Real life victims who come forward to share their experiences always say the same thing. They felt trapped so they couldn’t initiate a conversation with parents or the authorities about it. They just wanted someone to notice that they weren’t okay.
A particular victim in the UK (whose identity shall remain hidden) was forced into Teen prostitution! She just wanted someone to say to her “I know you’re not okay, tell me what is wrong! Tell me what is happening”. She said if she had been able to tell someone about it, the prostitution might not have lasted that long or even started in the first place.
Well, you can be there to help, here are some signs that your Teen is being groomed:
1. They are depressed or anxious
This is true for any stage in the grooming relationship. Convicted child molesters tell us that to rape the teen’s body, they have to attack their minds first. What this means is that predators isolate their victims and make the victim solely dependent on them. So when they begin to feel trapped, they start getting depressed or anxious.
2. They quit their leisure activities, their friends or you:
In a bid to become the only one their victims depend on, they use several manipulative tactics such as pretence of jealousy or emotional blackmail to keep their preys from spending time with people other than them.
Suddenly that “big game” or “concert” or whatever your teen was into, is no longer of value to them. This is actually a psychological symptom that you should never ignore. Talk to you teen.
3. He/She Keeps talking about or Quoting this new friend you have never met.
If your Teen all of a sudden has a friend (on or offline) that you have not met and all of a sudden that friend is all your Teen can talk about, that might be a cause for concern.
If your child begins quoting this friend (and nobody else), “but Michael says I’m in control of my own body, I can choose what I’ll wear ” or “Michael says I shouldn’t let my parents push me around.” “Michael says this….or that….”, it is time to have a conversation with them.
This is how Breck Bednar, a 14-year-old English boy, was groomed and murdered by his 18-year-old online gaming “friend”.
4. Their Personality Has Changed
It is not uncommon for Young people to try on many different roles and adopt all sorts of new ideas in their teenage years. However, if your teenager suddenly becomes a whole new person, and there is no consolidation with their old self, you should be concerned.
No matter the belief, outlook or relationship your child adopts, if it’s good for them, it will allow them to make a gradual shift from their past behaviour into a better version for their future. Rather than complete detachment. Whoever demands such is obviously not looking out for your child’s best interest.
If they were previously extroverted and jovial, but all of a sudden they are reserved and melancholy, don’t overlook it, talk to them, they just may currently be victims of sexual predators.
5. The Suddenly have expensive gifts whose source you can’t trace
One typical way predators woo is teens by getting them things their parents cannot afford or just deem inappropriate. This way, the child begins to think that the predator is ‘cool’.
“Oh your parents can’t afford to get you the new iPhone or that concert ticket, I’ll get it” or “your parents won’t let you play that new R rated game? You can play it with me at my house whenever you like”.
6. They Show Psychological Symptoms
Psychological symptoms are an easy way to detect a troubled teen. As a parent or caregiver, it is essential that we pay attention to these symptoms:
Drastic changes in sleeping and eating habits accompanied by rapid changes in weight (weight gain or loss), and appearance. This can be indicative of depression or anxiety and general worry. If this happens, something is definitely weighing on your child’s mind.
Displaying angry, violent, fearful, or negative outbursts that is unlike them. If your teen frequently erupts, cursing angrily or violently, It is time to talk to them.
If they suddenly become crude or talk knowledgeably and vulgarly about sex or drugs, this is a sign that maybe they are being robbed of their innocence.
They become dogmatically passionate about specific political or religious viewpoint and dismiss all other views different from what their groomer has brainwashed them with.
7. Your Intuition Says Something’s Not Right
Trust your intuition dear parent. We cannot stress this enough, if you feel something or something about someone is not right, trust your intuition and take action.
Considering how busy our lives are, a lot of things can slip past our conscious knowledge, but they are picked up by our unconsciousness and interpreted as danger signals we can’t really place a finger on. Trust them.
Calmly question your child based on your intuition, open the channel of communication and do not take a simple “ I’m okay” or “nothing is wrong” for an answer, push! Real life victims of online grooming turned prostitution say that if someone had engaged them in conversation, then maybe it will not have gone on for as long as it did.
Although a teen’s chances of falling victim to online predators have a lot to do with parenting styles, even with the best of parents, grooming can go undetected for years. This is because groomers are controlling and highly deceptive. They turn children into liars and collaborators.
Predators make children secretive by threatening them. “I will release your nude images to your family and friends and on the internet, if you dont….”, “Don’t tell anyone or else I will kill your parents/friends…” or “No one will believe you…” etc.
Don’t blame yourself, but you can communicate with your teens and help them escape from the hands of these monsters. How to protect your teen from being groomed online.