At the hearing of victims’ stories following the death of serial groomer Jeffrey Epstein, Annie Farmer, speaking on behalf of her sister Maria Farmer, said:
Although conspiracy theories abound that Epstein never really died but escaped, little has been said of Ghislaine Maxwell, who is nowhere to be found.
Born into a privileged life as the daughter of disgraced publishing magnate Robert Maxwell (who incidentally also escaped justice, having apparently drowned in a boating accident), her life was a million miles from those that Epstein selected for abuse. She had influence, beauty and wealth, and no need to stand by Epstein. Yet by all accounts she was responsible for the procurement of young girls for abuse by the wealthy financier.
A British socialite, she has been friends with, and photographed alongside, the rich and famous, now linked to Epstein, including Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton (she was a guest at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010).
She supported his grooming, without a doubt, befriending the girls and then throwing them to the wolf, sometimes even participating in the abuse herself according to the victims.
For this she has currently escaped justice, and there are suggestions online of all kinds as to where she might be, ranging from Brazil to a London mansion. It is to be hoped that in the search for justice for the girls she procured that she will be brought to justice.
A broader pattern in adult grooming
Alarm bells started to ring when the Ghislaine Maxwell story appeared as part of the series I was reviewing, Filthy Rich. I had already noted a broader pattern in adult grooming – an anchor person; the groomers safe place.
This week I spoke with a woman who had been groomed by her physiotherapist. He had a girlfriend, mother of his child, who he kept returning to. Nothing to do with the grooming, other than saying on occasion that he wanted to make her jealous, she was an apparently safe place for him. (I would be amazed if he didn’t have other victims.)
My own groomer had a wife. She was upset when the bubble burst, publicly, about him sexually grooming multiple women over many years. Despite having sent me a message asking me to contact her, when I did her response was ‘You’ve had your fun, now leave us alone,’ or words to that effect. As far as I’m aware she has stayed with him. For many years he also had a girlfriend who kept returning to (including whilst I was ‘dating’ him) to the point where her children called him ‘Daddy Simon’ (name changed to protect the guilty). These anchors, again, seemed to offer him a safe place.
Harvey Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman, didn’t leave Weinstein until around 90 sexual harassment accusations meant charges were being brought against him.
In marriage fraud cases, existing wives are often complicit in what we (in the UK) would consider bigamy, but which they claim is allowed under Sharia law.
In another case, where a woman was groomed via a dating site, she confronted her abuser with his girlfriend, who she had contacted. He continued to maintain that he only had eyes for the girlfriend, even in front of the target, who was left feeling confused. The girlfriend remained with him.
And in a further case, a psychologist dated a man whose groomer appeared to keep returning to his ex-girlfriend. He left her regularly and just went off with more women, trying to take their money.
(Dare I even mention Hilary Clinton standing by her man? Or Emile Cillier’s wife (the Parachute Murder) Victoria refusing to accept that he had tried to murder her?)
So I had slowly started looking into the safety net, this anchoring – the place groomers often go to between old and new ‘supply’. It felt like something just out of reach, that deserves research. They know something about their partner’s grooming habits. But remain connected.
I thought I had found something unique, something not noted previously, something that was unique to grooming. I mentioned it to our counselling psychologist, Wendy. She immediately used the term enabler.
This enabling is not uncommon in crimes – take the Ian Huntley murder of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, teaching assistant Maxine Carr provided an alibi for Huntley.
Whilst most groomers are narcissists, not every narcissist is a groomer. But it is common for narcissists to have someone ’enabling’ them. Narcissists are often dependent on others for the self-assurance and definition they lack. The enabler props up their persona, their sense of entitlement, and their abusive behaviour. Enablers, apparently unquestioningly, accept the narcissists version of reality. They don’t stand up to their abuse, often hiding or cleaning up the mess the narcissist makes. They will apologise for him/her, and blame others (including the real victim) for his/her behaviour.
The enabler can be a spouse family member, co-worker, employee, someone they’ve met online – but in the cases I’ve witnessed of sexual grooming, they are often partners or lovers. Ex-girlfriends and boyfriends believe that the groomer is in love with them and wants them back – which is hugely flattering and often groomers offer the hand of friendship.
