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What is Grooming?

Grooming in sex abuse cases occurs when the perpetrator or abuser builds trust with a child in an effort to get access and alone time with a child. The purpose of grooming is to prevent a child from disclosing the sexual abuse. It also reduces the likelihood that a child is believed. Further, it reduces the chance of the sexual abuse being discovered.

Grooming doesn’t happen overnight. It starts out very subtle, and the relationship between the abuser and victim may not appear to be inappropriate in any way.

For instance, a young girl who comes from a broken home doesn’t get the attention and love she needs. The girl is on a softball team. One of her softball coaches starts to groom the girl. The girl always walks home after practice because her mom is at work. One day after practice, it starts to rain. The coach offers to drive the girl home to avoid walking in the rain. The next week, the coach offers to drive the girl home again. Eventually, the coach takes the girl home after every practice. Sometimes if the girl needs help with her homework, the coach helps her after practice. In time, the girl begins to trust her coach and is grateful that her coach is so nice to her. The coach sees that the girl grows more and more comfortable around him and starts to take her out to eat after practice before taking her home. On the weekends, he may even take the girl to go see a movie. The coach starts to tell the girl he loves her, and they begin to have an inappropriate sexual relationship. What started as a ride home, which didn’t seem inappropriate, turns into an inappropriate sexual relationship.

Adults Around the Child are Groomed Too

Perpetrators also groom the adults around the child. For instance, a single father with a young boy is struggling to make ends meet. He may have to work 2 jobs and doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with his son as a result. A neighbor who is a sexual predator, may intentionally build a relationship with the father by offering help. She may bring dinners for the father and his son a couple times a week. She begins to get friendly with the father. The father sees that the neighbor is really nice to his son, and his son seems to like the neighbor as well. The father begins to trust the neighbor. The neighbor offers to pick up his son from school when the father is at work and watch him after school.   As the child begins to get comfortable and looks forward to spending time with the neighbor, she may offer to give him a bath after school. In time, she may touch the boy inappropriately during the bath and start molesting the boy.

Institutional Grooming

Institutional grooming occurs when the perpetrators make institutions, such as schools, charities or organizations, etc., believe that they present no risk to children. A recent example of institutional grooming is the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Sandusky was an assistant coach for his entire career from 1969 to 1999. In 1977, he founded the Second Mile, a non-profit charity group that helped disadvantaged, underprivileged and at-risk children. Sandusky sexually abused young boys over a period of 15 years from 1994 to 2009. He met his victims through the Second Mile. Not only did Sandusky groom his victims, he even groomed the local community. Everyone was shocked when the news broke. How could someone who was known for helping disadvantaged youth be responsible for such horrendous acts?

It is important to note that not all sexual abuse cases involve grooming, but sexual predators often use it to gain access to their victims.

Crime Victims’ Rights After Being Sexually Abused

Sexually abused victims have legal rights against their perpetrators in civil and criminal courts. Even if victims do not come forward until months or years after the abuse, many still have legal rights. It is best for victims to talk to sex abuse lawyers to discuss their cases.

For instance, in Pennsylvania, a victim who was abused when he was a minor has until their 30th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. If a victim is abused by a teacher, coach or volunteer, they may also have civil rights against the institution. If a school received student complaints about a coach sexually harassing female students and did nothing about it, the school may be held liable to a student who is later sexually abused by the coach.

Related: Civil Liability in School Sex Abuse Cases – What Claims are Usually Made

Though no financial compensation can make up for the perpetrator’s horrible crimes, the end result of a sex abuse civil lawsuit is financial compensation. However, changes to policies or procedures to a school may also be part of a settlement. For instance, as part of a settlement, a school liable for a victim’s sex abuse may be required to provide mandatory sexual abuse training and/or adopt different policies and procedures with respect to sexual abuse of students by school employees.

About Brian Kent, a Philadelphia, PA & NJ Sex Abuse Lawyer

Mr. Kent is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor and now a Philadelphia, PA and NJ crime victims lawyer representing victims of sex abuse.  He has helped many sex abuse victims in PA and NJ. If you have questions about a child sex abuse case, call Mr. Kent to schedule a FREE confidential consultation.

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