Momfession Monday :: The Grooming Process of Child Sexual Abuse

I was 32 years old when I realized I had been part of a grooming process by my nearly 40 year old summer dance instructor when I was 14 years old.

My almost abuser made me feel comfortable, special . . . even safe . . . around him.

I didn’t think anything about it when he’d ask me to have lunch with him in a secluded space.

I didn’t feel uncomfortable when he’d offer to massage my sore muscles. 

I didn’t think it was strange that this 30-something-year-old man was confiding in me, a 14-year-old girl, about the grief he’d experienced from the death of his wife, that he learned chiropractic and massage techniques to help her be more comfortable towards the end of her life, and was happy to share these techniques with me.

Grooming is a technique sexual predators use on children.

No, I felt like were close friends. (I wonder now, if that story was even true, or if it was part of his ruse.)

I didn’t think a thing about it when his hands moved closer to areas no adult should ever touch on a child with each massage.

>> LISTEN :: How to Parent After Surviving Abuse :: Momfessions Podcast :: Episode 24 <<

The day his thumb grazed said areas, I kept my mouth shut because I honestly believed it was an accident and didn’t want to make him or myself feel uncomfortable by saying anything. After the first time this happened, I was walking out of the private area he had dubbed “our special place” and ran into another dance instructor.

She asked me what I was doing. I remember the fleeting feeling like I needed to keep “our special place” a secret . . . but in that moment, I truly believed nothing nefarious was going on, so I told her the truth. Mr. Ballet Instructor and I were having lunch and that he was helping me work through some soreness from classes. That was that.

I went along my merry way to my afternoon dance class. She continued her way to the private area I had just come from. Mr. Ballet Instructor was gone the next day and was never invited back to this summer-long dance camp — with no explanation provided.

I never heard from him again . . . and didn’t think about him again until I attended a child sexual abuse awareness and prevention session presented by MinistrySafe.

It's hard for kids to ask for help when they're sexually groomed by predators.

In this session, they had video footage of an interview with a serial child sexual abuser who shared his methods of grooming . . . creating a bond between him and the child, creating a space where the child feels safe, ever so slowly — hardly noticeable from the child’s perspective — pushing physical limits . . . a very methodical and intentional process to get to the end of the predators devastating means undetected. 

As I was listening, memories from my summer dance camp days with Mr. Ballet Instructor flooded into my mind. 

Looking back with my less-naive eyes, I can see clearly what was happening. I was so very lucky that I ran into another dance instructor and that I had chosen honesty when she asked what I was doing. I have no idea the conversation that was had between her and Mr. Ballet Instructor (if a conversation was even had), but I am very thankful for whatever or whomever it was that made him leave and not come back.

I now can clearly see where our visits were heading. These small and seemingly innocent moments were leading to a heartbreaking end.

>> RELATED READ :: Sexual Abuse Prevention Starts Now <<

Because hindsight is 20/20, here are three things I wish had been different in my home growing up in regards to sexual abuse prevention. These are things that I’m implementing in my home as a parent in hopes to bring awareness to better protect my own children

1. Educate not only myself, but also my kids, on topics of sexual abuse awareness and prevention, and discuss openly. I’m talking more than the “good touch, bad touch” conversation. My parents had the “that will never happen to us” mindset and thus, didn’t think it was important to talk about. In fact, we never talked about sexual abuse prevention topics at home. I got the “good touch, bad touch” conversation from a coach teaching sexual education in elementary school.

Here’s the thing: More times than not, a child sexual abuse predator is someone your child knows, someone your child feels comfortable with, someone who also works to gain your trust, too . . . an ultimate deceiver, a professional con artist. Programs like MinistrySafe are a great resource in child abuse prevention education. It can provide ways to talk with your kids on the subject as well.

2. Talk openly and honestly with my kids about body parts and sex in general. My two year old already knows correct verbiage for his body parts — testicles included. I asked my mom what sex was in fifth grade. She then signed me up for a sex ed class at school and that was that. We *NEVER* talked about sex or our body parts in my home — really, truly. NEVER. It was deemed an uncomfortable thing to talk about, so we didn’t talk about it.

Because it was deemed such an uncomfortable topic, made more uncomfortable from how my parents reacted about it, I don’t know what I would have done or if I would have said anything if/when Mr. Ballet Instructor made his move.

If talking about sex is something that makes you uncomfortable, maybe think about getting support from a counselor to help work through your feelings of discomfort to open the doors to having these types of conversations with your kids. It helped me!

3. Teach my kids consent. No need to re-invent the wheel as another writer shared a great article all about teaching kids consent! Read “Teaching Consent Isn’t Optional :: A Parent’s Guide for Raising Aware Kids.”

What are other things we can do to teach ourselves and kids about sexual abuse prevention?

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