Grooming as a concept is familiar to a lot of people, though they have never consciously defined it as grooming. In her 2017 article for Allure, Emma Sarran Webster describes it as an abuse tactic, quoting Eric Garrison’s definition – “Grooming is the slow, methodical, and intentional process of manipulating a person to a point where they can be victimized.” ⠀
In short, grooming is the deliberate act of gaining the trust of a comparatively less powerful (often younger and less mature) person, to later manipulate them into an inappropriate relationship. Power dynamics are leveraged here. Think about men who seek out much younger girls or boys, single them out and lavish them with gifts and treats. At different levels of society, such people are usually eyed with suspicion because it is well-known that favouring particular children is a tactic used with nefarious goals in mind. ⠀
Grooming will often begin with “friendship” – ulterior motives disguised as good intentions. It is accompanied by gifts and favours and usually kept a secret at the request of the groomer (“make sure you don’t tell anyone!”).
People being groomed might show the following signs:⠀
Being secretive, withdrawn, and/or isolated from family.⠀
Spending more time on the phone or online, than usual.⠀
Have an older boyfriend or girlfriend than usual.⠀
Not wanting to be hugged or touched by the abuser.⠀
Furthermore, it isn’t only children that can be groomed. Mature adults can be groomed too, by people in their age group. In this situation, it can be hard to tell whether a person is being groomed or genuinely wooed. But if you notice that someone is being groomed (even if THEY don’t know that they are) or if you realise that you are being groomed, you can call a helpline or someone who is not known to the groomer, to avoid arousing their suspicion. You can also talk to a therapist or a similar professional to guide you on what to do next.