CUSD Cares

Sexual Abuse- Types of Abusers and Grooming Process

January 14, 2022 Brenda Vargas, Dr.Floyd Godfrey Season 2 Episode 14
CUSD Cares
Sexual Abuse- Types of Abusers and Grooming Process
Show Notes Transcript

Brenda Vargas,   Director of Counseling and Social Services, speaks with Dr. Floyd Godfrey, Executive Director of Family Strategies Counseling Center, regarding sexual abusers and the grooming process used on victims. 

Brenda Vargas:

Welcome parents , some community members to another addition of CUSDcares. We are continuing on our conversation , with Executive Director, Family Strategies Counseling Center, and super expert in this field Dr. Godfrey , as we talk about our continued conversation on sexual abuse and all things that have to do with that. Welcome Dr . Godfrey. Thank you for again, joining us.

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Thank you for having me.

Brenda Vargas:

Today we're gonna actually be talking about abusers, the grooming process, what does that look like? And we just wanna put a disclaimer on here that this information that should be used just to educate, you know, we do not want anyone to think that in any way, this should replace any type of therapeutic services that you're currently getting and or that you would like to receive. So please understand this is some nuggets of information to help you and hopefully guide you. And of course, if you need any additional support or resources, feel free to reach out to the department of counseling and social services. So let's get started Dr . Godfrey, you know, when we think about the grooming process, as it pertains to sexual abuse, I think it's really important for our parents and community members to understand what is the first of all, what is the grooming process? How would we define it for folks to understand from a very, I guess, logical and practical standpoint?

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Yeah, that's a good question. Usually the grooming process involves this period of, gaining the child's trust and that can happen by , grooming the parents and the children so that the offender feels as though they're someone that they can trust. And , sometimes the parents are uninvolved caretakers don't know, but this would be someone who's actively trying to build the trust with the child and kind of push the limits a little bit with them As part of that grooming process, they're also going to be trying to get the child to maintain secrecy for things . So they have sort of a secret relationship there's things they might talk about or do that nobody knows and sort of make them feel like they're special buddies, so to speak. So it is this process and it happens over time of gaining the trust of the child , and maintaining secrecy with them , persuading them, even persuading parents, that this is a trustworthy adult. Usually offenders are someone , that the child already knows. So it's very rare that an offender would be a stranger off the street, trying to lure your child into a car with a piece of candy. That's, that's outdated that that rarely occurs. This is usually someone that you already know family already knows, and they're slowly grooming , so that they can get, you know, earn the child's trust and then take advantage.

Brenda Vargas:

I'm glad you brought you up the parent piece because I think in most instances, when we think about grooming in that process, we only think of the child, we don't think about how that grooming is extended to the parent and or caregiver. So thank you for reminding all of us of that. And one of the things that you mentioned in regards to the grooming process and what that visual, I mean , I think immediately when someone thinks of someone that's a possible person that could bring harm in a sexual way to one of our loved ones, we do have that visual of it being somebody kind of stranger, or , we don't think of someone that is in our close knit circle. Can you share with parents? what are the advantages as far as from a abuser standpoint? Why they, you choose someone that is in the close knit circle, I guess, category ,

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Well, it's typically easier for a perpetrator to, do it that way, you know, if you already have access to the child, you're already a family friend, it's easier to have. If you have the trust of the parents, they're going to give you time with the child, they're going to trust you already. It's easier to cross those lines, just randomly choosing a child off the street and abducting them is really difficult for an offender, you know, there's so many obstacles, people can see, it's obvious you're doing something wrong. Grooming behavior is so subtle, it's tricky, and so people don't always recognize it, you know, and it can be equated with what would be normal kind of behavior and that you don't realize something's out of place, so it's a lot more subtle. It's easier for an offender to find a victim by doing it that way.

Brenda Vargas:

And we'll circle back around to that I wanna talk about the shame piece and how it's used, especially when it's close knit, right. But let's first paint for parents and community. What does some of these grooming behaviors look like? You said it's subtle. So what should I be paying extra attention to if I'm a parent or caregiver of things that could be red flags.

