“Leaving Neverland,” Child Sexual Abuse & Recognizing Child Grooming


    child grooming awareness

    I was only able to watch Part 1 of the new documentary Leaving Neverland. As a parent, it was hard to stomach. It was difficult to listen to Wade Robson and James Safechuck share their stories about how Michael Jackson molested them when they were children. Michael Jackson being reported as a pedophile isn’t new news, and, whether or not you believe the stories that he abused these young boys, the point of the documentary is much bigger than Michael Jackson. It is about recognizing what child grooming looks like and realizing that it is happening every day to children by people they know.

    Child Grooming: befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse.

    I also watched After Neverlandthe Oprah interview with the two men in the documentary. There were many strong statements made in the documentary and the Oprah interview. I summarized some of the points below that I believe should be repeated so that everyone can understand what child grooming is.

    —The perpetrator is somebody you know, admire, respect, or maybe even love.

    —Child grooming is happening everywhere to somebody: schools, families, churches, etc. It doesn’t look like assault.

    —The perpetrator convinces the child that he or she is safe with them and, in most instances, convinces the family of this, too.

    —People we know can be seen as good people and also be abusers. Both can be true.

    The next morning, after I watched the documentary, a radio station my children and I listen to on our morning commute was discussing the documentary. The radio host used the term “molestation.” My eleven-year-old daughter automatically asked me, “Mom, what does molestation mean?” I realized in that moment that I have had many conversations with my children about not allowing any adult to touch their private parts and to always speak up if someone tries to, but I never used the exact term, “molestation.”  

    At the beginning of her interview, Oprah said, “As a child, you don’t have the language to explain what is happening to you because you’ve been seduced and trapped.” Parents, whenever you decide it is best to have these serious conversations with your child, remember to also use the proper terms and definitions during your talks. Give children the proper language, in hopes that if any perpetrators attempt child grooming acts on them, they will recognize it and not be ashamed or afraid to speak up.

    If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual abuse. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and RAINN.org.


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    Sysamone Phaphon is a single mom of two. She’s lived in the east bay area for 15+ years. She is the current CEO and founder of the CBD Nanoemulsion brand, Khuenphu. Sysamone also provides growth marketing consultancy in the technology, healthcare and cannabis industries through a digital marketing agency called A.V.O. Prior to pursuing the consultancy path & building her own company, she was previously the Head of Growth for cannabis manufacturer, Vertosa, where she managed PR, Marketing and brand partnerships. She is also a brand ambassador for Mothercoders, a nonprofit organization helping mothers on-ramp to careers in tech so they can thrive in a digital economy. When she’s not working, she’s playing baseball mom for her daughter’s all girls competitive travel baseball team and lacrosse mom for her son’s competitive travel team. When she has personal time for herself, she loves naps, enjoying infused products and binge watching various series on all the streaming channels.


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