So we’re all staying home and thank God for social media! Under the circumstances it feels mean to mention the dangers. But this is a great breeding ground for groomers.
Whether lockdown has left you feeling lonely or given you time to connect, we ‘ve all ‘reached out’ to each other in new ways.
Whether you’ve joined a dating site, whether you’ve joined groups to keep abreast of what’s happening or to pursue an interest with time on your hands, or whether you’re simply joining in with games like ‘Words with Friends’, you are now bumping up against new people.
And this is a fabulous thing. We are connected online in ways that we can’t be in person.
But whilst I’m a huge believer in the fact that most people are good, sadly these are perfect conditions for adult groomers.
Their ‘modus operandi’ is to talk to you.
Yes, it’s that simple. They just talk to you. They are interested in you and will tell them about themselves in a way that slowly draws you into their web. They will be an unbelievable match for you. Slowly but surely you’ll develop ‘really like’ feelings.
This is a perfect time for groomers, because whilst you might expect someone to suggest a coffee or a date, right now no-one can, so the normal slow burn, getting to know you of adult groomers has the perfect cover. No-one can meet up just now.
So groomers and other scammers have the perfect excuse for not meeting and getting to know you. Why? because they want you to fall ‘in love’ with them.
But a mutually respectful, loving relationship isn’t their goal.
For some it’s just the thrill of sexual conquest. For others it’s money. For another group it’s a new nationality (through marriage), and another it’s professional information (work or campaign related). For others it’s to lure into modern slavery or prostitution.
Grooming usually feels good. Great even. If it didn’t the targets would walk away.
Our own research shows that around 80% of adult targets who know they were groomed were love bombed (made to feel really special about themselves).
Trust was established by sharing stories about themselves and their lives (73%) and by expressing views close to the target’s own views. Because they have researched and know their target’s public likes and activities, this isn’t too hard.
And whilst some groomers may ‘catfish’, the large majority of groomers check out on and off line – they use their own identity and simply omit a fact or two. This makes them incredibly hard to spot, and a high number hold positions of trust or volunteer in respectable roles.
However, most people sense that there is something not quite right. If, like me when I was groomed, you think you’ve just been watching too many movies, take a deep breath and listen to your doubts.
Most groomers don’t even know what grooming is. They think they’re unique. Challenging them is likely to result in excuses that make you feel like you’re in the wrong. Listen to your ‘spidey senses’. Ask yourself what you’d say to a friend in the same situation.
Groomers are hard to spot. Most have tried and failed many times before they get to you. So give yourself a break if they DO pick you. It’s because you’re shinier, richer, nicer, better located or just in the wrong place at the right time for them that they pick you. Hold on to that thought. You did nothing wrong, just drew the short straw.
Coping under lockdown
Notes from our counselling psychologist, Wendy Gregory.
CAAGe is here for people who’ve been or are being groomed, and for those who care about them. Contact us.