TRIGGER WARNING!!! I am discussing the 6 stages of grooming that are considered fairly “textbook”. I will not list details or use names. I am doing this only so we can protect our own children but also have more compassion for ourselves by understanding the trap that was set.
I don’t know about other people but whenever I’ve discussed my abuse in any way, 99% of the time a questions is asked. “Why didn’t you tell?” Well… this is my answer.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner is a world renound expert and focusses much of his time journaling and teaching about this topic. My information was found in his research. I usually write posts that are 100% my own content but for this post? I feel he explains it better than I could.
Stage 1: Targeting the victim
The offender targets a victim by sizing up the child’s vulnerability—emotional neediness, isolation and lower self-confidence. Children with less parental oversight are more desirable prey.
Stage 2: Gaining the victim’s trust
The sex offender gains trust by watching and gathering information about the child, getting to know his needs and how to fill them. In this regard, sex offenders mix effortlessly with responsible caretakers because they generate warm and calibrated attention. Only more awkward and overly personal attention, or a gooey intrusiveness, provokes the suspicion of parents. Otherwise, a more suave sex offender is better disciplined for how to push and poke, without revealing themselves. Think of the grooming sex offender on the prowl as akin to a spy—and just as stealth.
Stage 3: Filling a need
Once the sex offender begins to fill the child’s needs, that adult may assume noticeably more importance in the child’s life and may become idealized. Gifts, extra attention, affection may distinguish one adult in particular and should raise concern and greater vigilance to be accountable for that adult
Stage 4: Isolating the child
The grooming sex offender uses the developing special relationship with the child to create situations in which they are alone together. This isolation further reinforces a special connection. Babysitting, tutoring, coaching and special trips all enable this isolation.
A special relationship can be even more reinforced when an offender cultivates a sense in the child that he is loved or appreciated in a way that others, not even parents, provide. Parents may unwittingly feed into this through their own appreciation for the unique relationship.
Stage 5: Sexualizing the relationship
At a stage of sufficient emotional dependence and trust, the offender progressively sexualizes the relationship. Desensitization occurs through talking, pictures, even creating situations (like going swimming) in which both offender and victim are naked. At that point, the adult exploits a child’s natural curiosity, using feelings of stimulation to advance the sexuality of the relationship.
When teaching a child, the grooming sex offender has the opportunity to shape the child’s sexual preferences and can manipulate what a child finds exciting and extend the relationship in this way. The child comes to see himself as a more sexual being and to define the relationship with the offender in more sexual and special terms.
Stage 6: Maintaining control
Once the sex abuse is occurring, offenders commonly use secrecy and blame to maintain the child’s continued participation and silence—particularly because the sexual activity may cause the child to withdraw from the relationship.
Children in these entangled relationships—and at this point they are entangled—confront threats to blame them, to end the relationship and to end the emotional and material needs they associate with the relationship, whether it be the dirt bikes the child gets to ride, the coaching one receives, special outings or other gifts. The child may feel that the loss of the relationship and the consequences of exposing it will humiliate and render them even more unwanted.
The next time you are asked if you told, why didn’t you run away, why you never shared this with a responsible adult or any other questions that feel more like blame than questions?
Your answer can be that you were groomed by a professional who knew what (s)he wanted and was going to get it by any means necessary.
For me it is really difficult looking back especially at the times when I truly believed that I was being loved and cherished. I was so desperate for attention that it was easy to groom me using that technique. The only threat ever needed was the risk of losing someone who loved me when no one else did.
In the end, abuser are abusers and whether you are a young child or a competent adult, abusers can worm their way in to your life in these ways. If you are in need of love or attention, they will give that to you. The only way that we can change this is to start recognizing it in our current day relationships to make sure we never go down this path and to also offer ourselves compassion for our pasts. If you knew better or if that person could not fill a deep seated need? It wouldn’t have happened.
A special note to others who were children when this began.
You were a child.
When you look back, you do so with adult eyes and adult options.
You come up with things you could or should have done because TODAY those are options. Back then? They likely were not.
My biggest reality check comes when I look at children who are the same ages that I was back then. They are so little, so precious, so vulnerable.
Show yourself the compassion that you deserve.