Who are the victims of grooming?
The scary thing is anyone can become a victim of grooming – especially people with soft-boundaries or whose defenses are down. Because there is no prototypical victim, anyone can be vulnerable to grooming.
How does an offender go about grooming another person?
There are firstly 3 primary goals a groomer focuses on to control the environment of a victim:
AFFILIATION: An offender has to gain access to potential adult victims. Predators are masters in positioning themselves in the proximity of a possible victim. They join social groups, participate in group activities or meet potential victims online via for example dating games.
ACCEPTANCE: The next step is to manipulate the perceptions of other people in such a way that the offender is socially accepted to ”the group”. It is important for the predator to be seen as a valuable part of the group and as a good match for the victim. Acceptance lessens the risk of difficult questions being asked by the group. Secondarily, in ongoing abuse situations, the offender will manipulate the environment is such a way, that the victim will withdraw from the group in an acceptable way. The power and charm of a predator over a victim is scary. Groomers are great con men.
ASSURANCE: An offender thirdly has to assure ongoing access to the victim. He ensures that the group or environment perceives him as harmless. By doing this the offender diminishes the ability of the victim to escape it or be believed.
No one can bring themselves to believe ”such a nice guy” could do such a thing. Most offender also possess power – be it political, monetary or absolute power in the case of a husband or parent. Some also have celebrity status for example in media or sports.
The grooming process
A 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, gas-lighting, secrecy, and threats are all hallmarks of grooming.
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