Book Review: What Lies Behind the Curtain

What Lies Behind the Curtain, Claire Gray, Compass Publishing 2019

What Lies Behind the Curtain is Claire Gray’s recollections of being groomed and abused at the hands of the owners of the owners of a Manchester model agency.

I commend this book to you, both as a study in the way that grooming and groomers work, and as a practical guide.

I expected raw and angry, which is the way I hear most people’s stories of grooming as they try and make sense of what has happened, to piece together the gaps between what they believed was their reality and what it actually was.

But Claire has already done that work, processed what happened to her, and logically presents her own experiences, her confusion at what was happening to her, her mixed emotions and split loyalties, and offers advice to youngsters, advice that’s equally applicable to adults.

Claire’s loving parents failed to notice what was happening to their headstrong daughter. There was a general, unspoken conspiracy of silence amongst the models, whose hopes and dreams were tied up in the modelling agency, which was being used as a vehicle for sexual grooming.

Any parent whose child wants to become a model would do well to read this book, as Claire clearly highlights the warning signs. As she tells of staying in the model house, of being singled out as special, as a reader I wanted to scream ‘stop, don’t do it’, but Claire’s descriptions show just how easily scheming groomers build trust, using the very things that we need to hear. Claire’s parents were encouraged to believe that she was safer in the model agency than elsewhere.

It’s an easy and logical read, demonstrating just how easily groomers can manipulate, how they groom the people around their targets, and how illogical lies become accepted as fact.

The front cover of the book carries a review by Marilyn Allen, PhD Psychotherapeutic Counsellor & Integrative Therapisst: “The most practical and empowering book I’ve read about grooming. It is a must read for every professional, guardian, carer, parent or individuals interested in learning about grooming or preventing it”

It is really hard to disagree, particularly with so little truly understanding literature available into grooming that spills into adult grooming.

Lessons from ‘Behind the Curtain’

The events in this recollection date back to the 1990s. Laws have moved on, notably coercive control, but also awareness of grooming – particularly child grooming – is now higher, and we have to hope that DBS checks and safeguarding checks are in the DNA of anyone working with youngsters today in the UK.

Models, with their high hopes and aspirations, in a hugely competitive field, are at a disadvantage when it comes to grooming – the groomers don’t have to do the work of finding out what their targets want, it’s right in front of them.

Add a heady mix of glamour and beautiful people, and it’s an appealing breeding ground for groomers.

Grooming happens to adults as well as children

Claire’s case clearly highlights the ridiculous definition of grooming as something that happens to children. When her virginity was taken at 17, she was over the age of consent, but her grooming continued well past her 16th birthday.

Too many people get a free pass

Robert, the head of the model agency Claire worked for, Northern Teen Models, was jailed as a paedophile. I fail to see how his partner in crime, Gina was let off so lightly. Not only was she complicit in the abuse and procurement of young women, she sexually assaulted Claire. (Yet if Claire is angry about this, she doesn’t let it eat her up.)

Groomers often groom the people around their targets

They have to appear to be nice people to be able to operate.

Encourage people to follow their gut

Even at a young age, without fully realising what was happening, Claire sensed something was wrong. We need to be able to talk more openly about these kinds of feelings without fears of repercussion.

But most of all, we do need to raise awareness of grooming so that people can spot at least some of the signs that someone may be being groomed.

We’ve created a guide to help avoid being groomed with modelling as a front: Preventing Grooming – Modelling

If you’ve been groomed, or feel you may have been groomed, as an adult, please help our research into grooming by answering a few questions (anonymous):

Get involved:

Contact CAAGe, the Campaign Against Adult Grooming: contact

Published by Claire (claireatwaves)

Founder, Waves PR To be found as claireatwaves in most social spaces. Helping people's reputations, online and off. Passionate advocate against adult grooming and groomers at

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