We've been dating for a year though. This seems like I'm overreacting. He's a good guy. I think he just wanted to try something different. I promise he doesn't hurt me
A predator might pay special attention to a child and make him or her feel special. They will get to know the child’s likes and dislikes very well. A predator is likely to try to win over the affection of his or her intended victim by sharing these likes. “I got us a box of your favorite candy to share.” or to an older child: “You like that band? That’s my favorite band. I could get us tickets to their next concert.”
• A predator might isolate your child by involving him or her in fun activities that require them to be alone together. Part of the manipulation process is lowering the inhibitions of children. A skilled predator who can get children into a situation where they must change clothing or stay overnight will almost always succeed in victimizing them. An adult who invites your child to sleep over at his or her house alone should raise a red-flag warning to you.
• A predator might touch your child in your presence so that he or she thinks that you are comfortable with the touching. This act might be as simple as draping an arm over the child’s shoulder or asking for a hug to say goodbye. Be aware of your child’s reactions to other adult’s touches. Does your child stiffen or seem uncomfortable? Also, never force your child to show affection to anyone when they aren’t comfortable doing so. This leaves the impression that forced physical contact is okay.
• Keep in mind that the first physical contact between a predator and his or her victim is often nonsexual and designed to desensitize the child. It breaks down inhibitions and leads to more overt sexual touching. It may begin as an “accidental” bump or rub, an arm around the shoulder, a brushing of hair. Teach your children that any physical contact between child and adult is something to be wary of and questioned.
• A predator might take advantage of a child’s natural curiosity about sex by telling “dirty” jokes, showing him or her pornography or by playing sexual games. If your child starts to talk (uncharacteristically) about sex and things related to it, never overlook this kind of development because it might be a sign that he or she is being groomed. Be aware of the physical signs as well. If your toddler is masturbating or trying to touch others inappropriately, this may be a sign that there is a problem.
• A predator may offer to play games or buy treats for young children. To lure older children or teenagers, they may offer to buy drugs or alcohol. After awhile, the predator starts to ask something in return. This “something” may be a sexual act or forcing the child to watch pornographic material. Pornography is often part of the grooming process in order to lower a child’s inhibitions. If your child is old enough to have internet access, make sure you are monitoring his or her email and social networking correspondence. A predator will send explicit materials this way as part of the grooming process.
• A predator might present him or herself as a sympathetic listener when parents, friends and others disappoint a child. Predators often target adolescents who feel isolated from their peers. “Your parents don’t understand you, but I do,” “I can tell you’re lonely. I was the same way at your age,” he or she may say to a child they are trying to lure. Unfortunately, children of single parent homes are frequently preyed upon because they are seen as vulnerable or having a void that needs to be filled. Male predators have been known to seek out single mothers to gain access to their children.
• A predator might eventually treat the child victim as a co-conspirator in their “relationship”. Saying things like, “Your parents would be angry at both of us if they found out what we did.” In order to abuse the child and minimize the fear of discovery, a sexual predator will often times share secrets with the victim. The victim is made to believe that they are being trusted with something of value, before being asked to share something of value with his or her abuser. This bonds the victim to the predator, setting the tone for more sinister secrets to be shared.