What do you think of when you think about grooming? Maybe you think about your cute little puppy? Washing it’s little paws and brushing it’s fluffy coat. Maybe you think about two little cats grooming each other, licking each other clean with love and affection. Unfortunately, these days most of us probably think about pedophiles and child molesters. So exactly what is child grooming?
Exploiting the Gaps of Immaturity
The terms “child grooming” or “sexual grooming” were created to highlight the risks of psychological domination and exploitation that face children or vulnerable individuals, and to bring more attention to this variety of insidious sexual assault, including gaslighting.
Then what is the exact meaning of “sexual grooming”?
Sexual grooming is the process by which a sexual predator cultivates a relationship with a potential victim. Through grooming, the abuser builds trust and an emotional connection to the targeted victim in order to manipulate and abuse them. Most of the times victims are underage or otherwise vulnerable, lacking awareness of sex or someone else to talk to.
The perpetrator takes advantage of the victim’s mental, physical, and economic immaturity to build a misleading trust to commit rape and sexual assault.
The 6 steps of Sexual Grooming
The grooming of others for sexual exploitation.
How do abusers cover up malice with supposed good intentions?
- Search for and approach the victim.
- Build trust with the victim.
- Fulfill the victim's desires.
- Isolate the victim.
- Establish a sexual relationship by encouraging physical contact with the victim.
- Control the victim through conciliation and threats, while sexually exploiting the victim.
Victims who have experienced this grooming process believe that they have become “a special someone” to the perpetrator and vice versa.
The victims are often unaware that they are sexually exploited, or they realize the abuse only after it has progressed too far out of their control as grooming often occurs when victims lack knowledge about sex and have difficulty noticing that they are being exploited.
With the Rise of Technological Advancements
Sexual grooming without meeting in person was difficult to commit in the past, but the methods have evolved along with the advancement of IT communication technology.
Now, perpetrators can groom victims online as well as offline through gaming, social media, live streaming platforms, and random chats, and they create a false identity using anonymity online, which enables them to approach victims pretending to be someone around their age. Perpetrators are able to approach victims easily using virtual images familiar or desirable to the victim or approaching them with friendliness.
The methods of perpetrators vary day by day as they build rapport online with victims, asking them to send pictures or do sexual acts or lead them to meet offline to commit an assault.
A horrendous ruling due to the absence of laws
The CEO of an entertainment company in his 40s in South Korea sexually assaulted and impregnated a middle school student who is 27 years younger in 2013. The perpetrator approached the victim saying that he could help her “become a celebrity”. The young victim, whose sexual consciousness had not yet been established, was groomed for a long time, and she was even deluded that she was truly loved by the perpetrator.
Legal representatives for the victim adamantly insisted that the sexual assault was due to grooming, but the perpetrator claimed that “they were in love”. The prosecution refuted this claim by establishing that the perpetrator had also approached other underage girls with similar methods while sexually exploiting the victim.
The result of this case?
The first and second trials ruled his act as rape but surprisingly, the law ultimately sided with the perpetrator. The Supreme Court found the perpetrator not guilty.
The reason the guilty verdict turned into not guilty was none other than the text messages sent by the victim. The “I love you” and “I like you” in these text messages became evidence for the Supreme Court to give a verdict of not guilty.
This inconceivable verdict by a judge with a lack of understanding of sexual grooming, which exploits victims under the disguise of love, will be judged by history.
All around the world different countries have different laws for dealing with statutory rape (sexual relations with a minor) and child grooming. In the United States in 2009 a 40 year sentence was given to an individual who groomed victims to then film and distribute child pornography. Data from the United Kingdom has shown that online grooming crimes have risen by more than 40% since 2017, with 82% of victims young girls.
- Sexual grooming refers to the mental domination and sexual exploitation of mentally, physically, and economically inexperienced individuals.
- Legislation to strongly punish perpetrators is needed, requiring the public to deeply understand and advocate for the issue.