Who are narcissists attracted to and why?

CAAGe counselling psychologist, Wendy Gregory, has created a video explaining who narcissists are attracted to and why.

Wendy’s list of the six things that narcissists look for:

  1. ‘Shining girls and boys’, because they want to be reflected in the shine;
  2. Highly sensitive people;
  3. Tender-hearted people (empaths);
  4. People who see the good in others;
  5. Vulnerability;
  6. Abandonment or rejection issues.

Contact Wendy via CAAGe: Contact us

Q&A: I’m sure my daughter’s being groomed.

Reader’s question: I’m sure my daughter’s being groomed. What should I do?

Case summary: A worried mother feels her daughter is being groomed by a woman she met online. This woman pretended to be someone else, but when the daughter went to meet her, she was not the person she said she was. (Catfished, but obviously this is now in the open.) The daughter was dealing with a bereavement at the time and her mother feels she was vulnerable. The daughter is now in a relationship with this woman, living in an intimate relationship with her, and supporting her financially.

Alarm bells ring when someone one has met online isn’t the person they pretended to be (‘catfishing’), and this is often a pretty clear sign of some kind of grooming. And the fact that the daughter is now supporting this woman may offer a clue to possible motive.

However, there may have been a legitimate reason for using an alternative identity, and it’s important to maintain a sense of balance and not react immediately.

Warning signs

Signs that this relationship may not be all that it seems include:

  • The daughter behaving unusually, perhaps cutting off old friends, family, or giving up activities she previously enjoyed
  • Parting with money/goods
  • If the daughter normally uses social media and has stopped posting pictures of herself or never includes her partner in those images

Unfortunately each and every one of these could have other, perfectly legitimate, reasons. All a mother can do is watch, encourage, keep and open door and listen.

Legal position

CAAGe doesn’t pretend to offer legal advice, so I’m hoping that anyone reading this may have something to add.

Sadly, as far as I’m aware, there is nothing that can be done legally at present. It’s two adults having a relationship.

It is small consolation to the mother that often sexual grooming of this nature only lasts for about six months, although we have seen cases, obviously, of far longer periods.

It is , of course, perfectly feasible that the couple are really happy together, but given the alarm bells that the deceit raises, I would be keeping an eye out for:

  • signs of coercive control (The link also offers access to help and support)
  • signs of financial fraud (at which point, the police can step in)

Make sure any evidence is noted. If necessary, keep a diary, recording any odd behavior, with dates and times.

Supporting the daughter

Our own research shows that families struggle to get it right around support for the people who have been groomed. Sadly there is no template, but its safe to say that the victims need a supportive ear and practical help rather than ‘I told you so’ or ‘I knew something was up’ once the shock of discovery hits.

It’s important to understand that she may not be ready to hear anything bad about her partner, and that by confronting her, the mother may damage the relationship — and leave the daughter with less support going forward.

Investigation

I’d be inclined to run an online search on the girlfriend’s name.

Key both her name and the alias she used into Google and see what comes up. I’d be looking for inconsistencies in story, reports of wrongdoing, other relationships, commentary. Do the same with her phone number(s).

A reverse picture search on both her real image and any she used when she gave the daughter a false identity may also bring up information: how to do a reverse image search.

Note that there are services that will give you data based on a phone number such as addresses etc, but you run two risks with these:

  1. You are entering your personal details and account number into a somewhat dodgy site and leaving yourself open to financial fraud;
  2. Most of these sites are almost certainly illegal.

Screen shot/save anything that suggests grooming, financial abuse, freeloading.

No matter what the temptation, avoid commenting anywhere and leave as little ‘digital footprint’ as possible.

If anything untoward is found, create a dossier, but sleep on it before confronting the girlfriend (who will have a lots of excuses ready, and may already have explained these things away. Groomers are great liars) or telling the daughter.

Decide what you want to achieve before taking any action. Do you want to:

  • open the daughter’s eyes to the reality of her partner?
  • break up the relationship?
  • expose the girlfriend as a groomer/fraud?

The biggest consideration has to be the daughter who has given herself over to a relationship. She may well be ungrateful for any interference, however well intended.

Mum has to think carefully. The absence of digital proof does not mean that there is none. Indeed, it’s pretty unusual to have NO digital presence. Will doing a search and finding nothing leave her more or less concerned? And if the daughter finds out, she doubtless regard this as an act of treachery – how dare mum not trust her to make her own relationships?

IF the girlfriend is up to no good, she has the upper hand at present. Love can blind a person, and a ‘successful’ groomer is great at poisoning their prey against family and friends.

