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Sex cases against kids has experts doling out tips to recognize 'grooming'

Posted at 11:16 PM, Jun 20, 2013
and last updated 2014-04-22 16:48:52-04

 A West Palm Beach teacher was accused in April of rewarding his abuse victims with candy.

A Port St. Lucie soccer coach, accused Wednesday of starting kids on foot rubs, then working his way up to sex abuse.

A New York teacher, accused this week of lying to parents to get their daughter alone, then raping her.

"It's very confusing," said Joann Delgardio, a Boca Raton parent. "We have to be really careful with our children."

Experts at KidSafe,  an anti-child abuse non-profit in Boca Raton,  says the common thread is "grooming," and it can take a month, a day, a year.

"It's this process that offenders go through to gain access to our children. Not just to our children but to us as well," said Sally Berenzweig of KidSafe.

Berenzweig says so-called great coaches become suspicious when they start giving out gifts, hugging youngsters and coming up with reasons to be alone with them.

"A predator's dream is to have a parent say go ahead, take my child," said Berenzweig. "Take them to do this, that and the other."

She says kids as young as four need to be taught about safe and unsafe touches.

What is comfortable and uncomfortable? What is a secret?

"Usually, it does involve giving a gift, or money, or something like that," said Berenzweig. "If the child keeps a secret, that is saying to the offender, I can try for this."

Berenzweig says recent news reports are proof that more kids are feeling empowered to come forward, but that education for them and their parents still needs to go into overdrive.

"Every month, our children have to practice a fire drill. And fire safety is very, very important. But if you would look to see the last time there was a fire in a school, they probably couldn't tell you. Every ten seconds a child is abused," said Berenzweig.

KidSafe points out that no great coach will ask to be alone with your children, or give them gifts without asking you first, or ask them to keep any secrets.