Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Stages of Grooming

“It's important to talk about it. You raise awareness. But you can also prevent it (child abuse) by not letting it be a secret.”

-Chris Witty

One of my first articles that I wrote was called Know Your Enemy. In that article I wrote about how people who sexually abuse children usually fall into one of two categories: Situational and Preferential.

In this article, I plan on discussing Preferential abusers and one of the main ways they select their victims, through a method known as grooming.

What is “grooming”?

Grooming is an exploitative process which acts as preparation for sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.

Grooming develops an emotional connection with a child and helps to:

• Gain the child’s trust

• Create opportunities to abuse

• Reduce the risk of detection

• Increase vulnerability of the child

• Increase the child’s compliance

There are seven stages of the grooming process (Please note: every case is different, in some cases one or more of these stages might be skipped)

1.     Getting access to children - Abuser places themselves in a position where they have access to children

2.    Targeting the victim - Abuser will gauge which children are the ones most capable of being abused without getting the abuser into trouble e.g.

a.    Finding a child or children that has a vulnerability that can be exploited by the abuser. Or

b.    Is there a child who wouldn’t be believed if they ever reported abuse? Is there a child who wouldn’t be allowed to come forward with a claim of abuse?

3.    Gaining trust e.g.

a.     Befriending the child

b.     Learning about his/her interests, being helpful, showering the child with gifts and attention, or sharing secrets

                                               i.          Included within “sharing secrets” is allowing the child to do things that their parents do not allow (e.g. smoking a cigarette, drinking beer, watching certain types of movies etc.) which can later be used against the child.

These behaviors are used to give the child the impression there is a loving and exclusive relationship between them and the would-be offender.

The perpetrator portrays themself as a non-threatening individual with whom the child can talk and spend time with. During this step, the offender adjusts his or her strategies based on the age of the child they are targeting, the needs of the child, and the child’s perceived vulnerabilities.

4.    Filling a need e.g. Perpetrators utilize tactics such as giving money/gifts, flattery, and meeting other basic needs of the potential victim. Tactics may also include increased attention and affection towards the targeted child.

5.    Isolation  - The grooming sex offender uses the developing special relationship with the child to create situations in which they are alone together. This isolation further reinforces a special bond between the abuser and the potential victim.

6.    Sexual Stage: Desensitizing the Child - Once there is sufficient emotional dependence and trust, the abuser progressively sexualizes the relationship. Desensitization occurs through:

a.    Talking about sex and/or private areas on the body.

b.    Sharing pornographic videos and/or pictures.

c.     Creating situations in which both offender and victim are naked.

d.    Seemingly accidental touch or innocent behaviors, which then escalate to more intimate touching. e.g. the child molester may first give the child hugs or pats on the back, and then gradually escalate to wrestling, tickling, or back massages and the eventual sexual contact. Other tactics include playing hide and seek in the dark, playing strip poker, drying a child off with a towel, massaging an injury, playing physical games etc.

At this point, the adult exploits a child’s natural curiosity, using feelings of stimulation to advance the sexuality of the relationship.

7.    Controlling the Child and the Situation: Once sexual abuse is occurring, abusers will commonly use secrecy, blame, and threats to maintain the child’s participation and continued silence.

Perpetrators use various types of emotional manipulation. One specific method used is convincing the child that the child would be the one in trouble if the abuse or “shared secret” (as mentioned above in 3b) becomes known.

Why is it important for adults to learn about grooming?

Short answer: Because we shouldn’t expect kids to stop it on their own.

By the time the grooming process reaches the sexual stage, it is nearly impossible for a deliberately selected and groomed child to avoid the sexual abuse.

Therefore, it is the job of the adults in the child’s life to recognize the warning signs and put a stop to the relationship while still in the initial stages.

The child will not be happy that you are separating them from the person who gives them attention and gifts, and that’s okay.

Better your child be angry at you for intervening before the groomer shows their true colors versus your child being angry at you for turning a blind eye and allowing the grooming and abuse to proceed.

Yisroel Picker is a Social W​​orker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.

You can email Yisroel at
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Monday, June 17, 2019

Child Abusers and All-or-Nothing Thinking

“No person is completely wicked, just as no person is perfect. We are all grey”

― Sweety Shinde

You’re either successful or you’re worthless. You’re smart or you’re stupid. You’re a writer or you’re an artist. Your life is wonderful or it’s terrible. Something is right or it’s wrong. These are examples of all-or-nothing type thinking (also called black-and-white thinking).

For example, a person suffering from all-or-nothing type thinking might struggle with a single question during a long job interview. Despite the interview only being 5% bad (only struggling on a single question), they will say the interview was a bad interview.

