What is a predator?

80% of childhood sexual assault cases in Australia are by a family member

There are different reasons why perpetrators may want to engage in childhood sexual assault but the process they must go through, called the grooming process is the same. A perpetrator might be motivated by power and control, a pedophile might be motivated by an attraction to children, and an opportunistic offender might be motivated by the opportunity to offend. But the process of breaking down the will and self-esteem of a child is the same. Every perpetrator must silence their victims and plan their attacks to ensure they do not get caught.

The days of stranger danger are a distant memory in our culture today. 90% of childhood sexual assault cases are by someone the child knows, someone close to their family, and or someone in their family. Someone the child’s parents trust. Grooming is needed to gain the trust of the child and the child’s family, a perpetrator will not only groom the child, but also the family and the community. This process is premeditated and takes a considerable amount of time, it may be months or even years.

“My Father groomed my Mother and brothers to isolate me in the family. My abuse started from as early as I can remember and continued into adulthood. My Father was always controlling and manipulating everyone in the family and within our community. The grooming process is a big part of maintaining the abuse, even in the case of incest.” Survivor

Who abuses children?

Examples of perpetrators;

90% of offenders are male

Incest; fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, cousins and or uncle’s and aunties.

Minors; 40% of cases are perpetrated by an older child usually 3 or more years older than their victim. 7 out of 8 juvenile offenders are at least 12 years old and 93% are boys.

Teachers; School teachers, coaches, and or childcare teachers.

Church leaders; pastors, missionaries, youth leaders, and or volunteer’s at church.

Neighbor; Someone in your street.

Authority; anyone in a position of authority.


A perpetrator cannot offend unless they have opportunity to be alone with a child. They either are faced with the opportunity to offend and take it or they create the opportunity to be alone with children. They may offer to babysit, tutor, give them a ride home, and or offer to take them out. They could be your spouse offering for you to go back to work, or a family member offering a sleepover.

The 3 stage grooming process

Stage 1 Target a child

First they identify a child they wish to assault. They may then spend a great deal of time planning the activity in their mind, fantasizing about the abuse. (this stage may be different for incest perpetrators depending on their circumstances.)

Stage 2 Recruitment of a child

First they will build trust with the child. They may use tactics like treating the child as ‘special’ or using secrecy “this is our little secret”. Then they desensitize the child, introducing sexual language and behaviors gradually. ‘Accidental touching’ to see how the child responds, this can be in public or in full view of parents. Next they build complicity, making the child feel like they agreed to or are responsible for the abuse. Some perpetrators use violence or threats “I’ll kill your Mum if you tell”. Finally they establish the abuse using power, their position over the child.

Stage 3 Maintain the abuse

This is achieved by monitoring the child, ensure secrecy and compliance is maintained. The perpetrator will groom the adults in the child’s life more closely to look for warning signs of exposure.

Be wary of a person who

Is always available to take care of your children

Makes your child feel more special than others

Gives your child an excessive number of gifts and treats

Is always looking for ways to be alone with your child

Offender cycle

There is no such thing as a ‘victim to offender cycle’. Many perpetrators use this an excuse for their behavior. They choose to offend, many times over, not just once. Only 5% of perpetrators have been offended on.

Conversation with a perpetrator 

Why do you offend? Because I wanted to and the opportunity became available. How? I target a child I have access to where I am trusted by the child’s parents. If the child’s parents become suspicious I back off the child and wait until they trust me again to proceed.

The only thing predators are better at than abusing children, is making you believe they never would

There are many theories about why someone assaults a child. However most of these theories do not help the offender take responsibility for his actions but instead blame others. Some offenders will use the excuse that they assaulted a child because they were drunk, because they were depressed or had some other mental illness or because they couldn’t ‘control themselves’. These are all excuses. The sexual assault of a child is a choice and is often well planned.


Sharing the un-sharable: A resource for woman on recovering from child sexual abuse