Grooming – Dominating Through Manipulation
When grooming is discussed, it’s often in the context of adults using the manipulation tactic to abuse and exploit children. However, children are not the only population at risk of being groomed. Many adults in toxic or abusive relationships will experience grooming as their partner’s attempt to build a false sense of extreme emotional connection, create a sense of dependence, and overall more vulnerable to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
However, in our context, we are talking about the same process, but specifically in how it applies to relationship scamsRelationship Scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money! Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam?.
What Does Grooming Look Like in Adult Relationships?
Similar to child grooming, grooming in adult relationships is all about control and dominance. Grooming is a form of manipulation that is often extremely difficult to spot when a person doesn’t know what to look for. Grooming is meant to feel good in the beginning, ensuring the person being groomed has no idea they are being primed for abuse – in this case, to facilitate a financial fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim..
First, the groomer (the scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer.) will attempt to build a friendship or emotional connection with a potential victim that will appear safe and genuine. As time goes on and connection and closeness builds, the groomer will slowly and covertly manipulate the victim of grooming to be dependent on them through a number of techniques that also include Amygdala Hijacks (Love Bombs).
Grooming is Romance ScamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime - is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. directs the victim into a conformance role where the victim will follow the instructions of the scammer as manipulation increases.
After the grooming phase, scammers will use other techniques to more tightly control their victims, such as GaslightingGaslighting Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group creates the seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and disinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's beliefs. Once in this state the criminal can then more easily control the victim for their own purposes. Instances can range from the denial by a scammer that a scam has occurred, to belittling the victim's emotions and feelings, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The goal of gaslighting is to gradually undermine the victim's confidence in their own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from delusion, thereby rendering the individual or group pathologically dependent on the gaslighter for their thinking and feelings. and others. The groomer wants to set up the victim to be compliant and passive so that the maximum theft of their money can occur.
In some cases. groomers will convince their victims to send small amounts of money or to open a joint bank account that only the groomer has control over. Or to perform other proof of commitment tasks that demonstrate that the victim is compliant. As a part of the Gaslighting method, the groomer may be convincing their partner that their support network is actually toxic and that the groomer is the only person who truly cares about them. These tactics may seem obvious, except to someone in the process of being manipulated.
Once a victim realizes they are in a relationship in which they were manipulated, the scammer often has already done significant emotional damage to their victim. If the groomer has been successful with their covertly abusive behaviors, they will have isolated their victim from their support network, instilled a sense of physical, financial, and/or emotional dependence, and manipulated their partner to get what they want – the victim’s money!
How Grooming Works In A Romance Scam
The first solid sign is that the groomer (scammer) becomes overly emotional very quickly. In fact, they may profess their love for the victim in a matter of days after first contact.
Scamming is often a full-time job for most of these fraudsters. And because they are usually trying to scam multiple people at a time, they are always rushing things. They don’t waste time. They will, therefore, ramp up the relationship quickly so that they can get to where they are now actually able to profit.
The grooming phase can be very rapid, sometimes in as little as two weeks.
It is very common for scammers to shower their victims with affection and love. They will message and even call constantly. This is called love bombing. It is such a serious behaviorBehavior Behavior / Behavioral Actions Otherwise known as habits, behavior or behavioral actions are strategies to help prevent online exploitation that target behavior, such as social engineering of victims. Changing your behavior is the ONLY effective means to reduce or prevent scams. that victims sometimes feel like they had been brainwashed. It is also designed to exploit the loss of sleep since scammers will send messages 24/7.
In most cases, the scammer will quickly ask the victim to move to some “more secure” and private chat forum. This allows the groomer to have more access to the victim at any time – assuring more control of the timing for the manipulation.
Know the Signs of Grooming
One of the most successful ways to dodge adult grooming in relationships is by knowing the red flags.
- When a person first meets a potential romantic partner, it can be helpful to make note of how fast the relationship is progressing. If it’s moving faster than you are comfortable with, it’s often a sign that your partner is attempting to gain trust, or create a sense that their partner is so special and their love is so unique that it makes sense to move faster than usual.
- The partner being groomed is likely also being love-bombed (their Amygdala is being hijacked), another form of manipulation that enforces strong emotional connection and dependence. The quicker the process, the less chance the person has the opportunity to take a step back and realize the reality of what’s happening.
- Another red flag is a groomer’s desire for unconditional control. This can look like controlling what a partner wears, who they see, where they go, and what they do with their free time. It can also look like a groomer using social media to cyberstalk their partner. In the case of scams, you see this in the constant questions about meals, activities, daily life, expenses, their jobs, etc. This questioning would be somewhat normal in a real relationship after months, but the groomer accelerates it and it is almost always a one-way flow of information – from the victim to the scammer.
- When a groomer is successful, the victim will be ready for gaslighting and further control techniques – they will be able to cut their partner off from their social circle, even their online persona.
- Another red flag is an inability to take no for an answer. For example, in cases where someone grooms their victim sexually, they may coerce their partner into online sexual encounters they do not wish to be a part of. They may attempt to convince their partner that they need to fulfill their sexual needs, despite the groomed partner’s sexual safety or autonomy. The groomer may implement messaging that it’s their partner’s job to satisfy them sexually and over time, wear down the partner’s sense of autonomy. – This can lead to sextortion later in the scam.
Like many other forms of manipulation in abusive and toxic relationships real or fake (as in this case), grooming is a strategy that perpetuates the traumatizing cycle of abuse. It’s often a control mechanism that wreaks havoc on those who experience it.
However, fully understanding grooming can help you to look out for its red flags and to avoid it. It can also help you spot it in others.
Hopefully, this can help to put a stop to this malignant manipulation.
Essential Tools For Every Scam SurvivorSurvivor A Scam Survivor is a victim who has been able to fully accept the reality of their situation. That they were the victim of a crime and are not to blame. They are working on their emotional recovery and reduction of any trauma either on their own, through a qualified support organization, or through counseling or therapy. And has done their duty and reported the crime to their local police, national police, and on Anyscam.com From SCARS Publishing
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This program is designed to help scam victims struggling to recover on their own and for those who want to understand the overall process. You can be using other resources, such as traumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. counselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health counseling. or therapy, qualified support groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers., or completely independent – on your own!
The SCARS Steps program is a complete program and is provided for the purpose of helping scam victims to overcome this experience. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues and challenges that a victim may have and help guide them through their recovery. But each person is different and it is important to understand your own reasons for being vulnerable to being scammed.
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