The cost of fame.
When we watch documentaries, see news stories , or read magazines about celebrities who have “fallen apart” due to fame , we ask ourselves where did they go wrong, what the heck went wrong, how could this happen , and most of all where were their parents ?
Why all the drug addictions, why so many mental breakdowns?
As parents in this business we reassure ourselves that would never happen to our child(ren), that we would give them a break when they are burnt out and need to stop.
“This is like any sport, they can quit whenever. I’ll never be like those crazy stage parents putting my child in any danger. This is different, I am different, they are different. Surely, that would never happen to my child , nope never” But will it ?
I remember when the Michael Jackson Documentary came out, I remember thinking what in gods name were these parents thinking allowing their child to be around this man ? They have to see what everyone else sees, right? No loving parent could ever be so naive to think that this man wanted to be best friends with little kids? What were these parents thinking?!
Being on the other side of the industry makes me see things from another perspective, it forces me to take the “ mommy goggles ” off and see things clearly. I can almost bet that they saw Michael as Willy Wonka, he was their golden ticket, and if they didn’t take a trip to neverland their children would never see the light of Hollywood land.
I’m not insinuating that these children were abused in any way, but what I am saying is that grooming was definitely going on, and sometimes the flashing lights of the cameras temporarily can blind parents ability to see clearly and make accurate character assessments.
This business is amazing, and it opens doors to so many dreamers. Those who dream of creating with cameras, or those creating on the opposite side of the camera. Even those like me, someone who loves to make dreams come true. This business can be beautiful and filled with this magical light, but behind the light there are people with ill intentions, hiding in the shadows, offering you and your child(ren) a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I know this is a hard topic to hear, believe me it’s harder to discuss. As a team at Sprout we have been contemplating writing this for a very long time, but keep modifying it, and putting it on the backburner, not sure if parents are ready to hear it .
However, the media is just bringing so much to attention to the subject . We have the stories of Howard Weinstein taking advantage of his position abusing children in the industry , you have Kesha suing her producer for sexual abuse, we have the Free Britney movement, Demi Lovato coming forward with rape allegations, the wonderfully talented Amanda Bynes who has been on a downward spiral for years, you have the stories of Corey Feldman and Cory Haim, there even has been countless local child photographers in the area arrested for child abuse. The list goes on and on. It would be against everything Sprout believes in if we didn’t share this.
In this blog we will go over the signs of grooming. How to spot it, how to prevent it, and how to report it.
We are here to not only make dreams come true, but to protect the pure innocence and light that our little dreamers hold. While we will go over some sensitive topics we hope that everyone receives this and carefully reads every sign. Sometimes it’s hard to see clearly when the groomer is grooming you and your child when it seems to benefit your child’s career, and it’s easy to not want to see things as they are. Imagine yourself outside of your body looking in. Is it normal that an adult wants to “play” with your child all the time. If it wasn’t a person in the industry benefiting your child’s career would you see this as very odd. Is the risk worth the reward? In my opinion NOTHING is worth the health and safety of a child.
Sometimes as parents we get so excited about the prospect of our child booking a job ,shooting with a photographer, or wearing a designers clothing that we tend to let or guards down to what we normally might have seen as dangerous. We can’t rely on social media platforms, strangers, or even agents to protect our children. We have to protect them ourselves. As an agent I try to do my very best to stay away from clients that seem well… odd ( for lack of a better word). If something doesn’t sit right I don’t take the job. If someone seems a little strange whether it being a parent of another child or someone in the industry, I do my best to tell parents to stay clear. It’s a slippery slope and I think it’s important to voice when we have concerns or when something seems off. However, in the end you have to rely on your own gut instincts to make sure you don’t put yourself or your child in a compromising situation.
I realize this industry is a competitive one . Parents are anxious for bookings and everyone wants their child to make it ! So when a person in the industry shows your child attention it’s easy to get sucked in and the usual red flags get ignored. It’s important to know the signs of grooming and to stay clear EVEN IF IT MEANS YOUR CHILD MIGHT NOT BOOK THE JOB. Not everyone in the industry has the right motives and you need to always proceed on the side of caution when it comes to your child . A booking is not worth your child’s safety and innocence . If your child is contacted by a designer , photographer, director, ANYONE you don’t personally know, and I don’t mean know like “ oh I met them on set a few times “I mean really know . Then you need to look them up . Check the internet , make sure someone always knows where your going , and don’t let your children be alone with ANYONE! If someone wants to meet your child make sure you have someone going with you. Social media is filled with predators! Anyone at any time can pretend to be a photographer, agent, director, designer, casting director etc.. Do your due diligence ! A BOOKING IS NOT WORTH YOUR CHILDS SAFETY. I have seen many parents contacted by a photographer they never met asking to photograph their child. Please don’t just meet up with anyone who contacts you because they offer you a free shoot . Anyone wanting to do something for you for free should be looked at with a few sets of eyes.
