Grooming has been talked about and related to child sexual abuse a lot recently. Especially when it is done by those in positions of authority and trust and how they can twist what they’re doing around to make it *seem* perfectly okay and justified. Larry Nassar comes to mind when I make this statement. Yet there are other sexual predators that use threats, violence, fear, intimidation to get what they want and to be able to continue doing what they want.
According to YWCA CSA FACT SHEET 93% of CSA instances [Child Sexual Abuse] are done by people known to the child. Nearly 70% of all reported cases of CSA are by those under 17 years of age. For 12.3% of females, their first rape happens before the age of 10. The younger the child, the greater the chance the child is/was abused by a family member – 50% for 5 year olds and younger!
These stats show that CSA is still prevalent the world over. It is not localized to specific countries, demographics, nor ethnicity. It is a global epidemic.
So how do the perpetrators get away with doing this especially since more and more of us are being educated on this sensitive topic?…. Since more and more are aware that this happens?
It is because of Grooming. Grooming is: Behaviour by an individual who enjoys power and control. In the context of sexual abuse, grooming involves specific skills of manipulation, coercion, domination so they can sexually abuse their target and keep doing so as long as they want.
It does not mean that if you’ve got a BA or a PHD that you’ll see grooming behaviour easier than those who don’t. The facts show all can be duped, fooled, tricked, and manipulated by a perpetrator of ill intent.
From what I’ve seen in my Trauma Recovery Coaching practice there are four basic types of grooming. And what I mean is that grooming is done at four different stages in the abusive relationship to ensure that victim is compliant and silent and that they maintain power and control over the target and any support system s/he may have.
For those who’ve been randomly been abused by a stranger almost always violence and or threats were involved. Since most CSA stems from either a family member or someone who is trusted by the family, I will list grooming behaviours coming from this lens.
- Pre Abuse Grooming
Target: Victim and their support circle
Purpose: They want to feel power and control. Creates an Adrenalin rush.
Sometimes it involves:
Threats or acts of violence or torture so victim will comply
Ploys to alienate
Intentional by perp to ensure their target allows the sexual abuse to happen.
Intentional so that the target’s family continues to trust and does not suspect any foul play/criminal behaviour/sexual activity
Their success is dependant on how well he has built up trust, and how good he is at his game. Or it could depend on his physical strength and intimidation.
It doesn’t have much to do with how smart you are, it is more about how cunning and manipulative or violent the abuser is.
Pre Abuse Grooming may go on for days, weeks, months and even years before the actual sexual behaviour commences.
- Concurrent Grooming
Target: Victim and their support circle
Purpose: They enjoy the feeling of power and control and want to maintain this at any cost. Adrenaline rush.
Various ploys to make their victim feel wanted, special or even loved – gift giving, special vacations, etc.
Mind games involving Coercion, Victim blaming, Shaming
Guilt-tripping – Implying victim wanted this sexual activity to happen by saying things like: Well, you didn’t stop me so you must like what we are doing
Threats to hurt victim, their family or friends, pets, possessions, or their reputation
Threats to kill or harm self creating mental anguish and guilt in the victim
Threats to kill or harm the victim
Ongoing violence, torture, physical abuse
Intent – They demand that their victim be SILENT.
- Reactive/Retaliatory Grooming
Target: Victim’s support circle, victim, community
Purpose: To maintain sense of Power and Control, becoming more fear based
Becomes common once the victim begins to talk of the abuse.
Because victim is not silent, the back up plan is to ensure she is not believed – sow seeds of doubt re her moral character, mental stability, or her intentions to any who may hear
May involve vehement denial, character assassination, gaslighting, deflection. May cite “examples” as “proof” that the victim is not afraid of the perp. [If I’m so horrible then why would she…..?] These implications are twisted to cause one to question the allegations of the victim.
The offender may use media to defame, intimidate or silence, etc.
Uttering of threats to those who believe the victim so they won’t come forward.
