The past week has been a firestorm surrounding the Penn State Child Sexual Abuse scandal. We have by now figured out what when wrong. We know horrible mistakes were made. We know horrific crimes were committed. Many of us are left reeling. How could this happen? Is this happening in our community?

Walking in on a child being raped is obviously Child Sexual Abuse in progress. However, it didn’t start “just like that”. Sandusky had a process that he followed to gain access to that child. So how exactly do predators get to the point where they have complete access to a child and complete immunity within a community?

The answer is simple. It is called grooming.

We hear about grooming of children, but before that can happen, a predator must groom the adults. Grooming adults clears the way to victimizing children. If we want to stop children from becoming victims, we need to be able to identify when adults are being tricked and groomed and what the predators grooming steps are.

Steps and Signs of Grooming:

Identifies opportunities, organizations and communities with children
Builds trust through friendships and/or leadership (with the adults and children)
Begins to identify potential victims
Gains access to children
Begins testing boundaries (with children and adults)
Provides presents, praise and privileges (to both the adults and the children)
Creates secrecy
Abuse begins
Uses threats (towards children and sometimes adults) to keep their crimes secret

Adults are responsible for keeping the children in our lives safe. If you observe what you believe is grooming in progress it is your duty to intervene. Talk to a supervisor, talk to your partner, talk to the police, talk to a specialist in Child Sexual Abuse prevention. Limit that person’s access to children immediately. Predators like to fly under the radar. If you start making noise and asking questions you will make it harder for them to be stealth in committing their crimes against children.