Grooming And Control Keep Victims Of Sexual Abuse Silent

A 44-year-old man, a three-time candidate running for state senate in South Dakota, was charged with felony child abuse for allegedly grooming and raping a young female family member for years, beginning in 2014. The accused could also face counts of rape, sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 and aggravated incest-related child, according to a probable cause statement.

Court documents include allegations that the man began grooming the young girl when she was 12 "by having her sit on his lap, kissing her and giving long hugs." The victim said she thought the behavior was "normal things that families were supposed to do," but she was being abused while talking to counselors at a summer camp when she was 14. The counselors talked about inappropriate physical contact with adults.

The man also allegedly installed a camera in the victim's bedroom after her return from camp. He would use the camera to constantly watch her from an app on his phone.

The girl said the man regularly touched her inappropriately and by the time the victim turned 17, he forced her to have sexual intercourse with him on multiple occasions in the family's homes across the state.

In addition to the video camera, the man controlled the victim with location tracking, required nightly phone calls, authority over her social media accounts and jurisdiction over the clothes she wore. He used GPS tracking using the girl's phone and vehicle.

When the man found out that she had gone to the sheriff's office to report the abuse, he begged her not to report to authorities and reminded her that she'd promised him she would never do that.

When news of the alleged abuse got out, he deleted his Twitter account and made his campaign website private. Allie Griffin "South Dakota Senate candidate Joel Koskan accused of grooming, raping child family member" (Nov. 04, 2022).

Commentary and Checklist

This accused allegedly used grooming (e.g., lap sitting, kissing, hugging) and control (e.g., location tracking, cameras, and threats) to keep the victim silent.

It was only when the victim heard other adults at summer camp talking about inappropriate touching, did she realize that she was being abused by the perpetrator.

According to the nonprofit organization Darkness to Light, approximately 90 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser, and around 30 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members.

Safe adults should report suspected child sexual abuse if they pick up any signs. What should you do if you suspect abuse?

  • If a life-threatening emergency, dial 911
  • If not a life-threatening emergency, contact a child protective services agency or local law enforcement immediately
  • Remain calm
  • Show support for the child
  • Make sure the child is safe
  • Do not argue, blame, or interrogate the child
  • Do not try to convince the child they are mistaken
  • Do not direct any anger toward the child
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