Although many people may think they have the set image of a child sex abuser, more times than not people are surprised to find out that abusers come in all forms. In fact, abusers are usually not the stranger walking down the street in a trench coat, but rather a close family member or friend who you would assume to be trustworthy.
It is estimated that 95% of the time that children are abused, it is by someone they know or someone their family knows. This is why it is often difficult to spot an abuser right away. Parents or siblings, aunts or uncles, close family friends, teachers, coaches, professionals…the list goes on. Abusers tend to be people who have a relationship with the child or with his/her family since it is then easier to gain their trust. Although it is tough to determine who is a threat and who is not, it is important to look out for any warning signs. For example, if a certain adult enjoys spending time with kids, that is normal. However, if this adult continuously goes out of his/her way to be alone with kids, this can be seen as a warning sign.
Something else to look out for is a term called grooming. This is the stage when an abuser forms a solid relationship with the child by doing activities with them, buying them things and spending a significant amount of alone time with them. Abusers often make the child feel special and comfortable with them in order to get closer to them. However, when the relationship becomes sexualized, the child will often feel like they cannot tell anyone and that the abuse is their fault as the abuser continues to manipulate and exploit them.