September 22, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Child grooming is now an offense

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Last Thursday (13), when the opposition benches were absent due to their petty walkout, the rest of the MLAs present passed into law that child grooming will now be an offence.

What is child grooming?

According to Wikipedia:

“Child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse. Child grooming is also regularly used to lure minors into various illicit businesses such as child trafficking, child prostitution, or the production of child pornography.

“This crime has been proscribed in various ways since the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children, which was agreed in 1921 as a multilateral treaty of the League of Nations that addressed the problem of international trafficking of women and children for nefarious purposes. The proscribed traffic was international in nature at that time. The concept of localised grooming, in which gangs groom neighbourhood victims, was defined in 2010 by the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.”

Grooming may take place in numerous settings – in-person, via the Internet, or in institutional settings.

The purpose of grooming is:
to manipulate the perceptions of other adults around the child.
to manipulate the child into becoming a co-operating participant which reduces the likelihood of a disclosure and increases the likelihood that the child will repeatedly return to the offender.
to reduce the likelihood of the child being believed if they do disclose.
to reduce the likelihood of the abuse being detected.

Key to understanding the concept of sexual grooming is recognizing common behaviors that predators use while grooming victims for sexual abuse. Common sexual grooming behaviors are often subtle and may not appear inappropriate. These behaviors include:

“An adult seems overly interested in a child.
An adult frequently initiates or creates opportunities to be alone with a child (or multiple children).
An adult becomes fixated on a child.
An adult gives special privileges to a child (e.g., rides to and from practices, etc.).
An adult befriends a family and shows more interest in building a relationship with the child than with the adults
An adult displays favoritism towards one child within a family.
An adult finds opportunities to buy a child gifts.
An adult caters to the interests of the child, so a child or the parent may initiate contact with the offender.
An adult who displays age and gender preferences.”9
Other behaviors predators may use during the grooming process are “[a]ctivities that can be sexually arousing to adults who have a sexual interest in children.”10 These behaviors include:

“bathing a child.
walking in on a child changing.
deliberately walking in on a child toileting.
asking a child to watch the adult toileting.
tickling and “accidentally” touching genitalia.
activities that involve removing clothes (massage, swimming).
wrestling in underwear.
playing games that include touching genitalia (playing doctor).
telling a child sexually explicit jokes.
teasing a child about breast and genital development.
discussing sexually explicit information under the guise of
education.
showing the child sexually explicit images.
taking pictures of children in underwear, bathing suits, dance wear, etc.

SOURCE: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/child_law/resources/child_law_practiceonline/child_law_practice/vol-34/november-2015/understanding-sexual-grooming-in-child-abuse-cases.html

Attorney General Sam Bulgin, speaking in the LA, said the police, prosecutors and the courts have in the past faced many problems in prosecuting child sex cases. He pointed out in particular the case of sports coach Ato Stephens. Bulgin said in this case, Stephens had clearly been involved in grooming one of his young athletes. However, the police could only charge him with offences under the ICTA law, which carries limited and short sentences.

Bulgin said, “He [Stephens] got what was in all honesty a lenient sentence.”, This was because the charges against Stephens under the ICTA legislation did not adequately capture the nature of the actual offending.

The legislation also adds a higher minimum mandatory sentences for those who breach a position of trust.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has welcomed the changes.

All of us do.

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