Perpetrators of sexual
violence against children, recognise that the opportunity to gain access to a
child without causing unwanted suspicion, is through trust. This trust lays
within the child’s environment, such as, their parents, hobbies or friends.
Statistics suggest that in most
cases, the abuser is well known by the victim, and holds a position of trust to
them, such as family member, close friend, doctor, babysitter or neighbour.
The perpetrator will overcome
external factors such as opportunity, by placing themselves within a situation
which enables them to gain the trust of
a child, and it’s parents. It is
recognised that one of the methods perpetrators utilise is ingratiating
themselves to parents, for example, at a school parents evening a teacher may praise the child’s work whilst offering extra tutoring to enable the
student to improve. This would present the perpetrator with a valid reason, and
opportunity, to have a prolonged timeframe to get physically close to the child
that would not arouse suspicion.
A further approach that
perpetrators use to gain access is by natural opportunity, for example, being a
grandparent would allow unlimited access to a child without raising suspicion.
Sexual predators utilise internet
communication tools such as, chat rooms, gaming sites, instant messaging apps,
e.g. WhatsApp or social networks, e.g. Facebook, to make contact with children.
The web offers a perpetrator
more opportunities to have unrestricted access to a child, for several reasons,
which include; parents limited knowledge of social media, and that it is considered
the social norm for children to chat online, which enables the access to
With their objective focused
on gaining the confidence and trust of the victim, and to persuade the victim to
participate in online and offline sexual activity, the perpetrator will usually
pose as another child of the same age, to enable them to be accepted more
easily into the social environment.
Over time, by listening to
their problems and giving them gifts and compliments, the perpetrator will
build up trust with their victim. Once a rapport is built and trust has formed,
the perpetrator will start to sexualise the online conversations. This may involve
encouraging the child to email suggestive photographs of themselves; expose
themselves on webcam; or to meet the predator in person.
It is recognised that perpetrators
have actively sought out vulnerable targets such as single mothers in places
where there will be a high concentration of children, such as a schoolyards or
Once the perpetrator has selected
to gain their trust, they will actively seek to gain information about the child and place themselves in surroundings where
they can give their future victim attention.
The perpetrator will seek out to win the trust of the parent/guardian, and over time
exploit a situation to find a valid opportunity to be isolated with the child
without raising suspicions, for example offering the child a lift home. The perpetrator will move to make the
relationship sexual in the isolation stage, for example gradually introducing
innocent activities such as tickling or play fighting (Estey & Bomberger LLP, 2018).