Many people who abuse children have had some kind of problem in their early childhood. For nearly half, that problem has included being sexually abused themselves. This doesn't mean that anyone who has been abused will abuse others - most don't. People tend to abuse when a problem history and a sexual attraction to children are both present. Many people who abuse have difficulty relating to adults and spend a lot of time with children. It is important to remember that most of these people are not paedophiles, in that they also have sexual relationships with other adults.
People cause sexual harm to children they have access to and who seem vulnerable; that is, who seem isolated, sad, or children who would most likely keep quiet about the abuse. This person might threaten the child into secrecy.
People who cause sexual harm to children are great at covering it up. Many will deny to themselves and to others that they are doing anything wrong.
Sexual abuse is not usually something that ‘suddenly’ happens. Most who cause sexual harm to children spend some time thinking about sexual acts with children. They plan carefully to create opportunities to be alone with children (e.g. taking them out for drives, camping or baby-sitting). The fact that those who cause sexual harm usually take their time can give well-informed parents, caregivers and children the chance to prevent abuse happening in the first place.
A big problem is that, most often, the ways in which someone starts to cause sexual harm to a child doesn’t look like abuse at all. Appearing nice, friendly and caring helps the person because of the trust gained. People are often not suspicious of their behaviour.
Grooming may take many forms. It may occur through:
- Favouring one child over others\n
- Bribing the child by buying them presents or giving them money\n
- Enticing the child away from protective adults (e.g. taking the child on outings without other adults and children)\n
- Taking an undue interest in the child’s physical appearance\n
- Safe touching which becomes increasingly intimate and inappropriate\n
- Showing sexual pictures to the child\n
- Talking about sex with the child\n
- Repeatedly invading the child’s privacy\n
What is a paedophile?
A paedophile is a child abuser whose primary sexual attraction is toward children. Most people who sexually abuse children are not paedophiles.