By Pat Kingsley: B.Psyche intern

The sexual abuse of children wreaks lasting damage in the lives of victims.

If survivors are not given the necessary physical, emotional and psychological support and treatment after such an event, a person can experience ongoing re-victimisation and debilitating symptoms for years. These symptoms may also include depression, guilt, anxiety, shame , humiliation, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, negative self-image, alcoholism , drug abuse and eating disorders to name but a few.

Paedophilia can best be described as a strong sexual attraction to children and/or early adolescents.

Grooming” is a term used to describe the emotional and/or sexual engagement process that occurs between a paedophile and his/her victim. The main purpose of “grooming” is to break down any form of resistance that a victim may offer; to soften up a victim and convince them that sexual engagement is normal and desirable.

Paedophiles tend to use a combination of enticement and entrapment.

– These methods could include the use of deceit, rewards, merit systems , secrecy, private letters and messages between the child and the paedophile , exposing the child to pornographic material and / or including the child in such, blackmail, threats of exposure to parents and friends.

This process tends to escalate in intensity, until full sexual engagement has occurred.

There must be opportunity (privacy) if the abuser is to be successful. Be aware of the whereabouts of your child. Only allow your child to be in a trusted adult’s company. Be especially aware of who they are talking to over the internet. The internet has proven to be a very useful tool in the “grooming” process.


While there are many ways in which paedophiles track and start relationships with children, the following information may be useful for parents and teachers alike.

§ Children can be groomed over many weeks, months and years.

§ For paedophiles, age, physical attributes, personality and degree of vulnerability are important when choosing their victims.

§ Grooming often involves targeting the intended child’s family which is also befriended and groomed to trust the paedophile completely with the child.

§ Paedophiles find families by looking for single parents on dating sites and in the personal section of newspapers.

§ They also trawl adverts of people looking for babysitters.

§ Because paedophiles pay attention to children’s interests (current bands and TV shows, as well as fashion trends and language), they are able to engage with children and gain their trust.

§ When looking after the child, they allow the child to eat things they’re not supposed to, let them stay up late and watch TV programmes there are not normally allowed to.

§ This gets the child to start keeping all kinds of secrets and show the child that they can trust the paedophile with their secrets.

§ The paedophile becomes the child’s ‘special friend’ and they do ‘special things’ together.

§ The paedophile will show the child lots of affection, starting with hugs and cuddles, and slowly becoming more sexualised like kissing and touching.

§ The paedophile may introduce the child to pornography to show the child that it is normal and something ‘everyone’ does.

§ Throughout this process, the paedophile will assess the child’s ability to keep all these things secret.

§ The child starts to need this ‘friendship’ and will be willing to do things to keep up the relationship.

§ Even though the child is being sexually abused, they will return to the paedophile because they don’t want to lose the friendship and are afraid that if they don’t obey the paedophile, there will be negative consequences.

§ The paedophile will play on the child’s emotions and thoughts, because in some cases the child may even become sexually aroused. This will make the child feel guilty because if they are aroused, it means that they must have wanted it.

§ Eventually the child will go beyond the preferred age and the paedophile will then reject the child, or get the child to ‘recruit’ other children.


There are a few signs parents, guardians and teachers should pay attention to which may reveal that the child is being sexually abused:

§ Scratches, bruises and complaints of pain in the genital area.

§ Sexual knowledge that is inappropriate for their age, such as words they use to describe their private parts.

§ Drawings of a sexual nature, such as people without clothes or showing private parts in detail.

§ Inappropriate sexual behaviour such as rubbing up against people and excessive masturbation.

If you need assistance

Please contact us on our Trauma Support Helpline

0861 467 348

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