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Yeah, that's a good question because examples might include seeking out, paying extra attention, special attention to a child, acting overly interested in the child , buying gifts or treats , you know, touching, hugging the child in front of parent or trusted adults, you know, make them making them feel that it's okay . And so, and you think about it, some of those behaviors would be okay, you know, to you want mentors in your child's life who pay special attention to them who act interested in them, or, you know, who , at on the holidays would buy them a gift or, you know , be affectionate with them. These are legitimate behaviors in a close knit relationship in a family relationship and close friends , kind of scenarios. And yet those are the kinds of behaviors that an offender can start to use against the child. And so watching for red flags, you know, this probably flows into another conversation. You really need to be teaching your child what's okay, what's not okay, what's appropriate, what's not. And then have an actively open style of communication with your child so that they tell you when something f eel was w rong, when they tell you that something feels off or that uncle Joey, or my coach, or my teacher said, or did this or that. So they can actively process it with you. And I think that's where most of it gets missed the child and the caretaker, the parent don't always have a close enough relationship t hat they can talk about disconcerting things or embarrassing things. And, and so the child sort of stuffs it inside and doesn't know whether it is okay or not okay and they're not comfortable talking with their mom or their dad or t heir grandma or whoever. And it's that lack of processing that really creates some of the problems kids don't know. And they look towards parents and caretakers to guide them and teach t hem. But if they hesitate to process and talk, and it's not just about abuse, any life issue, hat's where you're gonna run into a problem. So you've really gotta develop that early on with your kids.

Brenda Vargas:

And it's never too late. One of the things that I want to , would like for you to elaborate on that, I think is a really good communication to really talk about with our kids, is the boundaries piece, right? And establishing healthy boundaries, even with people that we trust and love.

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Yes. Yeah. So that's gonna be an important conversation at all stages of development. You know, even teenagers need to hear it. They may be snarky and say they don't, but they want to hear it, they need to hear it. And , starting at an early age, very simply just talking about , for example, touching private parts, you know, mom and dad may help you in the shower. And , but you're still gonna wash yourself in some areas. And the Dr. May touch you there to check things out, but, but other people don't touch you there and that's not okay. And that area's ticklish and it's supposed to be, but you don't let other kids tickle you there or touch you there. Very simple conversations like that to start out. And then as they get older, you know, you can adapt that for, they are in life, but having those kinds of conversations in terms of boundaries and also teaching kids to trust their instinct, if you don't like being touched in a certain way, it doesn't have to do with your private parts. Maybe, maybe a hug. And I don't, I don't like it. Uh , when somebody hugs me like that or like this, it's okay to say no to people and just teaching them that they can have the confidence to set a boundary with what's okay. What's not okay. Some boys may be more comfortable , uh, with knuckles and H and handshakes and high fives than , than giving a hug. Uh, there's just , and it's okay for them to assert themselves what they want, what they don't want, what they like, what they don't like and teaching them that to go with their instant , go with their guts. And it's okay to tell adults, no, and that's another something I think we miss sometimes as caretakers, we kids often feel like they need to look up to their senior or their, their adults, a in their lives, their coaches, their teachers. And they can never say no. And, and that's not true if something feels uncomfortable to you and, and it doesn't feel right, it's okay to say no to leave the situation and , and process it then cuz you have good communication with your mom or your caretaker, your parents, whoever that is. And go talk about that. And I told so and so no, I didn't like that. And , and let your parents help you with that. Let , let your caretakers guide you through that process of setting boundaries.

Brenda Vargas:

And I also think it's really important, especially, you know, as you're building these boundaries to establish with your own family and even your extended family to ask, you know , can I give you a hug? I know in certain cultures there's expectations and others, right. In , in which you treat your authority figures, family members. And so it can be different, but to ask and make it something that is part of a , a norm and , and within, within your communication with extended family members, especially for those maybe that you don't see and or those that maybe you don't see as often and, or even neighbors so that they can have the choice, as you stated, Dr . Godfrey to say yes or no.

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Yes, absolutely. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and be able to communicate and everything that's a little different and the culture you come from is a little different. Uh , when I , uh , spent time living as a student in Argentina, I remember getting there and everyone, you know, you would kiss people on the cheek and it , and it was so different, the close proximity , uh , I spent probably a month getting used to that, but my friends and my roommate were very good to, to teach me and help me and respectful, you know, Floyd doesn't really want that right now. He's still learning what it's like here. And, and, and sort of easing me into that in a way that I felt safe. Everyone was very respectful of that. And I picked up on what was appropriate and what was not, and give me some time to learn and , and kids need to learn that too. And what's appropriate for the family context versus what I do at school or how I interact with my teacher or my coach. And what's

Brenda Vargas:

Okay . And I think with , um, so many different blended families and, you know, extension of families and, you know , um, it can be so different. We can be talking out a variety of different cultures with even a one family structure, one family household. So , um, I'm glad you bring that up . That must have been a culture shock for you, but you know, kids are, will adjust and they're adaptable. Uh , you know, we just need to honor where, what they feel is okay. Even if it's not a norm, that culturally I is , is usually an expectation that we see. And as

