Manipulation tactics predators use to gain the victim’s trust in order to exploit and abuse them while reducing their risk of being caught.
Grooming works by gradually mixing positive or rewarding behaviors with elements of abuse. At the beginning, all behaviors are positive. Then, boundaries are slowly pushed so that the victim and those around them are not alarmed. Over time, the inappropriate and abusive behavior is accepted and feels normal, or even enjoyable to the victim.
A child predator’s goal is to persuade the child that sexual acts are harmless fun. Because of the staged and confusing progression, the victims are unaware of the manipulation and abuse. They may even crave the attention or sense of thrill.
It's important to note:
Victims can be groomed, and so can their family and friends.
- Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner
This can include:
- Providing for the child and/or their family
- Offering the child and/or their family employment, special opportunities, or other assistance
- Offering to rescue and/or transport the family and/or child, who end up falling into the hands of traffickers
- Offering the child modeling, acting, music industry, or other fame-seeking opportunities that ends up exploiting them
- Giving the child and/or their parents drugs, alcohol, or other substances that cause dependance
- Using religion to manipulate and brainwash the child and/or their parents into submission
- Teaching or training the child in a high-level skill in order to make the child feel indebted
- Causing the family and/or children to accumulate debt and accepting sexual favors as repayment
- Giving compliments and showing attraction to vulnerable kids who aren’t used to receiving that attention
- Offering counseling or other forms of therapy
- Giving special attention and asking the victim to keep it a secret
- Giving the child a special appointment or status in a religious organization, company, or group that requires the victim to do whatever it takes to “earn their place”
- Offering protection that requires the victim to hide or disappear with the perpetrator
- Mixing compliments with subtle insults in order to demoralize the victim and make them subservient
- Sexual humiliation: coerced sexual behavior followed by humiliation or threats, resulting in greater dependency, blackmail, or ownership
- Abusing their position as a teacher, religious leader, coach, counselor, influencer, or intellectual leader
- Physical intimidation: threats, physical abuse and intimidation tactics
- Performing abuse, then manipulating the victim into denying it happened so that they mistrust their memories and don’t report the abuse.
Evaluate the patterns in your relationship with this person:
What is a recurring theme or issue?
Is it good for you?
How does it make you feel?
Does it make you feel safe, strong, independent, and secure?
The grooming process subjects the victim to emotional, mental, and often physical and sexual abuse. Because grooming involves gradual manipulation, the confusion between trust, dependence, love, and abuse can be detrimental to a child’s decision making abilities and development.
Common side effects of this abuse include:
- Loss of self-worth and self esteem
- Dependance or addiction
- Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
It’s important to note that childhood trauma leaves permanent scars. While healing can take place and survivors can overcome, this abuse affects the child’s brain development, perception of the world, ability to trust and build relationships with people, as well as their self-worth.
Many victims will have difficulty discerning unhealthy relationship dynamics throughout their life because it doesn’t compare to the level or type of abuse they experienced before.
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