts of your situation will determine your case and related claim, and we are here to help you identify the best possible outcome for you and your family.  

Cordisco & Saile LLC Helps Child Sexual Abuse Victims Get Justice

If your child or young adult has been the victim of grooming, online grooming, or child abuse, you have a legal right to bring a claim on their behalf. Your case will process through the criminal justice system and charge the child predator for their crimes. You also have the right to bring a civil claim to collect damages related to your child’s injuries.

We help you make the most of your compensation by building a strong case. Our case results speak for themselves, and we encourage you to review client testimonials to learn how we’ve helped them. Call us at 215-372-8153, or visit our website to schedule a consultation.

Written By Michael L. Saile, Jr.
Written By Michael L. Saile, Jr.

Managing Attorney at Cordisco & Saile

Serving as a personal injury attorney in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Michael has been honored as both a Brain Injury Top 25 Lawyer by National Trial Lawyers and a 2024 Super Lawyer. He earned his J. D. at Widener University School of Law where he was a member of the Moe Levine Trial Advocacy Honor Society. Saile is also the author of two publications titled “Not Another Bad Lawyer” and “Don’t Crash Again”.

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