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Parents and caretakers, I would add, sometimes you may have to step in because it , and you may need to tell other adults we're not comfortable with that in our family, or this is how we do it in our family and, and sort of set a boundary that way . So the child can watch you as a parent setting that boundary and telling, you know, uncle so and so , or aunt. So and so , or their neighbor. This is how we do it in our home and letting those other adults letting, watching them respect that boundary. So as here's my child watching me set a boundary with our neighbor, this is how we do it in our home. And the neighbor communicating with me as a parent and accepting that, thank you for telling me this is how we'll do it shows the child that it's okay to set boundaries, and this is how I want it, or don't want it or do it. And, and for another adult to comply , I with that is extremely healthy, never healthy for another parent or another adult to not comply with the requested boundary. And it doesn't matter if that's a family member, a neighbor, a teacher, a coach out of respect me, respect adults should and have the obligation to comply those kinds of boundaries. When

Brenda Vargas:

Asked a hundred percent , I think the , that modeling piece speaks volumes. Our kids are watching and listening and they're taking direction from us and learning from us, the words we use, how , how, how we state things, how we deal with things so that it's still done in a, in a loving and thoughtful way, but we're communicating, you know, I'm okay with this. Or, you know, this is just something that, you know, we don't do in our, we don't do in our family structure right now, or that that's pretty powerful for , um , our children , uh , and youth to see and hear that dialogue because oftentimes we're encouraging them to be nice and they may see that at as not be nice. And in some ways it might be viewed as disrespectful, but it's all in the words we use and how we communicate it . It can be done in a very loving and thoughtful way, both on the receiving and giving, you know, and yeah, and

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

I think I'll , I'll just add to that a little bit because where some challenge often comes in with families is when your child reaches adolescence and the adolescent themselves wants to push the boundaries a little bit and they find they start to have new feelings, romantic interests, and they start to push the lines a little bit in terms of touch and hugs and things like that. Still important. Then if we go back and talk about communication as a parent, even though your teenager might not want to hear it, be talking about what your morals are, what's appropriate , uh , you don't know how your boyfriend girlfriend might feel about certain things being very respectful, asking permission before you give, give a hug. For example, there are things you wanna be careful about and , and that's learning how to be an adult too. I would never just go up to an adult without asking permission, without establishing a relationship and start , uh , you know, pursuing whatever my interests are with that person. And , and so adolescence is gonna be a time. You still have to communicate, you still have to talk to your child about what's appropriate. What's not appropriate. What your , what morals are, how does romantic interests feed into all of this? How do you set boundaries in that very important, again, all the communication

Brenda Vargas:

Well, and even in the light of the times, and when you talk about, you know, even just a simple greeting, someone in the light of the, of times we're living in with COVID right, we wanna make sure we are appropriate and that <laugh> , we are mindful and respectful of what other people are comfortable. So I, I , I hope, and I think that , um , people are maybe more used to having that conversation. And if not though , last 20 some months have caused us to have to entertain. Um , yeah . Yeah. Um , but I wanna circle back around before we finish up Dr. Godfrey in regards to folks that sometimes find abusers, grooming, you know, our children and the fact that they are in our inner circle and how that further, or I guess helps them because of the shame piece. Right. If it's someone we know how that kind of perpetuates and, or stigmatizes people to, you know, be silent because it is someone that is in our close , close circle that we don't want to people to know either what happened or what, what did it make me feel good. And that whole grooming process even before.

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

So are you, are you referring then to if abuse does happen?

Brenda Vargas:

Yeah. And , and, and even, or before, like people I think are dismissive immediately because it's someone, you know, oh, gotcha . That couldn't possibly be what they intended, even though there was, I'm trying to think of some of the signs, like the tickling or inappropriateness, even though stop. Right. But I'm laughing and, or , um , possible unwanted touch. And that didn't make me feel comfortable. And I didn't know how quite to react to that as, as a, as a young person, but bringing that to the, of the parent or caregiver and it being either dismissed because of that shame piece. Well, they couldn't possibly have had any mal intent because that's, you know, so, and so who's in our inner circle and our close family or friend.

