Groomed By A Sex Offender

One in four girls. For boys:  it

Credit: AP

One in four girls.
For boys: it's one in six.
That's how many children will be sexually abused in their lifetime.

The abuse doesn't just happen overnight.
It's usually a planned process and predators don't just target children.
As Serese Cole tell us - some parents are groomed by predators, too.

Pat Smith, "It was terrifying and I remember my head spinning."

Tim Smith, "Everything your life is built on starts off with family and it just destroys that."

That's how parents, we're calling Pat and Tim Smith, felt when they discovered all three of their young girls had been sexually abused.
The sexual predator, a family member -- a great uncle, who had worked to gain their trust - so he could ultimately target their kids.

Tim Smith said, There were a lot of gifts for the kids. If we would spend 20 dollars on a kid for their birthday - he would spend 200."

Pat added, "It just wasn't the money either...it was time, it was labor. 'Oh you need some handyman work done around the house, I'll come. I'll stay with you. I'll help you and do some of that or I'll babysit - pick up the kids from school'."

Experts call the process "grooming."
Pat and Tim say it was so well done - they admit missing important red flags.

"They're kind of getting older, why are they still sitting on his lap, is it a little too much that he's draping his arms around them like that or that he's always petting their hair," Pat said.

So how do you know if someone is grooming you to get close to your kids? Child advocates say trust your instincts if something doesn't feel right, it's usually not. And pay attention to things that don't fit: if an adult is overly interested in your child, is overly affectionate with them...or if they shower them or the family with gifts. Most importantly, talk to your kids - the sooner the better.

Project Harmony Director, Gene Klein said, "We use to think 10-12. It's now in the 5 and 6 years of age of the child where that conversation about what is okay - what isn't okay if somebody were to touch you."

Because when it comes to sexual predators - mom, dad and kids can all be targets.


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