The communication process whereby paedophiles entrap children is being studied by University of Missouri researchers, who say they have started to understand how sexual predators lure their victims.
Their study attains significance because it may help equip parents and community members to put a full stop to the day-by-day escalating incidence of child sexual abuse.
"Our children are our greatest gift and our greatest responsibility. The fact that they could be abused in any way, shape or form is horrific--both in the moment of the abuse and in the long-term effect," said Loreen Olson, MU associate professor of communication in the College of Arts and Science.
"It's a social problem with grave consequences that is prevalent and needs attention. It's incomprehensible, but it's happening. The sexual abuse of children has dramatic negative consequences to their emotional well-being throughout their lives," she added.
Loreen says that her team has identified certain communicative elements in the cycle of entrapment.
These elements include the core phenomenon of "deceptive trust development", which describes the predator's ability to build a trusting relationship with the victim in order to improve the likelihood of sexual encounter.
According to Loreen, deceptive trust development is key to other manipulative strategies used by the predator, such as grooming which sets the stage for abuse by desensitising the victim to sexual contact.
She pinpoints that grooming may include "accidentally" touching the child inappropriately, showing the child pornographic image, and even making contact or sex play with implicit sexual suggestions.
She says that paedophiles simultaneously work to isolate their victims physically and emotionally from their support network by using strategies like offers to baby sit, giving the child a ride home, and taking advantage of fragile family and friend relationships.
Isolation makes the victim to become more and more dependent on the perpetrator, Loreen says.
The third scheme used by perpetrators is 'approach strategy', which includes suggestions to play sex games, more explicit discussions about sexual issues, giving a child a "rubdown", bathing or undressing a child, and instigating wrestling and other physical games as a means to escalate sexual physical contact.
Loreen has revealed that their theory on the communication process used by child sexual predators is based on an analysis of existing published material on paedophilia and child sexual abuse.
"The more we know about how these adults are entrapping children and building a sexual relationship with them, the better we can either intervene and stop the cycle from happening, or de-escalate it," she said.
She further said that the theory of luring communication might also provide fresh insight into how con-artists lure victims and the recruitment strategies of gang or cult members.