What Is the Meaning of Child Grooming?
Adults who build stable and trusting relationships with a child under 18 for the purpose of sexually assaulting the minor are considered groomers. As such, you could face state and federal charges for child grooming if the alleged victim is under 15.
Oftentimes, child groomers have existing relationships with a victim. They could be a family member, teacher, employer, or other adult that has easy access to the minor. Elements of sexual grooming may include:
- Targeting the victim
- Accessing and isolating the victim
- Building trust with the victim
- Controlling and hiding the relationship
What is the reason behind these acts? Generally, the purpose of grooming is to:
- Manipulate the opinions of other adults who are close to the child
- Manipulating the child into cooperating with the sexual acts, reducing the likelihood of getting caught, and increasing the chances of the child coming back to the offender
- Lower the chances of getting caught
- Lower the child’s chances of being believed by others when they speak up about the offense
Is Child Grooming a Federal Crime?
Yes, child grooming is a federal crime.
The federal government defines grooming, which is technically called “enticement,” as “a method used by offenders that involves building trust with a child and the adults around a child in an effort to gain access to and time alone with them. In extreme cases, offenders may use threats and physical force to sexually assault or abuse a child. More common, though, are subtle approaches designed to build relationships with families.”
Section 2422 of the United States Criminal Code is the federal enticement law that makes it a crime to attempt or to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any individual under age 18 to engage in prostitution or any criminal sexual activity.
A conviction for federal enticement could result in up to 15 years in prison and a fine. How do prosecutors prove it?
A defendant does NOT have to demonstrate an intent to actually engage in illegal sexual activity with a minor. Instead, federal prosecutors only have to prove that a defendant committed child enticement by merely attempting to get the minor’s approval to engage in the illegal sexual activity.
Prosecutors must show that an offender intended to complete the crime and took a “substantial step” toward doing so, as well as prove that the defendant intended to get approval from the minor.
Enticement of a Child in Colorado
In Colorado, child grooming is synonymous with enticement and internet luring. It is illegal to entice a child under 15 with the intent to commit sexual assault or unlawful sexual contact against them. A class 4 felony, enticement of a child under 15 could result in 2 to 6 years in prison and/or fines ranging from $2,000 to $500,000. However, child enticement could be charged as a class3 felony under the following circumstances:
- The defendant has a previous conviction for enticement of a child
- The defendant has a previous conviction for child sexual assault
- The defendant was previously convicted for conspiracy to commit or the attempted commission of child enticement or child sexual assault
- The enticement of a child resulted in bodily injury to the child
CO Laws on Internet Luring of a Child
Elements of grooming are also found in the crime of internet luring of a child.
In Colorado, it is illegal to lure a child under 15 over the internet by describing explicit sexual conduct and, as a result, persuading or inviting the child to meet up for whatever reason. To get accused of this offense, the defendant must be 4 years older than the child.
Internet luring of a child is a class 5 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison and/or $1,000 to $100,000 fines. Internet luring of a child is a class 4 felony if it was committed with the intent to engage in sexual exploitation.
What Are Examples of Grooming?
As you can see, child grooming can occur in various ways and result in various types of sex crime charges. That’s why you should know some examples of child grooming to better understand what it looks like. The following acts and behaviors could be perceived as child grooming:
- Seeming too interested in a child
- Spending excessive amounts of time alone with a child
- Fixating on a child
- Showing favoritism towards a child in a family
- Buying gifts for a child
- Demonstrating age and gender preferences
- Giving special privileges to a child
- Befriending a family and showing more interest in a child rather than the adults
To break these examples down further, we encourage you to review the specific ways in which child grooming can occur below:
- Bathing a child
- Walking in on a child changing on purpose
- Intentionally walking in on a child using the bathroom
- Asking a child to watch the adult use the bathroom
- Showing pornography to a child
- Taking photos or videos of a child in minimal clothing, such as underwear, swimsuits, gym wear, etc.
- “Accidentally” touching a child’s genitalia by tickling them
- Removing a child’s clothes through certain activities, such as swimming and massaging
- Playing games that involve sexual touching (i.e., playing “doctor”)
- Teasing a child about puberty
If you are facing accusations for sex crimes involving child enticement and internet luring or a child, let us know. Our Denver criminal defense attorneys can explain your rights and fight for a favorable outcome on your behalf. To learn more, give us a call at (303) 732-5048!