LINCOLN, (Neb.) More often than not experts say the person that sexually violates a child is someone the child knew and trusted.
The Child Advocacy Center says those offenders are able to get away with it by doing something called grooming. Grooming is essentially what a predator does to get access to a child.
CAC forensic interviewer Maja Cartwright says one of the most common misconceptions parents have is on the techniques predators use. "They're looking to see other people's behaviors and how they can manipulate those behaviors to their advantage. Really there isn't one set of standard rules, it's always something different," said Cartwright.
While each situation is different Cartwright says there are some commonalities in grooming techniques. Most predators start by grooming the child's parents or guardians, they do this to establish trust. They then transition to giving the child more attention. As they slowly develop a relationship, the predator tries to spend alone time with the child where they can test the child's boundaries and see how they react.
Throughout this entire process, experts say predators are often kind and charming. "It's kind of a front that they put on so when they are accused of something they can just use that as an excuse saying, 'I'm friendly with everybody'," said Cartwright.
Grooming itself is often hard to detect until after an incident occurs. However, there are some things you can do to minimize those opportunities the predators looks for.
Christy Prang with the Child Advocacy Center shows parents how they can protect their children from predators, who can be anyone from a coach, to a neighbor, or a family member. She says prevention starts by having open conversations with your child at a young age. "If that kid knows their private parts and body safety rules and somebody has talked to them, they're less likely to be a target," said Prang.
And one conversation isn't enough. she says daily check-in are also important. She also says you need to talk to your child about having a list of five trusted adults and if anything makes them uncomfortable that they need to tell all five adults. Prang says that makes it more likely that at least one of the adults will look into it and contact police if necessary.
One of the most important things you can tell your child is that you will believe them if they come to you with a concern.
Prang says you can also take steps to prevent a predator from putting your child in an uncomfortable position. First eliminate or minimize the opportunity of an adult spending one on one time with your child alone. If you plan on dropping your child off at a facility, you should inspect the building and make sure there are no windowless areas an adult can be alone with your child.
Even if you think your child is safe Prang strongly encourages making unexpected visits and checking in on your child.