”Grooming works by mixing positive behaviours with elements of abuse. At the beginning, all behaviours are positive. Slowly, abusive elements are added in amounts that surprise the survivor to an extent, but do not push alarm to a high level. Overtime, the inappropriate comes to feel normal.” Michael Samsel
What is 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. The goal is to prepare the other person for abuse (for example sexual or financial) at a later time. The first step the groomer takes is to establish a friendship and trust.
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. It happens online and in real life.
Expanded grooming behaviours:
- Positive Reinforcement: includes praise, superficial charm, superficial sympathy (crocodile tears), excessive apologising; money, approval, gifts; attention, facial expressions (perhaps a forced laugh or smile); public recognition.
- Negative Reinforcement: includes nagging, yelling, the silent treatment, intimidation, threats, swearing, emotional blackmail, the guilt trap, sulking, crying, and playing the victim.
- Intermittent or Partial Reinforcement: Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt, which can encourage the victim to persist.
- Traumatic One-Trial Learning: using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or other intimidating behaviour to establish dominance or superiority; even one incident of such behaviour can condition or train victims to avoid upsetting, confronting or contradicting the manipulator.
- Normalisation of behaviour.
Groomers manoeuvre others into a positions that isolate them; they like their victims dependent/hooked; they build a false trust; and their victims start to behave out of character.
Abusers often use shared secrets to bind their victims to them. They also work hard to break down defences through a mix of behaviours, rewards and reassuring words.
Groomers then go on to manipulate the victim until they are rewarded with whatever it is they are after. Their tactics include charm, overt attention, flattery, charm, gifts, creation of a secret, private World.
Often echoing back part their target’s own background or story, groomers often claim special connections with their target prey. Predators typically employ attentiveness, sensitivity, and empathy and plenty of positive reinforcement to seduce their victims.
Victims are SO sucked in that they overlook or ignore the warning signs. Abusers patiently break through their target’s defences, build trust, and then manipulate or coerce the target into doing what they plan. Victims willingly handing part with money or assets, do things they wouldn’t normally do, fight battles for their abuser….
Consequently, victims of groomers often feel shame, remorse and disgust at their participation, often therefore unwilling to expose the groomer.