Parents and caregivers should make sure that their children do not fall prey to sexual groomers.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development says sexual grooming occurs when a person educates, introduces or prepares a child to perform, witness any sexual act or become sexually ready. A child is usually unaware that the person is grooming them for sexual acts because this person is often nice to the child.
“In most instances, after realising the motive of the person, the child is usually scared to speak or report this because the incident could have been taking place over a long period. This is a crime and must be reported,” says the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on its website.
Childline South Africa (ChildlineSA) National Executive Dumisile Nala advised parents and caregivers that people who exploit children sexually usually seem very ordinary and ‘normal’.
Sexual offenders do not have a particular personality type, says Nala.
“These people appear safe and may also develop relationships with a parent to obtain access to a child.
“Children and their caretakers may believe that the intention of the adult concerned is quite innocent, whereas the exposure or contact may be the beginning of a ‘grooming’ process and the child may be increasingly drawn into a relationship that becomes exploitive and abusive,” says Nala.
Exposing a child to pornographic material
According to Nala, some sexual groomers expose children to pornographic material which stimulates a sexual interest that may not be appropriate for the age, stage and level of development of the child.
“It may influence and shape their sexual orientation and activity especially as they may lack other sexual experience and therefore have no other reference point for healthy and responsible sexual behaviour.”
Sometimes children are contacted by adults with a sexual interest in children through cell phones and other points of contact through the internet.
Nala says parents and caregivers must be vigilant of how their children consume online material.
Act against child grooming
The South African Police (SAPS) service says the misuse of available technologies gives perpetrators new avenues to groom and exploit children.
“Parents are called to implement strict measures which will ensure that their children do not fall prey to sexual predators lurking on the internet,” says the SAPS.
It is recommended that parents supervise their children’s access to the internet and social media.
The SAPS called on parents and caregivers to keep an eye out for changes in their child for signs of grooming.
“Being overly secretive about online activities, having an older boyfriend or girlfriend, meeting people at unusual places, suddenly having new possessions or having access to alcohol or drugs are some signs to look out for.”
The SAPS emphasised the importance of educating children on the dangers of sexual grooming.
Did you know?
- National Child Protection Week is commemorated from 29 May – 5 June 2022.
- The campaign is led by the Department of Social Development in partnership with key government departments and civil society organisations rendering child protection services.
- The campaign calls upon all South Africans to support Child Protection Week by ensuring that children do not suffer abuse.
- If you are a victim of gender-based violence(GBV) or know someone who is being abused call the GBV Command Centre on 0800 428 428, or send a ‘Please Call Me’ to *120*7867# or SMS ‘help’ to 31531. A Skype Line is also available for members of the deaf community (add ‘Helpme GBV’ to your Skype contacts). The centre operates 24 hours, seven days a week.
- Victims or parents may report any suspected child grooming to their nearest police station or call Crime Stop at 08600 10111
- For more information about ChildlineSA call 116.