Towards the victim there may be overt or covert threats, aggressive behaviour, which may include physical attacks, attempted assaults, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping,
May twist facts to where offender looks like the victim.
To the untrained ear, what the perp says may sound rational or believable.
All this Reactive Grooming is purposely executed because they want the listener to feel sorry for the sexual predator. They want any listener to believe their lies. It is part of their game of manipulation of others because they like to feel power and control.
Also known as DARVO- Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim Offender role
- Grooming Ahead
Target: Victim’s support circle, community, world at large
Purpose: To maintain power and control, Silence the victim, ensure s/he isn’t believed.
To ensure that no one believes the abused victim, the abuser spreads lies, slanders the character or cast doubts as to the mental stability and honesty of their victim[s].
Involves mind games, coercion, lies, manipulation of thought and feelings of as many people as possible.
It is a game to them – they like to see how many they can fool and/or destroy. If the abuser[s] cannot control their victim[s], then they will do whatever they can to control those whom the victims know.
It is very important to remember that all Grooming behaviour is effective, intentional and calculated and done callously. Because it works so well, it is used by sexual predators, by politicians, in business, and in religion.
DARVO is a favourite ploy of all those who want to have a sense and need to maintain this sense of power and control. DARVO is successful only when we are ignorant about it. An example: When Harvey Weinstein was convicted he was noted as saying words to the effect ‘He was the first of the Me Too movement and that he fears it’s led to 1000s of men not getting due process.’ This is a classic example of a perpetrator trying to manipulate the listeners to feel sorry for him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDDJwBpEhhI It is DARVO, clear and true. Yes, there are plenty of those who’ve abused women and children and they’ve all employed DARVO as their Go-To when the victims begin to speak. I am sure that many names come to your mind when you think about who has been accused and or convicted in these last 5 years.
The reality is that it is the abuser or the individual in power that is afraid of the truth coming out, so a lot of their grooming is fear based. These ones are cowards in many ways. Yes, when all is said and done it is the abuser/perpetrator is really the one who feels powerless. They are the ones who feel week, shame and pathetic and work hard at inflicting these sad feelings of inadequacy onto their victims. It just breaks my heart when I think of these innocent little children some too young to even speak who are subjected to this form of manipulation, coercion and toxic, shameful, and egregious behaviour.
In my own case I was raised in a home environment were there was rigidity and control. Unwittingly, parents passed on their own childhood pain through the lack of communication, lack of warmth and compassion, strong discipline, and us kids were the brunt of a lot of unprocessed toxicity. We didn’t learn how to truly talk about what we were experiencing at any time in our lives. There was no safety to be vulnerable, to show emotion, to be authentic. It is sad, really, when I look back on all this. Such a waste of time not really living – not being able to live free, nor live in joy and authenticity. This environment creates fertile soil for abuse to happen. I’ve experienced the Grooming stages of 3 & 4 mostly – this I can remember more.
The first assault happened before language was fully developed and memory was just beginning to start using a narrative. I must have been 2-3 yrs old. All I know is that there is an intense sense of terror when I am around him. He did tell later what he did after I confronted him of the sexual assault. So my physiological response when in his presence now makes sense.
Besides this, I was the one who was sexually assaulted besides this physical terrorization by the same brother when I was about 4. No wonder I had such a hard time relaxing and trusting, such a hard time with social situations, such a hard time learning certain subjects…. No wonder…..no wonder….no wonder! Thankfully, after therapy and trauma recovery coaching, I am able to see and tell the truth re all what happened.
When victims feel safe enough to tell the truth, they free themselves, they feel empowered. By telling, they throw the shame, blame and guilt back onto the perp – where it rightfully belongs.
As a society it is really important to open our eyes and see Grooming and DARVO for what it is and only then will this type of “woe is me” attitude and punishment/backlash for telling stop working. We need to listen. We need to believe their stories. Abuse does NOT happen in a vacuum. There are always enablers. Educating ourselves on Grooming is one way to fight against denial and complicity.