There is a lot to consider in this article, especially around which vulnerabilities an abuser can take advantage of in order to groom a child, but this cannot be repeated often enough:
“Grooming can happen in person, but has become more prevalent online, especially in the age of COVID. That said, one of the most common misconceptions regarding grooming is that it’s perpetrated by the “creepy old man in the basement,” Hoppmeyer notes. While a minor can be groomed by a stranger, most child victims know their abuser, who often is a family member, a teacher, a coach — “people held in high regard who we knowingly have associated with minors,” says No Grey Zone co-host and fellow special victims prosecutor Kathryn Marsh.”
We simply haven’t stopped thinking that we would be able to spot an abuser, despite years and years of evidence to the contrary. As if they would appear as obvious predators like a tiger.
Let me give you an example, as a middle-aged white man, I am fully aware that my talking to a child I don’t know would raise a parent’s suspicions in a way that my wife doing the same thing doesn’t. Because, again, we think we know who is an abuser. (Hint, while it’s not super common, women do abuse children too)
But, add a cloak of familiarity and that suspicion is much less likely to be raised. Instead of an unknown child, I don’t know, what about a child I coach, or that I teach? What if I’m the father of one of your kid’s friends? Or I’m dating your sister, etc. Suddenly you’re not talking about a stranger, but someone you know, who probably seems like a nice guy, who’s been around you and your kids for a long time.
That’s our blind spot. We’re so busy looking for creepy, anti-social, stereotypes that we miss the charming abusers right in our midst, and we miss all the signs and hints that our kids might be dropping because we just didn’t stop to consider that adult to be dangerous. We just assumed they were safe, and our kids would somehow know better anyway.
Clearly, that strategy isn’t working.