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Grooming: Is it a Crime?

Grooming: Is it a Crime?

Grooming – the act of cultivating behavior to exploit a child. While the term has only recently entered the public lexicon, it has been an undercurrent of many criminal cases over the years. However, is grooming a crime?

Grooming Defined

Grooming is the act of establishing a close relationshi9p with a child to prep them for abuse later on. The action of grooming is not a crime in and of itself. However, facilitating a crime especially one of a sexual nature is considered criminal activity.

Conspiring or facilitating a crime is called conspiracy and it is the first step toward actual criminal activity as it involves planning or acting on a plan to commit a crime. Grooming is sometimes used to prove conspiracy, but it is most definitely a legal grey area. Ultimately, grooming is not a crime, but it can enhance criminal charges.

The Grooming Process

Grooming may occur in different ways. For example, someone may try to groom a child in person if they have access or lure them online. In many cases, grooming occurs in an institutional facility like a school where the groomer has more authority and access to children than in other settings.

The grooming process proceeds as follows:

An adult begins to have an excessive interest in a child. They create opportunities to be alone and give the child treats or gifts to ensure trust and affection. As a result, the child develops a close, trusting relationship and wants to introduce the person to their family or another adult with authority in their life. The groomer continues to show favoritism and eventually, the adult gains a significant amount of influence over the child and can coerce them to do their bidding.

Grooming Behavior

Behaviors from adults attempting to groom a child are predatory. They may try to see the child naked or compromised as often as possible and may introduce physical touches like tickling or wrestling. Over time, these behaviors escalate until the adult makes sexual physical contact with the child.

To determine whether a certain behavior is grooming, ask the question, “is the contact overtly sexual, and does the adult make mundane things explicit in an inappropriate way?” If the answer is yes, grooming may be occurring.

While grooming is dangerous, it is just as important to note the behavior that is indicative as well as the behavior that is not. Parents who potty train or bathe their child are not participating in grooming behavior. Unless the intent is clearly sexual, these things are not predatory.

Criminal Penalties

Grooming can’t be prosecuted specifically until there is sexual conduct. Once the groomer makes such contact, there are grounds for a legal case against them. The charges for grooming may range from child abuse to exploitation or child pornography.

In most cases, these crimes result in a lengthy prison sentence and the groomer’s name on the sex offender registry.

It is important to note that these crimes are heinous and should be prosecuted, but in some cases accusations of grooming behavior or attempted child exploitation could be leveled unjustly. These crimes have lifelong penalties and it takes away from victims when a person makes false accusations.

Have you been accused of a crime? Contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC.


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