The true abuser may have eroded an enablers self confidence, burdened them with responsibilities, isolated them from friends, and/or have financial control. They will use this and/or access to children as a way to make the enabler stay and/or support them.
Whilst it can be hard to feel for someone who’s enabling grooming, they are often themselves from damaged backgrounds, and may need help to create boundaries and rebuild what the groomer has damaged.
Co-conspirators – co-dependency – ‘forced teaming’
Co-dependency is behaviour pattern: one person enables another’s wrong doing. Co-dependents rely on others for approval and for their sense of identity.
Enablers can cross the line and become co-conspirators themselves. It seems it is often to avoid being targeted themselves.
Sometimes they are so invested in believing the narcissist’s lies (to justify abusing others) that they can’t leave.
Often abusers use share secrets to bind victims to them. They are lured, over time, into giving up private information, contacts, money, property or sex. Victims may be persuaded to allow unsafe inappropriate, or illegal acts. The victim is thus drawn in to being a co-conspirator with their abuser.
A bond of secrecy is created, reinforced by threats, shame and guilt to keep the victim quiet about what they’ve done.
(Is this Ghislaine Maxwell?)
The reverse can apply, of course. Shamima Begum was groomed into leaving her home to join a terrorist group – but then participated in horrors. There will be very few people, possibly even only her, who know why she went or why she participated. But the spectacle of interviewing her in a refugee camp, having just lost a child, was vile. It was well known that ISIS had personnel in that camp (including her). What would have been the consequences for her had she renounced the group publicly? Or had she just become so vilified, so hated, that she could justify her own actions?
Manipulators use ‘forced teaming’ to make victims appear to have as much as possible in common with them to gain their confidence. Intent on deceiving and exploiting, they appear to the victim to have their best interests at heart. They create a ‘team us’ and use the term ‘we’ a lot to reinforce this sense of belonging. They make the rest of the World the ‘other’, present them as something untrustworthy, damaging or to be feared. (This is a particular favourite of cult groomers.)
Flying monkeys were used by the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1930s version of The Wizard of Oz to carry out her wrongdoing.
The term is often now used by psychologists to refer to anyone who believes the narcissist’s fake persona. Psychology author Angela Atkinson believes that ‘flying monkeys’ are usually unwittingly manipulated to believe the smears about the victim
The ‘flying monkey’ is used by the narcissist to torment the target. They are often part of a bigger group of ‘flying monkeys’, sometimes unknowingly, forming a gang or mob against the victim. The narcissist may ask them to spy, sometimes innocuously (“Just keep an eye on their Facebook page and report back”). They may be fed gossip to spread. They may help persuade others that the narcissist is the victim and the target is the guilty party.
Whilst the ‘flying monkeys’ are useful to the narcissist, and may make it seem like the narcissist is not really behind their actions, they often have no idea that they are being used. Indeed, the ‘flying monkey’ is disposable to the narcissist, who won’t hesitate to pass blame to flying monkeys when and if needed.
For example, entire families are involved in marriage fraud grooming – they are conscious of what’s happening and befriend the victim, knowing that the only reason they are being welcomed to the fold is, ultimately, nationality/money for which the groomer is marrying.
Friends can’t believe their drinking buddy or team mate could be so nice and still do something bad. Before they know it, the victim themself is revictimized and accused of lying.
The phenomena of the enabler deserves more attention with particular regard to adult grooming. It’s hard to research – they may not see themselves as enablers, just wronged partners; they are unlikely to come forward.
Having said that, if there is anyone reading this who recognises themselves as an enabler, we can help with a good counsellor.
Personally, I have a sense that the role of the enabler goes much deeper in grooming than with most other forms of abuse – it feels like the partner becomes a groomer’s ‘safe place’ in a World where they are otherwise enjoying, and thriving upon, risk.
More than ever before, I’d value your opinions, your thoughts and your experiences to help us advance our understanding and for what you’ve found are useful tactics for dealing with it.