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Study summarised:

The grooming of children for sexual abuse in religious settings: Unique characteristics and select case studies

The summary:

This study includes some important information that should be considered and can be used to help you understand grooming; investigate such cases and support arguments in your court report, especially when it occurs in a religious institution.

  • As a child protection social worker you might work with children who have or who might still be groomed and potentially sexually abused by perpetrators within religious institutions.
  • The goal of this paper was to examine the grooming of children for sexual abuse in religious settings.
  • This paper provides a summary of grooming literature, grooming and abuse in religious settings and then it examines specific case studies in which this grooming process was evident.
  • This paper is thus not empirical in that the authors did not do their own research – they examined the variety of literature available on the topic of grooming especially in religious settings.

The significant findings are:

  • The paper confirms that there are different definitions of grooming but also confirms that some consensus has emerged around several significant features within the process of grooming. The authors of this paper, refer to, among others, one comprehensive definition of grooming by Craven et al. (2006): a process by which a person prepares a child, significant adults and the environment for the abuse of the child. Specific goals include gaining access to the child, gaining the child's compliance and maintaining the child's secrecy to avoid disclosure. This process serves to strengthen the offender's abusive pattern, as it may be used as a means of justifying or denying their actions (Craven et al., 2006, p. 297).
  • Three types of grooming are then described with reference to the above author.
  • Common practices by perpetrators whilst grooming is described.
  • The paper describes how religious power, authority, patriarchy, and opportunity merge to foster conditions that some individuals exploit to groom and sexually abuse children- references to specific cases in which this happened is then looked at.

How can you relate this to practice?

  • If you still don’t understand grooming 100%, simply reading this paper might help you better understand what grooming is.
  • If you need a reference when you define grooming in your court report – you can use this paper as a reference.
  • If you have a case where you suspect or where someone else suspects that a child is being groomed, especially in a religious setting like by a pastor or another religious leader, reading this paper might help you understand how this could be happening and help you identify possible strategies being employed in the case - or not.
  • If a child is being groomed by someone of authority in a religious set-up, and you have reasonable grounds to believe this, read this article to see how it relates to what you have seen on the case – if there are similarities and you are worried about the child, you can use this article as a reference in your court report, or perhaps to educate non-offending parents who are also subject to the grooming process, especially in a religious setting.
  • Grooming is dangerous and if you have a child on your case or you suspect that a child not on your case might be lured into grooming processes, educate yourself and those around you, and intervene if you have grounds to stop the process. Grooming is often one of the first steps to possible sexual abuse – a gross violation of a child’s constitutional rights!
  • As a form of prevention & early intervention – perhaps educate parents on your caseload about the dangers of grooming and what they must be on the lookout for in their different religious settings.
  • Share what you have learned in this article with colleagues, place of safety parents and children’s home/shelter caregivers and always remember to discuss the case and your thoughts with your supervisor or reliable senior colleague, two heads are always better than 1 ☺