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9 Tactics Predators Use to Groom Kids: Red Flag Phrases Every Parent Needs to Know.

As parents, we all want to keep our kids safe from harm. We teach our kids to wash their hands, cover their mouths, buckle up the seat belts, and always wear a helmet when riding a bike.

Sexual Abuse Prevention is a bit more complicated than that. But, it doesn't have to be scary or difficult.

The good news is that with investing a minimal amount of time in sexual abuse prevention education, parents and kids can be empowered. Learning about sexual abuse prevention can help parents protect their kids immediately.

Abusers have specialized methods to choose and manipulate victims through a variety of techniques and tricks. They try to gain the trust of the child and family first and eventually move toward "grooming."

Learning about the tactics and tricks abusers use will help parents be more aware. Here are some red flag phrases and tactics abusers may use.

Sexual Predators come in all shapes and sizes. They can be men, or women. Statistically speaking they are more likely to be heterosexual men.

Below are some of the Red Flag Phrases that you need to look out for and can be part of the grooming process. Our job as proactive parents is to learn the facts about sexual abuse, minimize the risk, and teach our kids about safety.

Here are some red flag statements to be aware of and talk about as part of your family safety plan.

1. "Can you keep a secret?"

Tactic: Secrecy

Sexual abuse thrives under layers of secrets. If your child hears this phrase from an adult, it is a HUGE red flag.

A skilled abuser may first ask a child to keep a secret that seems innocent, saying things like

  • "Let's keep this treat our little secret."

  • "Don't tell your mom we got ice cream before dinner."

These are small, benign secrets that seem harmless.

When confident the child has kept those types of secrets the abuser will move on to acts of sexual abuse, demanding secrecy about that behavior as well. At that point, the child may feel so guilty and ashamed that he or she feels they cannot tell.

What you can do:

Tell young children that they must never keep secrets from their parents.

  • Watch our video on secrets.

  • Implement a no secrets rule.

2. "You're my special friend."

Tactic: Friendship

Abusers try to build up relationships with kids by promoting common interests. They also try to establish trust with kids by attempting to make children feel special or unique. An abuser will try to gain the affection of his or her intended victim by sharing these likes and things they have in common.

What you can do:

  • A good rule of thumb to remember is that kids need age-appropriate friends, and adults need adult friends.

  • Communicate and connect with your kids about boundaries and rules.

3. "Let's spend some quality alone time together."

Tactic: Isolation

A big red flag! Adults have adult friends, not "special" kid friends. Any activity that requires an adult to be alone with a child is not safe, especially overnights. Abusers try to normalize certain behaviors and lower inhibitions. So, a situation where a child must change clothing or do a sleepover is inherently risky.

What you can do:

  • Don't let your kids spend time with adult "friends", not even your adult friends.

  • Implement the rule of three. This rule requires that there should always be at least three people present - one adult and two or more children, or two adults and one child.

4. "Does somebody need a hug?"

Tactic: Affection

Pats on the back, a hug to say goodbye- may be completely acceptable in many circumstances. Because of this, many predators seek careers where they have easy access to children. Be aware of your child's reactions to other adults and comfort levels regarding physical affection. Do they avoid certain people?

What you can do:

  • Teach your children that if they ever feel uncomfortable about any physical contact, they need to tell you.

  • Learn about consent and teach body autonomy to your little ones from an early age.

  • Ask if anybody makes them feel uncomfortable with affection.

5. "Want to hear a dirty joke?"

Tactic: Humor

An abuser can lure a child closer by using jokes and games. These may start "G" rated. But, soon lead to "dirty" jokes, showing children online pornography, or by introducing sexual games. Part of the grooming process is trying to normalize sexual language and sexual activity.

If your child is old enough to have internet access, make sure you are monitoring emails, texts, video games, and social network messages. A predator may send explicit materials through social media apps and video games. They may ask or demand inappropriate photos from your child. Kids can get easily trapped and scared in this predicament. What is alarming is how it starts. It starts with a liked post or a hello and seems harmless. Kids and adults can be easily tricked by these master manipulators.

What you can do:

  • Talk about online safety and show your child how a person can trick kids.

  • Communication is key here. Let your kids know if they make any mistake here, to come tell you and you will support and help in a judgement free zone.

  • If age appropriate explain what sextortion is and show examples of real children who were victims.

  • Consider installing Apps like BARK to help protect and monitor your child.

6. "Your parents don't understand you. I know how you feel."

Tactic: Empathy

Sometimes, kids can feel isolated or alone, especially during family duress. Separations, divorce, or other changes in family structure or location can make kids more vulnerable.

Abusers target single moms for this exact reason.

Predators often target kids who feel isolated from their peers by using empathy.

What you can do:

  • If your family does go through a stressful period, pay attention. A great family counselor can help get ahead of some of these issues.

  • Do NOT invite new boyfriends or partners to have unsupervised access to your children.

  • Be extremely careful of introducing new people to the kids.

  • Don't let new partners sleep over when the kids are home.

7. "Your parents will never forgive you if they find out what we did, you didn't say No!"

Tactic: Shame

A child is not able to give consent in a sexual relationship. The blame/ shame, control game is hard to handle. The predator will use a child's confusion and fear as they attempt to maintain control over the victim. This type of same tactic is common between child on child abuse as well.

What you can do:

  • Kids need to know that no matter how long any inappropriate contact or abuse has gone on, it is NEVER their fault, and you will always help, protect, and love them.

  • Review with kids that it is always ok to tell and you will always believe them.

8. "Let's Play the Pocket Game"

Tactic: Normalizing/Desensitizing

Desensitizing child to touching and discussion of sexual topics:

An abuser might start to touch the child in in ways that appear harmless, such as hugging, tickling, close dancing and later escalate to increasingly more sexual contact.

Including games that including hiding objects or money on underpants. Massages, and asking to shower at the same time.

Abusers may also show the victim pornography or take children to sexually explicit shows or movies. They may encourage sexual topics with them in a fun setting - to introduce the idea of sexual contact.

What you can do:

  • Review body safety rules and body boundaries. And encourage your child to tell you if anything every happens like this.

  • Remind them you are a safe adult and will help them. All kids need to know that sexual abuse is never a child's fault.

9. "It’s Normal! Everyone takes friends to

Drag Queen Shows and Strip Clubs!"

Tactic: Inclusion

Abusers like to make their behavior seem normal, to avoid concern.

For older teens, who may be closer in age to the abuser, it can be really hard to see the tactics used in grooming. Because teens are more impulsive and willing to explore.

What can you do:

  • Be alert for signs that your teen has a relationship with an adult that includes secrecy, controlling behavior, overly touchy, encouraging drinking or drugs, money, gifts, and sneaking around.

  • Have constant and ongoing communications about body safety, body safety, and consent at every age. Talk to your kids about the dangers of drinking and encourage healthy, appropriate relationships with peers.

Parents have the immense responsibility of trying to protect their families from sexual abuse. The best way to add a layer of protection is to educate yourself and your kids about sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can be prevented when parents learn the facts about sexual abuse and minimize the risks for the family.

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1 Comment

Helen Nalubowa
Helen Nalubowa
Nov 11, 2022

Very insightful. Thank you very much for the time and resources you put to support both the children and us the parents. I personally respect this very much.

As my token of thanks am going to post this information on every social media group I have access to.

Thanks may God bless you with everything good to do His will

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