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Grooming

Definition:

Grooming - Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.

Description:

Grooming is a insidious predatory tactic, utilized by abusers. Grooming is practiced by Narcissists, Antisocial predators, con-artists and sexual aggressors, who target and manipulate vulnerable people for exploitation.

Child grooming is the deliberate act of establishing an emotional bond with a child, to lower the child's resistance. Child grooming can result in the minor falling victim to physical, sexual and emotional abuse, or specifically, to manipulate children into participating in slave labor, prostitution, and/or the production of child pornography.

Adult grooming is correspondent to child grooming and applies to any situation where an adult is primed to allow him or herself to be exploited or abused. While it is a common assumption that grooming is only practiced on the very young, identical emotional and psychological processes are commonly used to abuse or exploit adults the elderly, and those with compromised mental facilities.

An predator will identify and engage a victim and work to gain the target’s trust, break down defenses, and manipulate the victim until they get whatever it is they are after. Overt attention, verbal seduction (flattery / ego stroking), recruitment, physical isolation, charm, gift-giving, normalizing, gaslighting, secrecy, and threats are all hallmarks of grooming.

  • Abusers who groom their victims often claim to have a special connection with the abused. The so- called connection might be emotional, intellectual, sexual, spiritual, or all of the above. This is often backed up by the predator echoing back part of the target's own background or story, altered to fit the groomer’s back-story, in order to confirm the connection.
  • In order to abuse or exploit another person without fear of discovery, a sexual predator or con artist will frequently condition their intended victim to keep secrets for them. When building this bond of trust, an abuser may share seemingly personal or private information, and then swear the victim to secrecy. The victim is made to believe that they are being trusted with something of value, before being asked to share something of value with his/her abuser.
  • Abusers use shared secrets to bind their victims to them. By degrees, the target is gradually lured in to revealing private information, giving up money, property or sexual favors, or permitting /engaging in inappropriate, unsafe, or illegal behaviors. • The victim is often drawn in to being a "co-conspirator” (also known as forced teaming) with his or her abuser.
  • Eventually, the bond of secrecy is nearly always reinforced with threats, shaming and guilt to keep the victim silent about his or her shared crimes or misdeeds.

Who are the victims of grooming? Men. Women. Children. Young adults. The middle-aged. The elderly. The lonely and the emotionally compromised. Those whose defenses are down. Anyone with soft boundaries. In short: There is no prototypical victim. Almost anyone can be vulnerable to grooming. Predators are practiced, and extremely good at what they do. Those who are not ’t, tend to get caught. Those who get caught, tend to learn from their mistakes, and refine their techniques. You don’t have to be especially gullible to fall victim to grooming, but if you learn the signs, you can successfully identify a potential abuser, and avoid exploitation:

  • Predators work in the shadows, and have something to hide.
  • Predators claim to feel a "special connection" with their targets, even if they've only just met.
  • Predators recruit co-conspirators (forced teaming) to fight their battles and do their bidding.
  • Predators draw their victims in by sharing private information then swearing them to secrecy.
  • Predators practice divide and conquer techniques in order to manipulate others.

Examples of Grooming:

  • An individual who lures lonely or vulnerable people into a romantic relationship in order to position themselves for monetary gain.
  • An adult in a position of authority who uses their status to entice minor children into engaging in sexual activity.
  • Anyone who manufactures a (false) bond of trust in order to extract promises or favors from another.

What it feels like:

Grooming can feel exhilarating – at first. The predator employs attentiveness, sensitivity, (false) empathy and plenty of positive reinforcement to seduce their victim. For their part, victims can be so enthralled with, or overwhelmed by the attention they are receiving; they will often overlook or ignore red flags that might alert them that the person who is showering them with that attention is somehow “off”. Little by little, the abuser breaks through a victim’s natural defenses, gains trust, and manipulates or coerces the victim into doing his/her bidding. The victim finds themselves willingly handing over money or assets, engaging in inappropriate, illegal or morally ambiguous actives, or acting as a proxy for the abuser, fighting the abuser’s battles, and carrying out their will. The victim often feels confusion, shame, guilt, remorse and disgust at his or her own participation. Equally powerful, is the panic that comes with the threat of being exposed for engaging these activities. There may also an overwhelming fear of losing the emotional bond that has been established with an abuser. The victim becomes trapped, depressed or despondent.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don't trust too soon, or share too much with someone you’ve only just met.
  • Don't fall for false flattery, or verbal seduction.
  • Don’t compromise your boundaries.
  • Don't allow yourself to be isolated from others against your own better judgment.
  • Don't blame yourself for how the other person is behaving.
  • Don't stay in the room if the situation becomes physically, verbally or emotionally unhealthy.
  • Don't go it alone or keep what you are experiencing a secret.

What TO Do:

  • Use caution around someone you may have only just met, who pays you too many compliments, gives you too much attention, demands too much of your time, shares too much information, or tries to swear you to secrecy.
  • Question motives.
  • Learn to pay attention to your gut, and trust those feelings to guide you.
  • Remind yourself you are not to blame for what a predator is attempting to do to you.
  • Learn to say no, and mean it.

For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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