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 scams.
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 fraud.
First, the groomer (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 Scams 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 Gaslighting 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 behavior 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.