“People need to understand that abusers are charming, persuasive, manipulative and savvy (sic). These are not people in dark alleys, or white vans. You go to church, and school with them. They are people you think are so upstanding #SurvivingRKelly
From the online article, Celebrities react to Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries
If they were assaulted why do they come back? Dominique Gardner met R. Kelly when she was 17 years old. Apparently R. Kelly promised her heaven and Earth, convincing her that she should with him and she did (Danielle, 2019). Her mom didn’t understand why she wanted to stay with R. Kelly and pleading with her to get away from him. But even when she and her mother from where they lived to Los Angeles, Ms. Gardner still went back him to get closure three days later (Danielle, 2019). Unfortunately she was stuck in his web again. But one day, R.Kelly promised Ms. Gardner that could attend her younger brother’s graduation. However he ended up changing her mind, but told her he’ll send him a present. This was Ms. Gardner’s breaking point. She left R. Kelly for good (Danielle, 2019).
What Is Sexual Grooming?
What happened with Ms. Gardner and perhaps many other young girls is called sexual grooming. So what is sexual grooming? The American Bar Association defines it as this:
Grooming is a method used by offenders that involves building trust with a child and the adults around a child in an effort to gain access to and time alone with her/him. In extreme cases, offenders may use threats and physical force to sexually assault or abuse a child. More common, though, are subtle approaches designed to build relationships with families.
The offender may assume a caring role, befriend the child or even exploit their position of trust and authority to groom the child and/or the child’s family. These individuals intentionally build relationships with the adults around a child or seek out a child who is less supervised by in her/his life. This increases the likelihood that the offender’s time with the child is welcomed and encouraged.
So then how does grooming happen? In Allure’s online article titled, “What Is Sexual Grooming? 7 Things to Know About This Abusive Tactic” by Emma Sarran Webster, it goes over the following seven ways sexual grooming can happen in addition to the ways a victim can recover from it:
Anyone can be a victim
It often starts with friendship
Perpetrators use favors and promises to build trust
Secrecy is a common characteristic of grooming
Grooming can be difficult to distinguish from romance
Victims can get out
Family members and friends can help, but it’s important for them to tread carefully
1. Anyone can be a victim-— Really…anyone can be a victim of grooming, regardless of how old they are. However, there some people who are more vulnerable than others, specifically young children, because of heir naivete. “Grooming can occur at any age,” says Eric Marlowe Garrison, a sex counselor and author. “And it has a great deal to do with gullibility, insecurity, religion. It starts by targeting a vulnerable person, then building trust.
2. It often starts with friendship—It doesn’t start into sexual abuse…it begins as a friendship. “It’ll be in a way where they get to know the [victim] well enough where they find out what they like” says Dr. Dawn Michael a sexuality counselor “Let’s say somebody is on Snapchat or…Instagram–[the offender] can pic up some of the things that [the victim] is posting. That’s why, especially for young teens or even young adults, they have to be aware of the information they’re putting out there, because someone can get this information and use it to befriend them; and that’s kind of how it starts.”
I believe that, especially when online dating sites. Well for starters, you put all your information on it and of course who you are and what you’re all about. You showcase to show what you look like and perhaps what you like doing. The good intentions of dating websites perverted by sexual predators who are finding their next victim. I know. That’s how I met my sexual assulter.
Dr. Michael goes on to say that the groomer will look for various ways to get in victim’s favor, which could be bringing up interests they express on their social media channels, name-dropping mutual—or supposedly mutual—acquaintances, or emphasizing their own influence or power (Sarran-Webster, 2017).
3. Perpetrators use favors and promises to build trust—Friendliness is the first thing sexual predators use. By doing so it allows the victim to put their guard down, have them see they are someone they can trust. They become mentor, benefactor, romantic interest , or a friend. And then, “once [the victim’s] guard is down, the [perpetrator] will do them a favor,” Dr. Micheal says . “They’ll do something for [the victim] so that the person feels indebted to them to a certain extent.”
Garrison states that such favors usually start off minuscule and innocent: “It can be as simple as keeping a promise. [Like], ‘I heard you like beach glass. I have three pieces I can give you. I’ll leave them on my porch tomorrow, and you can get them after I go to work.’ ” He then goes on to saying, “Offenders also insert themselves into the daily life of the victim, for example, by attending evens that the victim’s own family or friends aren’t able to attend because of other commitments. “However once that whole charade is done and has won the victim’s trust, that’s when ask for things in good will, but at a slow pace. “It usually starts with a [non-sexual] favor,” Michael says. “So the [victim] doesn’t really know what’s going on, but then it slowly turns into more of a sexual exchange. It can start out with a simple kiss; it can start out with a touch. The whole idea of he grooming is it’s a slow process and that’s why, psychologically, [it] can be so damaging—especially if the [victim] is young because they don’t always know what they’re falling into.”
