Grooming is a manipulative tactic predators use to gain the trust of their victims. It’s usually used by adults trying to target children. But adults can be targets too. Sometimes a groomer will target an adult, especially a woman, to gain access to her children.
Grooming can be very subtle and hard to spot. Groomers take time to assess a target’s weak points, so they can use those insecurities to their advantage. To protect yourself and your children, it’s crucial to know the red flags that signal a possible grooming situation.
Signs of Grooming
Relationships have their ups and downs, and no relationship is perfect. But certain behaviors can be signs that someone is grooming you:
- Getting close to you too quickly. If someone is suddenly taking interest in your life or it feels excessive, be aware. While not always a manipulative behavior, this is definitely something that groomers do.
- Wanting you to keep secrets. Groomers don’t want others around you to recognize their inappropriate behavior. So they may tell you not to share certain things because they say people won’t understand.
- Trying to isolate you from friends and family. A groomer may monopolize all your time or express jealousy when you’re with others. Or they may say that you can’t trust the other people in your life.
- Giving you gifts. There’s nothing wrong with gifts. But if someone makes you feel like you owe them something back, it’s a red flag.
- Making threats. Groomers may threaten to share sensitive information with others if you don’t do what they want.
- Wanting access to monetary resources. You should never feel pressured to offer money or to pay for things for someone. Or give access to personal banking information. Setting a boundary in this area does NOT mean you have trust issues or don’t care about someone.
- Trying to get you to do something illegal. Healthy relationships respect boundaries. Groomers will pressure you into doing things as a repayment for the need they have filled in your life.
Signs of Grooming a Child
- Bringing up anything sexual. This could be verbal or sending images digitally.
- Trying to spend alone time together. This isn’t an automatic sign that something is wrong. But groomers will always try to keep others from being around if they can.
- Providing drugs or alcohol. Groomers use this as a tool to make it harder for targets to say no.
- Initiating lots of physical touch. Starting with massages or tickling, groomers often try to push the boundaries little by little.
Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
If you’re unsure whether someone is grooming you, there are other hallmark signs that a relationship is not healthy:
- Your partner doesn’t respond well to boundaries. Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect. That involves understanding that each of you has different needs.
- Your partner goes through your phone. There are situations in which jealousy is appropriate. But healthy relationships involve trust. And being jealous of you spending time with friends and family is not normal healthy behavior.
- You feel on edge or anxious about the relationship. This can be a sign that you don’t feel safe being yourself around your partner.
- You’re being pressured to do things you don’t want to do. We all may try to talk someone into something from time to time. But using manipulative tactics like shame, criticism, or withdrawing affection is unhealthy and inappropriate.
- You feel pressure to change your appearance. You may want to look a certain way for your partner. But no one should be pushing you to change your appearance.
- You’re being bullied, hurt, or hit. This is abuse and absolutely a sign that you need to leave the relationship.
How We Can Help
Women Against Crime is all about empowering women to feel safe in their world. Update this line If you or someone you know is being targeted by a groomer, book a self-defense training. We have many resources available to help you establish boundaries and maintain healthy relationships.