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Right, right. So, you know , if nothing has happened, I guess you go back to talking about , uh, just being very Frank in your communication style, being very open in your communication , uh , and teaching your child that it's okay. Just to be honest and to talk about it. I , I didn't really like that. And it could be totally innocent. It could be nothing, but it's still okay. Even if it's nothing it's still okay to say no, or I don't like that, or I'm uncomfortable with that. And, and that's part of learning to be an adult is to learn how to honestly communicate what your needs are. And , and you may have to teach that it's okay. Uh , even if it's a parent, if it's an adult, if it's a stepparent , uh , it's a grandma. It's okay. Even though we love grandma to tell her, no, it's okay to, you don't have to feel bad about yourself or that you're a bad , uh , you're a bad player on the team, or you're not a good enough granddaughter or, you know, all , all these things that kids might tell themselves, it's, it's more important. And just to be honest to yourself and say, I don't like that. And I didn't really like that. And how do I change that? And how do I set a boundary hurting someone's feelings is often where the shame comes from. I don't wanna hurt somebody's feelings. I don't want them to stop coming to Thanksgiving. I , you know, things of that nature. And , and you just have to swell that with some of appropriate encouragement that, that no one of any maturity is gonna be upset that you just speak your truth and say, I didn't like that. And that that's okay. And it doesn't mean you are bad for telling or saying something about it. It means you're being honest and you're being grown up and , and you're being more mature. And that's, that's the way that the world runs. You have to be open and honest.

Brenda Vargas:

Well, and if anything, outside of that, in re in , in the response of the person that is , um, giving the unwanted whatever, right. It , it would, it , it should be caused for a little bit of a concern, cuz we wanna honor and respect our youth, our children, if they're saying no and, or they don't know how to put it into words. I , but if that person is not receiving that well, I think it , it , it should, it should cause a parent or care caregiver to go, you know what no, you know, for whatever reason my son or daughter is not okay with that. And we're not gonna make it anything bigger than what it is other than they're saying no. And honor and respect that I don't wanna be . I don't want a child or youth to be shamed. Like, Hey, what's a big deal. And you know, that being blown outta proportion from the person on the re on the giving end. Yes . To paint them as you know , um, I guess exaggerated , um, I don't know how else to put this. Um, yes . Well, I , I do

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Think so things here , if you have a perpetrator, who's really looking for a victim, they will try and use shame as a way of manipulating the situation. So, you know, why would you , what's the big deal? Why would you care? And , and so again, preparing your child, but if somebody's upset that you set a boundary, that's not about you and, and teach 'em , it's a , okay, it's okay to set a boundary. I've also had a couple families where I , I worked with and the offender, he really wasn't an offender, but it felt like it because he was so socially awkward in both situations, maybe this adult was on the spectrum. Maybe they had some autism. I'm not sure something was really awkward about them. They'd never been an offender or in prison , you know, anything like that, but everything they did was socially awkward. Even then they may come back with some sense of shame. Well , why is , what's such the big deal? You know, you , because they they're so socially awkward themselves, but it doesn't matter. It's still okay to say no. And you don't have to feel bad about yourself for saying no. And if you get some whiplash from that, go back and get your support, talk to your parents, talk to other people, you know, this is how they responded and get some encouragement. It's okay to say, no, it's okay, what you did. And it doesn't matter if they like you don't like it .

Brenda Vargas:

I so appreciate that. I think it's very important for parents to know that if that's a response that they, they receive and, or are hearing about that, you know, to give their child or youth their confidence, that it's okay. Um, to take away that shame, it's really valuable. Um, so thank you for highlighting that. Cause I think there instances in which someone could have that reaction, I wanna make sure parents and caregivers are well aware of that. You know, we can go on and on Dr . Floyd , uh , in regards to this topic, I, I hope in some ways it's given parents enough of a few nuggets to educate and form . If someone wanted further information and, you know, a , we have listeners that like to read and, or I know there's lots of other ways that they can continue to educate themselves. Is there a website and, or , um , any resources that you would recommend that would probably be, you know what , um , this , this is your go-to

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

Guys , you know, nowadays there is so much information, good information online, all you really need to do is Google search. You know, how , how to know if I've been abused or what are the indicators of abuse or how to prevent childhood abuse. I, I, I would, at this point in this day and age, I would just Google search and, and research some more on your own, super easy. Of course there's a national hotline for child abuse that that's for often more severe situations. So if you're not in a severe situation, I would just Google search and see what you can find and learn and educate

Brenda Vargas:

Yourself. I am really familiar with , uh , rain with a double n.org . I don't know if you're familiar with that. Um, and like now I can't remember , uh , what it stands for. <laugh> however, I agree with you. Um, I, I know that in , in a lot of instances, there's a wealth of information. Just make sure , um , parents and caregivers that as you're going down, that rabbit hole of the Google search, that it is coming from someplace reputable, that's research based and that , um, nonprofits are, have excellent information out there. Um, we appreciate you spending a little bit of time with us today and hope you can join us next time for another C U S D cares dot . Thank you, Dr . Godfrey . Thank

Dr. Floyd Godfrey:

You very much.

Speaker 3:

I .