Cautionary note

There’s a big ‘BUT’ with this. Be extremely cautious. There is a thin line between investigating and stalking, between concern and obsession. Go too far and mum risks both alienating the daughter and breaking laws.

The big question is whether, armed with the knowledge, to confront the daughter and risk both ruptured relationships and alienation. Moreover, if the daughter then tries to leave the groomer, she is open to both manipulation (verbal) and even physical confrontation.

It is important to plan any disclosure in a calm, protected environment rather than a knee jerk reaction. I’d advise mum to talk this over with a good, trusted friend or family member before doing anything. If telling the daughter, it may help to have a calming influence on hand, perhaps in a public place where emotions are less likely to explode.

The hard truth about grooming is that when it starts, it feels good, sometimes great, sometimes exhilarating. This stage is quite possibly the worst time to approach or confront someone who is being groomed. The victim may need some help adjusting to this new truth, and will almost certainly be shocked.

Often grooming then moves to a ‘gaslighting’ phase, where the target is made to feel bad about themselves in order for the groomer to feel good about themselves and/or establish control. In this phase, the groomer’s target is vulnerable and may not be thinking clearly, even so strongly bonded to the groomer that despite knowing things are wrong will refuse to acknowledge it to themselves, let alone anyone else.

It’s a situation equivalent to telling a friend that their husband/wife is cheating on them. Well-intentioned, but can go horribly wrong for the person trying to help.

CAAGe sources of support hand be found: HERE

Contact CAAGe: CONTACT

NOTE: We focused in the grooming in this response, but are conscious that finding out that your child is same sex attracted can be hard for parents. We found this article, which we feel may be helpful, and suggest that Stonewall may also be a source of further help and advice if needed:Why some parents experience a child’s coming out as loss.

Photo by Tallie Robinson on Unsplash

Book Review: Restored (Handbook)

Off the bat, I don’t mind telling you that I was worried when I saw this handbook, which is specifically for female Christian survivors of domestic abuse. I was thankfully wrong and can wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone of any denomination for the practical help it offers alone.

Far from ‘turn the other cheek’, this guide is a really practical resource which could equally help anyone leaving a relationship which has been marred by domestic abuse. I wish someone had stuck it in my hand before my divorce.

It is specifically for women leaving a male abuser. I hope they (the authors) will go on and create one for men leaving abusive relationships.

Throughout the guide are useful spaces for personal notes, reflecting the fact that this is a helpful, practical guide, dealing with difficult emotional issues, and acknowledging that many abused women will also be parents.

About the guide

Its multiple authors break into small chunks what domestic abuse is, what it looks like. The second section is invaluable: managing the practicalities after leaving. It pulls no punches. For many of us, leaving a relationship means losing our homes, the shared burden of finances and childcare. The guide tackles this and behind it is a tacit acknowledgement that for many people who’ve been in abusive relationships, this may mean starting from ground up.

The healing and recovery section which follows is a format I love.Many of the chapters in this section are as helpful for other kinds of sexual abuse, including sexual grooming, as for those recovering from/escaping from a domestic abuse situation. The guide doesn’t shy away from the need for building back boundaries. It tackles, head on, infidelity, porn and mental/physical wellbeing.

Although clearly coming from a Christian viewpoint, the handbook leaves until the end the theological issues. It is a fabulous discussion, with a clear message: if you’re in an abusive relationship, the scriptures support you. God opposes those who abuse others.

While Scripture may have been used to keep us quiet about our experiences of abuse, to urge us to stay with an abusive partner, and even to justify the abuse, the Bible is clear that God opposes those who oppress, marginalise and abuse others.

Ally Kern, Restored, Chapter23, What Does the Bible Really Say About Domestic Abuse.

The expertise called upon to create this handbook reflect the work of Restored, which is an international Christian alliance that raises awareness and works towards ending violence against women. Chapters are written by experts in their fields, too many (14) to mention here.

Recommended reading

I have no hesitation in recommending this useful resource to women of all faiths.

Apart from anything else, it offers faith a valuable role in a modern world where religion can often be seen as at best irrelevant, at worst toxic.

I would love to see similar guides created by people of other faiths. Frankly, it would probably be useful for Christian leaders as well.

Restored, A handbook for Female Christian Survivors of Domestic Abuse, edited by Esther Sweetman (First Edition) can be obtained free (subject to availability) by contacting info@restoredrelationshops.org

Power and Control: Grooming Adults

This video, “Grooming Happens to Grown Ups Too” by Sarah McDugal is a great case study in adult grooming and a great summary of what adult grooming looks like.

It’s tempting to view this as just someone trying to hit on a woman.

But the patterns she’s showing are repeated patterns – a pastor is trying to hit on her. The testing the water, the targeting. The guilt plays. The excuses. The power trip. The entitlement. Passing off something insulting as a joke.