This is a negative thinking pattern that's common in people with panic disorder, depression, or other anxiety-related issues. It is also not all that uncommon amongst people without the previous mentioned issues.

Recently, I am noticing a new trend with all-or-nothing type thinking. In the past, all-or-nothing type thinking was used more by people judging themselves (e.g. I am a success/I am a failure). Now it is being used more as a way of people viewing both other individuals, and the world at large.

For example, Jessica knows that she disagrees with her Governor on the topics of traffic cameras, the death penalty and increasing minimum wage. Jessica now hears her Governor’s thoughts on fracking. Despite the fact that Jessica knows zero about fracking, she instinctively disagrees with him. In Jessica’s mind, the Governor is always wrong.

Jessica has “all-or-nothing”ed the Governor.

Example #2: Cooper is against any type of gun control. Cooper has recently discovered a radio show where the host shares Cooper’s beliefs against any government action infringing on the rights of gun owners. Cooper likes this radio host and starts believing every single thing the host opinionates, solely due to the fact that they share an identical belief when it comes to gun control.

Things don’t need to be black or white, most things are shades of gray.

One can agree with a Liberal on one issue and a Conservative on another issue.

Agreeing on one single issue doesn’t mean that one subscribes to all of their beliefs.

Groomers (those abusers who use a technique known as “grooming” as a way to get their victims) know about this “all-or-nothing” type thinking, and they exploit it for their advantage.

The first thing that groomers do is they try to give off the impression that they are righteous and upstanding individuals. They will volunteer their time and their money to assist those in need.

They do this so that community members will be like Cooper in the second example. Just as Cooper took this one shared belief and expanded it across the board, likewise communities often view groomers as “righteous and upstanding” due to their volunteerism, and expand it across the board (i.e. he can’t be an abuser, look how much of an upstanding individual he is!).

The second thing that groomers do is they attempt to select victims who will not get them, the abuser, into trouble. One way of doing this is by selecting a victim who lacks believability within the community. Just like Jessica in the first example immediately dismissed what the Governor had to say about fracking, the community will immediately dismiss what this victim has to say about their abuse and their abuser.

Couple the two examples together and you have yourself someone who has mastered the art of grooming.

There is another flaw within all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to abusers. People mistakenly believe that an abuser not abusing a specific child or children is proof that he hasn’t abused any other child. The fact that ten out of the eleven boys in the karate class insist that their teacher never abused them does not mean that the eleventh boy is automatically lying.

If we want to start believing victims and stop protecting abusers, one of the things we must do, on both an individual level as well as a communal one, is to stop this poisonous all-or-nothing type thinking.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.

You can email Yisroel at
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Sunday, June 2, 2019

"Just Get Over It!"

There are life lessons to be seen everywhere, one just needs to have the right spectacles in order to properly see them.

The camp that I went to used to take us to a racquetball club on Fridays. This location had racquetball courts, basketball courts, aerobics classes and fitness equipment.

The last Friday that we went there, one of the campers got hurt on the treadmill. For reasons known only to him at the time, he set the treadmill to start at the fastest setting. Since he couldn’t start that quickly, he immediately fell, and his skin was damaged from landing face first on this fast moving treadmill. It took quite a bit until someone came and shut the machine for him.

Someone finally asked him why he started it on that setting. He replied “Last week I was on the treadmill for 45 minutes, and by the last five minutes, I was on that setting. I figured I would continue where I left off.”

This logic sounds so flawed when it comes to the treadmill, yet people try to apply this flawed logic to other areas as well.

One needs to build gradually in order to reach the level where they can run at the fastest speed. Starting at the fastest speed is a recipe for disaster.

You can’t start at your goal, you need to work towards your goal. Starting at your goal either means that your goal is too low, or that you won’t be able to successfully maintain your goal, due to the lack of buildup.

As foolish as this sounds when it comes to the treadmill, people do this all the time when it comes to dealing with trauma.

People tell others (or the victims try to tell themselves) that they “just need to get over it”.

If there were a pill that people who suffered from trauma (whether it be physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, or any of the countless other traumas a person might have to deal with during their lifetime) that would help them “move on with their life”, trust me, they would take that pill.
Dealing with a trauma, any type of trauma is a process. No different than many of the other processes in life. There are many steps, and there is a basic order than one must go through.

Please don’t try to convince someone (or yourself if you have had trauma) that they can circumvent the process by cutting to the finish line to “acceptance”

If you want to help someone suffering, be empathetic, be a listening ear. Assist them in getting the help that fits their need. Connect them with resources that are available to someone in their situation.

Under no circumstances should you tell them that they need to move on. Trust me, they already know that they need to. They want to. 

Processes take time. Sometimes they take much more time than one would like.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety. 
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here