What is Adult Grooming?
Also known as ‘Love Bombing’ or the ‘psychopaths love hook’.
Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with someone to earn trust with the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or even trafficking.
It may be online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by some one they know-(family members, friends or professionals).
Whilst grooming children up to age 16-(18 for vulnerable) is illegal in the UK, it’s not illegal to groom an adult (although vulnerable adults do have some protection).
The classic stages of grooming can roughly be summarised as:
- Groomers target/profile the victim(s)
- Groomers deliberately use words, promises and actions to gain the victim’s trust
- They identify a need in their victims and fill it – or pretend/seem to do so
- They desensitise the victim so that their normal guards/filters fail
- Groomers then isolate victims (if they’re not already isolated) and/or make them complicit
- They then sexualise the relationship. This is often the end game for adult groomers, who then disappear/’ghost’ their targets
- Groomers establish/maintain control over the situation and/or the victim’s behaviours, often using ‘gaslighting’ techniques to make them doubt their own instincts.
Survivors Manchester expands this, and identifies the following 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.
Grooming is predatory, not loving.
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.