The process of child seduction

The understanding of sex offenders’ behavior has been of particular interest in the international literature since 2000, which has identified the multifaceted and complex nature of the seduction process, its distinct stages, the various strategies used by the perpetrator and the different environments in which it takes place. The definition of child sexual abuse includes a range of behaviors and criminal acts. Seduction is in many cases a synonym for sexual abuse. It is that deliberate preparatory process which is characterized by its complexity and difficulty in distinguishing it from ordinary and innocent interactions between adults and children.

An important issue that arises in trying to clarify the concept of seduction is that many of the behaviors used by perpetrators are very similar to those observed in normal adult-child relationships. For example, offering gifts or trips and other expressions of affection are not always precursors to sexual abuse. The study of the seduction process is extremely important in understanding how to approach manipulation and abuse of the minor, his or her emotional state, and his or her reluctance and fear to talk about what he or she has witnessed. 

Although early recognition of seductive behavior can prevent abuse, children are often unable to identify such manipulative acts. As a result, they may not know or realize that they have been victims of seduction. Children usually find it difficult to understand that a perceived nice and loving person could be their abuser. As a result, the perpetrator’s intentions usually become apparent after the abuse has been committed. 

Seduction is the deceptive process that offenders use to initiate sexual intercourse with a minor without being noticed. In most cases of seduction, a certain pattern of non-violent behaviour is maintained until the children are abused. 

The victim is first chosen, then trust is gained and gradually leads to exploitation. This is achieved through a carefully structured procedure to ensure close cooperation between the offender and the minor and to guarantee the confidentiality of the child. 

The assessment of those behaviors that can be classified as seductive is difficult to attain mainly due to the impossibility of distinguishing between well-intentioned and ill-intentioned motives, normal or innocent and abnormal or manipulative interactions between perpetrator and victim, the variations in the procedure according to gender, age, cultural context, and the specificity of the relationship between perpetrator and victim. 

During preparation and the gradual building of a deep trusting relationship with the child, a close and special bond of interaction is being pursued between the two, sharing personal experiences, difficulties, and secrets. At the same time, the perpetrator in this phase takes great care of his or her image, taking every protective measure to remove the risk of the discovery of his or her true identity and intentions. Once the way is clear, the abuser will apply strategies of sensitivity and persuasion, reinforce his manipulative behavior, and present his sexual activity as normal. 

Selecting the victim is the first important step for the abuser who knows that victim’s vulnerability is the safest criterion for selection. A vulnerable category includes those children who live in families with poor supervision, inadequate parenting, and severe emotional neglect. Particularly vulnerable are also children living in poverty or in single-parent families, those whose care has been outsourced or who grow up in institutions or in families with issues of domestic violence, mental health, substance, or alcohol addiction. Abusers also identify children who have low self esteem, are introverted, highly naïve, gullible, and obedient, children who experience social isolation, loneliness, intense insecurity and therefore have a great need for affection and acceptance. The perpetrator knows that by offering the child what he lacks, he will be able to trap and deceive him, without much difficulty and without consequences in the future. In addition, minors with good looks, attractive clothing, premature physical maturity, or the opposite, are also at increased risk. 

Perpetrators often choose young victims who cannot understand what is happening with a distinct element of innocence and childishness or older minors with developmental immaturity. Children who are either unable to resist, or constantly exposed to danger without the protection of an adult or, because they are in a state of need of acceptance and care from third parties, are particularly easy targets for the perpetrator. Adolescents are also easy targets, as they tend to distance themselves from their families, seek independence and new experiences by exploring their sexuality. 

The next stage in achieving the would-be offender’s goal is to establish a trusting relationship with the child. This relationship is built patiently and carefully and is aimed at the psychological manipulation of the victim. The perpetrator becomes the child’s admirer, a mentor who advises the child on issues of concern and shows great interest in the child’s needs, problems, and secrets. He is willing to give generously his help and emotional support. He is interested in his performance in school, his activities, his friendships, thus creating a sense of a constantly available friend, his own person. The perpetrator continues to feed his relationship with the child with gifts and privileges, creating an emotional bond, a deep emotional connection that the child does not want to lose for any reason, unable to refuse the satisfaction of even the abuser’s most heinous demands.

The next stage after the establishment of a trusting relationship between the abuser and the victim is the normalization of any kind of contact to then curb the victim’s reactions. Discussing issues of a sexual nature serves to assess the minor’s reactions, to evaluate his or her tolerance, to change the cognitive patterns that have been adopted and to promote a positive view of the sexual act by distorting commonly accepted principles and values. The perpetrator seeks to reconstruct the victim’s perceptions and to reconstruct the perception of sexual intercourse as a normal expression of love for children. Often the exposure of the child to pornographic material is intended to familiarize the child with images of sexual activity and is justified by the abuser as part of the child’s education. In this context, touching helps to improve experiential learning. The whole process follows a gradual progression which starts with simple accidental touching and culminates with the violation of the sexual freedom of the minor. The use of manipulative phrases such as “if you really love me, you will let me do it” or “I only want to show you my love”, for example, create the conditions to force the child to comply with the wishes of the abuser. 

The sexual self-possession of the minor, who is undoubtedly in a state of vulnerability due to the dependent relationship with the perpetrator, is finally violated and the original goal is achieved.


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