As personal injury attorneys, we more commonly hear about cases of Catholic, male priests targeting young boys than members of the public at large raping kids. Parents complain there seems to be a push to normalize sex between adults and tiny children. The state, they say, has seemingly become a willing partner in targeting young boys for sexual assault, particularly for assaults by adult males. With the passage of SB 145 doing away with the law requiring a convict’s name on the registered sex offender’s list (Megan’s Law), parents must be more cautious.
But the priest, preschool, or elementary school teacher example is the model, serial child sexual predators desire. The physical and mental disabilities that can result from predator/prey relationship problems faced by young boys, particularly become sexual identity problems and mental disorders following children into their adult lives. Little girls face similar issues.
Sexual grooming is often the precursor to most cases where adults abuse children. Recent cases like Harvey Weinstein and Epstein show that the rich and powerful prefer raping children and other lewd acts. Sexual grooming is when the perpetrator follows a particular method or ritualized pattern before committing a sexual crime to win their victim’s trust and other people around the victim.
In most cases, children become the victims, but victims can also be adult people who are vulnerable. This preparatory process that most child abusers will follow needs to be understood in detail for parents and children to be prepared for any horrible event.
For parents and professionals to prevent such crimes from taking place, the process of sexual grooming must be understood in detail. Such deep knowledge and analysis of the whole process can help prove intentions of future sexual activity and the crime of sexual grooming (in jurisdictions where it is considered a crime) where the testimony given by the victim is not very clear. Let us look at the common aspects of sexual grooming that most perpetrators will reflect on during the process.
Sexual grooming can take place in the following settings:
Defining the sexual grooming process depends on who you ask. The definition created by SMART – the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking – is basically:
A grooming process where the offender tries to win a child’s trust and the trust of people around that child, giving the criminal access to the lonely child. Some cases involving sexual grooming see the offender use threats and intimidation to scare the child into silence. In most cases, the sexual offender will build a trusting relationship with the child’s family.
The process begins when the offender makes their instruction to the family by pretending to be very caring and helpful. During this bonding process, the offender gets closer to the child, building more trust with supervising adults. By winning the adults’ confidence around the child, the offenders position themselves around the child without doubting the offender’s ill intentions.
The reason why the offender goes through the grooming process is because of the offender:
There are some common aspects associated with the behavior of a child abuser. The most common factors can be detected in the offender’s behavior when preparing the child for sexual activity and abuse.
The common behavioral factors to detect and identify the ill intents of a child abuser are as follows:
These are the general behaviors that most child abusers will possess and are quite un-doubtable. However, these offenders might also take a different route wherein they do activities directly explicit and arousing for the children.
Such activities can include but are not limited to:
These are some of the many things such offenders will do to stimulate the sexual organs so that children won’t be able to notice the ill intent.
Protection Of Children From Such Abusers
People need to understand what sexual grooming means. They are responsible for bringing it to the authorities’ notice when they notice such acts in their surroundings. Keeping law enforcement departments informed is the only way to end such a practice. Furthermore, many might think such preparatory methods adopted by sex offenders are only preliminary acts before committing the crime. The truth is that in many jurisdictions, in certain circumstances, such as sexual grooming is a crime per se.
The law’s code dealing with this matter is called the federal enticement statute. The code mentioned under section 2422 considers the use of interstate commerce by any individual for enticing, coercing, and persuading an underage child (under 18) to do any activity that can be considered illegal and calls it an offense.
We can see that the state has taken an unequivocal stance on the sexual exploitation of the child and the preparatory procedure followed by the child abusers – referred to as sexual grooming. An important point to note in the federal statement about the act is that it focuses on the effects of such activities on the child’s future actions rather than emphasizing the perpetrator’s intentions.
We can see that section 2422(b) does not focus on the offender’s intentions while trying to arouse, entice, or persuade a child. It emphasizes that if such arousal and persuasion result in pushing a child towards an activity that is considered illegal by law, the offender will violate the code and be apprehended. There is an excellent example in the United States v. Chambers case, where Chambers had presented an argument that he could not be convicted because he never had any intentions of meeting the girl. The girl, in this particular case, was an FBI agent.
However, The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Chambers, asserting he violated the code by taking substantial steps towards abusing that child. The court referred to the definition of grooming and stated that his actions reflected a pure sexual grooming form.
The jury’s verdict returned, stating that Chambers had taken enough steps to prove his ill intent. He had failed to materialize his dream, but his actions violated Section 2422(b) enough for the prosecutor to file charges and make their arrest. Moreover, Chambers continuously chats with his 14-year-old victim about sexual topics over the internet. He even showed his victim sexually arousing content, urging her to touch her genitalia and preparing her for intercourse by explaining the act of sex.
Several state statutes follow the federal enticement of minor laws enforced through national offices. We can use the Illinois example as a tool to identify and prove the elements of sexual grooming on the internet, local bulletin board services, etc. Their goal remains arousing or enticing a child or their caretakers, preparing them for an offense covered under section 2 of the Sex Offender Registration Act. Civil liberties and child welfare advocates dislike these anti pedo laws with their strict liability against abusers.
We must admit that many of the behaviors associated with child abusers would seem familiar to other non-abusing people. For example, a child abuser would give a child gifts, but an average person with good intentions might do the same. In this scenario, courts, where preparatory procedures by an abuser are considered a standalone crime, can use expert testimony on the behavior of the child abuser and take help from this testimony in concluding the case. Many pundits believe analysis experts will significantly help people understand the offender’s modus operandi.
The United States v. Hitt is an excellent example of a case where prosecutors use experts against offender Hitt, who allegedly intended to have sexual intercourse with a child he enticed to cross beyond state borders. Hitt was too interested in the child and went to several places with the child, such as movies, ice skating, etc., and had the intention of being involved in illicit sex with the child. Experts provided their testimony to shed Light on most child abusers’ behaviors as part of the sexual grooming process.
Hitt stated such testimony did not prove his intentions, and the analyses were generic. However, the government did not agree with Hitt in this case, declaring other courts had accepted such testimonies. Hence, there was no issue.
Courts allow the state to use expert testimony as child sex grooming evidence, and such cases have already taken place in courts. The government takes this step when the victim cannot narrate their victimization competently. Light v. Martel accepted indirect expert testimony as evidence to help provide full details of grooming behavior, explaining methods used by child sex groomers.
The behavioral aspects mentioned in the testimony were similar to what Light had been doing with young victims. He did some things he dings gifts to little girls, getting them interested in him by showing them cartoons, etc. The court accepted the testimony because it made things easier to solve, making it helpful and relevant to the case.
Training And Advocacy On The Matter
Society must know the details of sexual grooming and take timely measures when they see such activities. Specialists must train the legal community about sexual grooming by providing lawyers with suitable materials to serve their clients better.
What We Conclude
Child abuse cases are not rare. Parents must look out for people with authority over their kids, rejecting notions of blind faith that our government is our protector. CPS is just as likely to remove your children from custody for not being vigilant as the prosecutor would be in going after the predator you negligently trusted. The stories are on TV almost all the time. If you haven’t seen anything near you, something must have happened in a town a little far away.
Some abusers might be grooming a child while you read these lines. We cannot compete with such evil in society unless we have the proper knowledge, and we are ready to spread this knowledge further and stop such happenings as soon as we come across them. Law enforcement must devise better ways of informing communities about child abuse, sexual grooming, and child abuse prevention.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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