Our research into grooming reveals that it is often people in positions of power and authority who try and groom. Pastoral abuse is often in the headlines. This video helps explain why it is.

Women often fall prey to this and wonder if they are misreading the situation. We want to see the best in people, and don’t want to anger someone by using the clear retorts that were given in this story.

So as a summary, this video helps us get to a clearer understanding of grooming.

Her advice is sound: our research shows that most people who’ve been groomed know/knew something was up – follow your gut.

Participate in our research into grooming if you’ve ever been sucked in: grooming research

Contact CAAGe: here

Photo by Monica Silva on Unsplash

Sex with a Narcissist

One of the latest videos created by the CAAGe counselling psychologist, Wendy Gregory.

(CAAGe is the Campaign Against Adult Grooming)

Wendy talks about why sex with a narcissist is different, especially once you get past the initial lovebombing phase.

In this video, Wendy helps us learn about edging, and about the consequences of refusing or rejecting a narcissist, which are rarely great.

And she issues a reminder to listen to yourself, to trust your instinct, and to take your own power back!

If you need help having had a relationship with a narcissist, please contact Wendy Gregory through CAAGe: Contact us

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Grooming in South Africa

Part of this year’s projects has been the search for good examples of grooming law.

I believed my groomer had been sacked from a job in the Netherlands because he was grooming from from his desk. As far as I can now ascertain, grooming is not yet illegal in the Netherlands, and the dismissal would likely have been for misuse of time and facilities at work had he not guessed he was about to get fired and resigned.

I will take a closer look with you at Dutch law later, but of real interest for the moment is South Africa, where poverty left many in a vulnerable position in the ‘post apartheid’ years. It had been flagged to me as progressive.

I am not pretending to be a legal expert. This was research to pass to legal experts if we found anything to hold up as a beacon.

The position in South Africa

A couple of things stand out for me with regard to South Africa.

As with most countries, South Africa’s laws around grooming centre around children and ‘vulnerable adults’ (read mentally disabled). The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 tidied up a lot of South African law relating to sexual offences.

As expected, there is mention of forced prostitution and trafficking. It is the acts themselves rather than the grooming of people into these positions which is illegal.

But there is mention of ‘seduction’ as tort in various places. The tort of seduction still appears to exist in South Africa, almost the equivalent of the Sex/Rape by Deception Law now rendered useless in UK law. An unmarried woman who had been seduced could claim damages if consent was obtained by ‘misinterpretation.

(It does have to be noted that the origins of this law date back to the days when women were regarded as chattels, and when a father could take action, not the woman herself.)

So laws around grooming are tight if they lead to trafficking or forced prostitution, and under law there seems to remain some protection from obtaining sex by deception, although I’ve found little about it beyond the odd reference.

There does, however, seem to be a fairly wide awareness of grooming and grooming techniques, and of ‘catfishing’ a form of grooming where the individual pretends to be someone else, notably online, to form a relationship.

Related laws include: online/social media offences breaching personal privacy (eg sextortion), assault, criminal defamation, and extortion. (Source: MOBEIG)

Anti Grooming Points for Legislation?

If I had to give South Africa a score for protection against grooming on the basis of what I’ve found whilst researching, it’d be a (very arbitrary) 6 out of 10:

  • Definitely better than average (probably better than the UK)
  • Some clear mentions of adult grooming as a ‘thing’ (not overlooked)
  • Strong awareness of grooming into trafficking
  • Strong awareness of grooming into modern day slavery
  • Potentially has an existing law of seduction as a tort, although it’s unclear whether a legal challenge might succeed (This would help bring actions against sexual grooming)
  • No explicit grooming laws yet
  • Grooming seems low on the agenda (understandably)

Feel free to add or comment, correct or clarify – this is just a piece of Internet research shared in the search for a good model of legislation against grooming, and doesn’t pretend to be a definitive statement of legal position.

Caring for Yourself After Sexual Violence

Grooming doesn’t always involve sexual violence – one of the reasons that sexual grooming as a crime is so hard to find support for.

But a proportion of the reports we hear do, and we are committed to signposting support for the victims of groomers. And to that end, I am delighted to recommend to you this free resource from Victim Focus: Caring for Yourself After Sexual Violence.

It’s a course available to anyone who has been subjected to sexual violence. It will support you as you explore how to care for yourself and process your own memories and feelings.

I’ve started working my way through it, and am already finding it useful for my personal set of circumstances. I have the greatest respect for course author Dr Jessica Eaton, and so although I’ve not done enough to thoroughly review the resource, I am happy to give an early ‘heads up’ that this invaluable resource exists.

