Grooming is the process by which a sexual abuser or potential abuser earns the trust of not only the child, but the people around the child in order that they might have access to alone time with the child and an opportunity to be sexual with the child.
Sometimes, grooming is confused with sexual abuse itself, and sometimes grooming is discussed as an intentional process. Sometimes, grooming tactics are sexually abusive, such as showing pornography to a child, and very rarely, abusers are intentional and knowledgeable about grooming children for abuse, such as recidivist sexual addicts, those with antisocial personality disorder, and some preferential offenders.
However, much of sexual abuse is situational, or arises out of complex motivations that have nothing to do with a desire to be sexual with a child or cause them pain. It is also possible that the motivations behind behaviors that are considered signs of grooming, like gift-giving, are completely innocent and not related to sexual abuse. It is also possible to be engaged in the process of grooming without being aware that the situation may lead to the sexual abuse of a child. Thus, grooming must be treated with an ounce of caution.
Most of the time grooming is happening, you will not be very aware of it, as it is normal and expected behavior from a trusted friend or family member. Some behaviors found in lists of grooming behaviors are more intentional, some are less common, and some seem so innocent you would hardly expect them. Sometimes, things that look like grooming and “make the list” are adults concerned for a child in their lives, and sometimes, things that do not look like grooming and are not on a list are grooming and need more attention.