Most parents would shoot with anyone , go anywhere , and do almost anything for their child to be noticed. Parents don’t want to say no and turn down an opportunity and believe me guys, I get it ! I do ! I’m not saying to turn things down I’m just saying to use much more caution then you have been. Don’t go to someone’s home, don’t leave your children alone with someone , and don’t ignore the red flags! You are your child’s protector. If a random person said come meet me at this location with your child, would you ? If they say they are a photographer or director you would most likely go without a second thought. Just be mindful. How well do we really know a person ?
I’m going to share some of the signs of grooming from a few articles we have researched. If any of these sound familiar to you please keep your distance and do whatever is needed to protect your children.
Signs of Grooming :
1: The offender will pay special attention to or give preference to a child
2: Gift giving of any expense – large or small – is a grooming technique used to flatter children and their families into trusting the individual. Be vigilant. If another adult is overly interested in your child and family, consider this a red flag. Gifts can also be given in potential bookings or jobs. Perpetrators work to gain the trust of parents/caregivers to lower suspicion and gain access to the child by providing seemingly warm yet calculated attention/support. The perpetrator gains the child’s trust by gathering information about the child, getting to know their needs, and finding ways to fill those needs. ” I can get your child booked on a job, I’m designing a dress I want your child to wear , I’ll photograph your child for free”
3: Having the child call them aunt or uncle. Or another “safe feeling” word. When a perpetrator uses a term that in some way makes the child feel they are family ,the child tends to let their guard down with the perpetrator and it gives a sense of feeling safe.
4: Offenders are often seen pressing boundaries and breaking rules, but are rarely caught in the act of abusing a child. They might meet up with your child outside of work or at their home. When you see a boundary being crossed, describe the inappropriate behavior or boundary violation to the person who has crossed it. Have family rules about when and how adults engage with your children.
5: Perpetrators will test the limits by starting to introduce touch into the relationship. They might put their arm around the child or asking for a hug to see how the child reacts. They may do this in front of other adults. If the caregiver does not intervene or object, and the child is uncomfortable, it can confuse the child on what type of touch is appropriate. Teach your kids about body autonomy and let them know it’s OK to say “no” to adults. One can tickle the child to act as though it’s fun. Or ask if they want a piggy back ride or ride on shoulders. Let your child know to always say “no, thank you “. They need to know it is ok to say no!
6: The individual will offer to do special things or help the caregivers to gain alone time with the child “ come over hear in this room and let’s paint a picture , or I’ll show you something cool”. Be sure to let other adults know that you do not approve of them being alone with your child without your permission or knowledge. Check-in regularly so other adults know you are watching.
7: Groomers may rely on mobile phones, social media and the internet to interact with children in inappropriate ways. FaceTiming your child or messaging your child is never appropriate for an adult as adults should not be maintaining friendships with children.
8: They Become Useful to the Family.
One way abusers work to gain the trust of the family of the child they are targeting is by making their lives easier. “They befriend the child, the family, and other adults in the child’s life,” says Pumo. “They’ll provide the child and family members with opportunities, privilege, emotional support, financial support. It could just be attention in a two-family home when both parents are working a lot of hours. It could be taking your kid to practice and saving you time.” No, this doesn’t mean that every time someone offers to do you a favor have nefarious intent. But it is a common sign of abuse to be wary of and note.
9: They Want to Be Alone With Your Child
Most adult men, per Cooper, rarely want to be alone with children who aren’t theirs. “I always tell parents: if any adult male wants to be alone with your children, that’s a red flag. Most normal adult men want to be alone with other adult men or adult women.” She adds that if there’s an adult man in your life who exclusively wants to be alone with your kid, to take them to a movie alone or to the basement to play video games , ask about sleepovers ,that might also be a red flag. The same goes for women . Adults do not regularly want to spend their alone time with children. This is one of the most common red flags in potential groomers. While being good with kids and playing with them at a family dinner is no big deal, Pumo says a warning sign that grooming might be taking place or that someone you are around could be an abuser is if they almost exclusively prefer the company of children. “It could be an adult who you notice consistently prefers the company of children, or a particular child over same-aged peers and other adults,” she says. “At a party, is this adult always just with the kids?”
Everyone here at Sprout either had or has had a child in this industry. We get how amazing it feels when someone else sees the talent your child has and offers them opportunities . You want them to feel special, and you want to reap the benefits of this new found relationship. However absolutely no benefit should EVER come before the safety of our children. NO OPPORTUNITY WILL EVER COME CLOSE TO POSSIBLY SACRIFICING KEEPING THEM PROTECTED. There is no such thing as being an overprotective parent in this industry. This was not an easy blog to write as we are aware it might hit close to home for some. However, if it protects one child or one family from a lifetime of pain it was worth it.