Even though I wasn’t a kid when I was sexually assaulted, this all sounds too familiar to me.
4. Secrecy is a Common Characteristic of Grooming— Typically, groomers try to keep relationships with victims extremely private from the very beginning, Marlowe Garrison says. “Secrecy is developed early on for non-sexual aspects of the relationships,” he says. In his beach glass example, for instance, he says the groomer might say, “Let’s not tell anyone where you got the beach glass, because I only have but so much. If others find about it, there won’t be any left for your growing collection.” Excuses for keeping interaction private can make victims feel and special, and therefore inclined to keep these interactions secret.
As the relationship continues, Marlowe Garrison says the groomer will actively try to separate the victim, both physically and emotionally, from people who may be “watchful [or] helpful” to the victim. “After the physical relationship is established, there is more secrecy and even shame, threats, [or] force to control the relationship from there,” he says. Isolating the victim from their support networks makes it easier for the groomer to maintain control, a tactic that Michael says is common in any cult-like situation: “The more they can cut off other people [who] are close [with the victim], the more power they have over that person, because they’re not going to have as much outside influence.”
5. Grooming Can Be Difficult To Distinguish From Romance—The slow process of building trust and establishing secrecy as normal can make it hard for both victims and victims’ acquaintances to recognize grooming for what it is. If you feel you may be that victim, or that someone you know is, “one thing to look out for is [an] insistence to meet” on the part of the groomer, Marlowe Garrison says. “Groomers are spending a lot of time and money on building that relationship, and they can see their progress [through meetings].” Groomers’ desire to see their victim exceeds the excitement that might be expected of someone in a new romantic relationship and crosses over into guilting and threats.
And even if they’re unsure about a groomer’s intentions, a victim will often “have this instinctual feeling that something’s not right,” Michael says. “[With] romance, you’re not going to have a feeling that you’ve been taken advantage of, or you’re doing something to pay back someone. [Romance is] a mutual feeling; and in a grooming circumstance, it’s not really a mutual feeling.”
Marlowe Garrison says to look out for certain signs if you’re concerned someone you know might be a victim, including alcohol or drug use, nightmares, changes in diet or exercise patterns, insomnia, disordered eating, anxiety, a withdrawn nature, bedwetting (in kids), risk-taking, acting inappropriately sexual for their age, and self-harm or suicidal tendencies.
6. Victims Can Get Out—If you do find yourself in an abusive and controlling relationship at the hands of a groomer, you can get out. It starts, Michael says, with recognizing that something isn’t right. When you have that feeling, find a third party to talk to, ideally a professional who doesn’t know you or the perpetrator. (“You don’t want anything to get back [to the groomer],” Michael says.) If you can, take advantage of any technology you can find to get online or call a hotline, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) or the Victim Connect Resource Center (855-484-2846). Services like these confidentially connect you with a professional who can help you determine your next steps.
7. Family Members and Friends Can Help, But It’s Important For Them To Tread Carefully— Hotlines and resource centers aren’t reserved only for victims. If you think a loved one may be the victim of grooming or abuse (even if he or she says otherwise), it’s a great idea to seek the guidance of a professional as well.
Victims, however, often don’t feel like they need help. That can make police or legal action difficult, as parents of Kelly’s alleged victims have found. “Unless you have hard evidence [of abuse], it’s hard to go to somebody else and say, ‘This is going on,’ because [the victim] is just going to deny it,” Michael says. “The only thing you can do as a friend is build that trust [with the victim] and listen to what they have to say.” Express that you’re concerned about them and gently share some of the reasons why (for example by saying, “I haven’t seen much of you lately, and I’m worried”). Ask how they’re doing and if there is anything you can do to support them.
“That’s the best a friend can really do in a situation like this, because if [you] try to pull [the victim] out [of the situation] or go behind their back, sometimes it just explodes and it gets worse for the [victim],” Michael says. (If an abuser senses a threat to their control over their victim, they may become more abusive.) Michael notes that if the victim is a child or vulnerable adult, it is up to an authorized adult to step in. (For more information on reporting observed or suspected child abuse, check out Stop It Now!.)
It can be a scary situation when you believe someone you love is in danger, and more so if they don’t realize it. But, “do not blame the [victim],” Marlowe Garrison says. “Believe them. Support them. Get help (for them and for you).”
R. Kelly, Part 5: Misconception of Fake Rape Accusations and Who It REALLY Affects