I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

The Issue of Grooming

Since the early days of this blog, I’ve limited the word count to 400 words. Sometimes I’ve cut pieces into 2 or even 3 entries. In the words below, Lee Boyd had such a good request that I decided to violate my own rule. It runs about 700 words. (Cec)

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I have been a follower of your blog for a while and have read your books Not Quite Healed and More Than Surviving. I’ve benefited from all and have recommended them to others. However, there is one issue that has arisen several times as I was reading, and I would like to bring it to your attention. 

The stumbling block I have encountered is the issue of grooming. I realize from reading your story that grooming was a part of your experience. But the impression I get from reading your work is that grooming is an element of most, if not all, abuse scenarios. I am sure that you do not mean to alienate anyone, but this implication tends to make me feel excluded from the community of survivors you are addressing.

You see, I was never groomed.

I was abused by a stepdad from soon after he married my mom when I was 5½ until I left home at 18. From 5½ to 13, it was physical abuse, sexual abuse, and verbal abuse. From 13 to 18, the verbal abuse continued, but the violence and physically sexual aspects stopped.

Additionally, at school and in scouts, from age 11 to 13, I was bullied and sexually harassed and assaulted under the guise of “initiation” by a gang of peers and older boys. I became a recreational scapegoat for them.

Finally, when I was about 15, I was molested in the fitting room of a menswear shop by a clerk who was “measuring” me for a pair of trousers.

In NONE of these instances was there a hint of grooming. Each was an instance of an infliction of power by the abuser(s) to work their will. They did not have to groom me. They were bigger, stronger, more numerous, and had more clout. In the case of the stepdad, it was not difficult because I was available, I was a mere child, and he had the authority of an adult and a parent. There was never a question that he would get what he wanted. With the bullies, they had the advantage of numbers, greater sexual knowledge, and the mob mentality. Both the bullies and the stepdad used physical restraint and greater strength. The clerk was also an adult that took advantage of my youth, his experience, and my “freeze” reaction when he began to touch me inappropriately, so no force was needed. I had already been conditioned to submit passively.

In talking with and reading of survivors who experienced grooming, I have recognized that there is a strong possibility that they may feel partially complicit in the abuse and that this may cause additional issues of guilt and shame. I have observed groomed survivors who suffer from feelings of betrayal and disillusionment, and have difficulty trusting others.

But in cases where force or intimidation is used instead of grooming, the survivor has other issues to deal with. I have identified my own feelings of helplessness and of total lack of control. Because I was repeatedly abused by multiple and unconnected perpetrators, I felt like a perpetual victim with a target on his back. There was not even the pretense of kindness or a personal relationship to temper the trauma. The bullies and stepfather wielded cold, calculated, and intentional cruelty. The store clerk took sudden advantage of circumstances impersonally and anonymously. All of the abuse events made me feel like a commodity to be used at their convenience, without regard for my personhood.

I know now that one method of abuse is not necessarily more or less harmful than the other. But when I was learning more about grooming, I actually wished that I had experienced it rather than abuse without grooming like I had. At least I would have had some temporary semblance of relationships and feeling special to someone instead of the isolation, loneliness, and scapegoating that were my lot. I now realize that it would have simply been a different variation of pain.

Anyway, what I am requesting is that you, as a spokesman for the male abuse survivor community, would include more acknowledgments that grooming is not always part of the experience and that many survivors are abruptly abused, without pretext or preamble, under application of physical force or threat or the power of authority or intimidation. I don’t know if there are any statistics available about the percentages of abuse with or without grooming, but I am sure that I am not alone in my experience. I am confident that including my demographic of non-groomed survivors would allow you to speak more effectively to a larger audience.


Roger Mann said...

I want to thank the writer for bringing this topic up. I was abused by my father till I left for college at 18. There was no grooming there either. I was there, I was available, there was no need for grooming. I did however see him groom others. I just didn’t know that’s what was going on.

I have spoken to others who had similar experiences, some much worse than mine. Yes, there is a different dynamic to it with slightly different effects. I had no PTSD with my abuse but my friend who I meet with occasionally and speak to about it does. He had death threats and bad physical abuse also.

In my freshman year in high school I was groomed. I didn’t know that’s what it was but I can look back and see it all now. I really didn’t like the guy very much but he took an interest in me and showered me with gifts and attention I desperately craved. So, I allowed more to happen than I really wanted.

Sometimes as I listened to those who were assaulted rather than seduced I’d wish that It had been a more unpleasant experience. Then maybe I wouldn’t have sought out relationships that involved sex as part of the bonding. I often suspected that I was using my body to gain the acceptance and affirmation I wanted from others. I think that wouldn’t have been the case if the experience had been more traumatic or unpleasant. I might have avoided those that sought me out for that and been much better off psychologically.

But there is no one evil better than another and that should be clear. It’s all very damaging in it’s own way to a boy/man. I’ve spoken to adults who were assaulted and raped. It messes with them just as badly as it does with a boy. You’d think that an adult could handle it better but it’s a very deep assault on how one sees himself as a man. A few I’ve met never quite came back from that.

Just my thoughts

Mark Cooper said...

I don't remember targeted grooming. Like Roger, I was there and available. But in another sense, I was groomed. I trusted my perpetrators, because they were family. I was "groomed" by them appearing to be safe and trustworthy.

I was "groomed" by living in a household where silence was a way of life.

I was "groomed" by my believing the internal lies that I was deserving of pain, rejection, and hurt.

In other words, my grooming was not obvious but was a part of the accepted atmosphere of my home. I wonder if that type of grooming is more insidious that overt, specific grooming.

Preston Hill said...

How INCREDIBLY valuable is this! Well said and well posted! Thank you for including this valuable contribution. each experience of abuse is as variegated as the people who inflict and suffer the trauma.

Cecil Murphey said...

thanks, guys, for your insightful comments. On one hand, it doesn't matter if we were groomed, because the result is the same. Maybe you'd chose to use words like chosen or selected.
On the other hand, for some men this is an important concept. It helps them to know that they were lonely, innocent kids and perpetrators chose them because they sensed their susceptibility. They were needy kids who didn't feel loved, which made them an easy prey.


D8a said...

As far as I can remember, I was not groomed, just available. I had been on Ritalin since I was 8 and my somewhat older cousin took advantage of the fact that I was a lonely 10-11 year old that craved any attention I was given and he decided that I was perfect. He didn’t “hurt” me until I was nearly 13 and he decided he was done with me and his rejection was devastating. Then the real abuse began in verbal and physical ways that still hurts to this day, 43 years later.

So, yes, grooming is not always necessary.