The eight course modules are:

  1. Reactions and responses to being subjected to sexual violence (during and after the abuse)
  2. Understanding the grooming process that an abuser or offender may have targeted you with 
  3. Exploring forgiveness and anger towards abusers and people who let you down 
  4. Understanding your own trauma responses and their purpose 
  5. Exploring lifelong processing of the trauma, feelings and memories 
  6. Experiencing victim blaming and self-blame
  7. Having sex and being intimate after sexual violence 
  8. How to define and understand ourselves after sexual violence 

For further information and to access the course: https://www.victimfocus.org.uk/free-caring-for-yourself-after-sexual-violence

Update, July 5. It has come to our attention that the course author, Jessica Taylor, sadly lacks a full understanding of grooming. We do not believe that this renders this course any less effective, and remain happy to recommend it, but will also be actively seeking courses and resources more understanding of grooming victims to recommend.

Contact CAAGe (The Campaign Against Adult Grooming): https://caageorg.wordpress.com/contact/

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): https://caageorg.wordpress.com/grooming-research-survey/

Get involved: https://caageorg.wordpress.com/get-involved/

Contact CAAGe, the Campaign Against Adult Grooming: contact

Book Review: Eve was Shamed

Eve Was Shamed: How British Justice is Failing Women. Helena Kennedy QC, Catto and Windus 2018, audiobook recorded by Random House

When I first started with ‘Eve was Shamed’, I thought I’d picked up the wrong thing. It seemed to be all about the legal system from a legal profession’s perspective. I had never really thought about what woman face in the legal profession, and how few we see as judges etc, putting it down to factors that affect all women – mysogeny, the burden of childcare etc. However, the first chapter points to something way more disturbing.

As the book unfurls, it becomes important, no, vital. so stick with it. It may feel like the workings of the legal profession don’t affect the rest of us – but it blatantly does, and explains so much about why justice is so hard to achieve for women.

“The smell of the gentleman’s club permeates every crevice of the Inns of Court”

Helena kennedy qc

Unless the profession, our law making system, shapes up to equality, it will always be a man’s world, with a particularly male view. (We have, as my own example, seen recently an Italian judge describing a woman as too ugly to have been raped, and an Irish judge suggesting that a woman wearing a thong must have been intending to have sex.)

This backdrop is vital, as Kennedy takes us on a journey through the legal system and the points at which it is incredibly hard for women to seek justice and come through it unshamed and unscathed.

Kennedy explains the machinations of our ‘justice system, from policing through to judgements, through crimes that disproportionately affect women, and through huge inequities and injustices. Whilst there have been many positive changes, women face significant  disadvantage and discrimination in the areas she explores.

We need more authors like her, well informed, brave, willing to speak out. From Sally Challen to Shamima Begum, who was, at time of writing, just a missing school girl lured away,, Kennedy  points out how culturally biased we are, even in a supposedly liberal society, and why the justice system militates against women.

Even though the book is a follow on to ‘Eve was Framed’ (which I haven’t read) it stands alone. Her run through covers off how women are judged by an essentially white, male system, and makes clear why an organisation like Southall Black Sisters is so essential. Having previously only noted them as militants, I now watch the landmark work that they do.

The book points out that porn is no longer a top shelf, sniggering schoolboy activity, but organised harm which encourages men into violent actions. And that this has repercussions in the way that rape cases, for example, are handled.

Similarly if you expect justice, measure it against the old double standards – if you are raped on a Tinder date or have a sexual history, expect to be judged unfairly and your abuser to be given leniency. (We would, after all, hate to ruin a man’s life!)

Kennedy bravely addresses one of the thorniest issues of our time, the interface between the trans community and feminism. Even feminist conferences have been known to avoid this one. For some, I know Kennedy didn’t go far enough, as hard -won rights for women face challenges. Having seen the abuse that a transitioning friend has had, like most things, this is contextual (but I genuinely don’t believe it’s insurmountable.) Kennedy reaches the only possible conclusion: that there are two competing rights at times. I look forward to reading more.

The thank you’s at the end of the book are an all star cast of the great and good of women fighting for justice – Clooney, Wistrich and Orbach included. If we can’t sit up and pay attention to this, we are undeserving of Kennedy’s efforts – it’s a landmark book that truly puts our legal system into context.

Sometimes it feels like it is easier not to go through the justice system, that it’s easier to keep your head down. This is the book that could make you, like me, want to see the changes, put your head up and fight for what’s right – because it’s really not you doing it wrong, it’s the system.

Contact CAAGe: The Campaign Against Adult Grooming: CONTACT

How to get involved: 7 ways