While children are common victims of grooming by the hands of adults, it’s also possible for adults to be groomed by other adults. Similar to grooming strategies with children, the signs are often covert, manipulative, and hard to understand. One way that adults can protect themselves from grooming is to know the signs and thankfully, there are 6 stages of grooming in adult relationships. Read on to learn more.
Brief Overview of Adult Grooming
Grooming is a form of abuse in order to gain power and dominance over another person through strategic manipulation. When someone doesn’t know what grooming looks like in adult relationships, the red flags can often fly under that radar. Adults can be groomed by romantic partners, friends and family, employers and co-workers, or anyone else you have some form of relationship with.
Grooming is incredibly insidious because it starts out feeling intoxicating and special. Because groomers are so good at what they do, many people assume the overly kind behaviors are genuine and in good faith. What the adult might not be aware of is how intentional the groomers actions are at creating a sense of dependence they can eventually use against the grooming victim.
A groomer will often start out with frequent compliments, kind acts of service, love bombing behaviors, they might act like they want to spend every minute with you, sharing secrets intimately between each other, ultimately making you feel like you are the best person they have ever met. As soon as trust and dependence are developed, the groomer’s true motivation of control sets, oftentimes without the victim even noticing.
The 6 Stages of Grooming Adults
There are 6 stages of grooming that are often seen in adult and child sexual abuse grooming.
Stage One: Targeting a victim
The first stage of grooming is where a groomer identifies a person they want to groom. Groomers will typically narrow in on a target that they feel is vulnerable to exploitation and perceived as easy to control. It’s not uncommon for groomer to target people who are lonely, lack confidence or self-esteem, are previous survivors of past abuse.
Stage Two: Gain the victim’s trust
Establishing trust is one of the most crucial steps for groomers as they need their victim(s) to trust them in order to develop a sense of control. During this stage the groomer will use flattery, attention, elaborate gift giving, and anything else they can do to make their victim feel cared for, appreciated, and loved by the groomer.
This is also the stage where the groomer will begin to test the limits of what they can get away with. They will often begin demonstrating small attempts at control over the victim, but they usually are actions that can be explained away or even missed.
Stage Three: Fulfil a need for the victim
Groomers often dominate their victims by providing a need the victim has. This can be an emotional need like providing intimacy and connection, financial needs, survival needs (shelter, water, food, etc.), employment, and any other opportunities for dependence.
In extreme cases, it’s not uncommon for groomers to introduce victims to drugs and/or alcohol as a means of chemical dependence, in addition to any psychological dependence they’ve established. Some groomers will coerce victims who need money into sex work and overtime, will control and steal their earnings as a means of keeping the victim in proximity and dependent.
Stage Four: Isolate the victim(s)
Isolation is a major factor in grooming because the groomer can’t have a victim’s loved ones trying to show the victim the reality of the abusive relationship dynamic.
For example, a victim might go to a groomer and make a comment that their friends expressed concern over how much time they spend together. The groomer will then convince the victim that their friends are jealous, toxic, obsessed, and overall do not actually care for the victim as much as the groomer does. This is of course not true and a tactic the groomer is using to isolate a victim from their support network and healthy relationships.
Overtime, the groomer’s main objective is to completely isolate the victim and cause rupture in all of their outside relationships so that the victim believes the groomer is all that they have, making the prospect of leaving them terrifying and life threatening.
Stage Five: Abusing the victim
This stage is where the overt abuse tends to begin. This can be physical, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual, or all of the above. By this point, the victim is likely deeply committed and emotionally or financially imbedded in the relationship. Leaving could result in losing access to shelter, money, employment, and overall safety. The victim may be trauma bonded with the groomer, a more modern and trauma-informed term for what many know as Stockholm Syndrome.
The victim is likely enduring a constant cycle of abuse and might endure learned helplessness, feeling like there is no way there will ever escape. The victim might develop PTSD, depression, and struggle with suicidal thoughts.
Stage Six: Maintain Control
By stage six, the abuse is persisting due to the groomer successfully manipulating a victim through all the stages. Now that they feel they have ultimate control, it’s their goal to maintain that control as long as possible.
Grooming is the process during which a child sexual offender draws a child in by gaining his or her trust in order to sexually abuse the child and maintain secrecy. The offender may also groom the parents by persuading them of his or her trustworthiness with children.
In this episode, Dr. Kate talks with Barret Pall a former model , now a life coach, who has decided to talk about his experiences of being sexually abused, and show that this happens to people of all genders.
Dr. Kate shines a light on the process of grooming so people can be aware of the steps predators take once designating a victim and the psychological make up of those predators, as well as the psychological effects on the victim, especially when this happens at a young age.
Former model Barrett Pall began his fashion career while studying as an undergraduate at New York University.
Pall, now 33, is opening up about the alleged sexual abuse he received from photographers behind the scenes.
Pall, as many do, thought the fashion industry would be glamorous. But quickly found out that isn’t what it is. On his very first photo shoot, he was sexually assaulted by the photographer. And on a trip to Los Angeles, he was in an uncomfortable situation with his “agent.”
He says there is no one specific way that someone is sexually assaulted or abused,” “I personally was not penetrated in any way, but I was sexually abused, and I say that wholeheartedly, knowing full stop that is what happened to me. There was no consenting, there was no asking, there was no ‘Are you OK with this?’”
Men also suffer from unwanted sexual advances, with 1 in 6 males reporting to have been sexually abused or assaulted.
“There is something that’s taken from you, and as more people share their stories that are similar to mine, you get to take back a part of your narrative, which is taking back some of your power,” he told Yahoo.
The message he wants to send out to other men, regardless of your sexuality, is that consent is something that we also get to have for us and our sex lives. It’s an enthusiastic ‘yes’ — or it’s not a ‘yes’ at all.”
Healing can take a lifetime, and for Pall, that journey includes helping others to heal. For the last eight years, he’s been working as a life coach focused on helping his clients unlock their potential.
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