Is this Love… or Grooming?

August 06, 2023

Is this Love… or Grooming?

Love. The emotions that this word hits you with vary. Different things could come to your mind when you think of love- a person, a being, an item, or an experience. You might embrace its existence, despise it, or just be numb to the whole sensation of what feeling love might be. And yet, I bet you are not alien to the overused phrase of ‘ love ’. Ever since our birth, everything we are surrounded with has been obsessed with love. The great poets and writers talk about it, the films romanticize it, and instinctively- we crave it. Maybe that is why we often become oblivious to things in disguise as love.

Under the mask of love, grooming is a gradual process of manipulation, where someone gains your trust by making you feel loved. An emotional connection or increased sense of dependency often goes undoubted. This way groomers gradually build relationships- to the point where any inappropriate behaviour comes to feel normal. Determining when grooming is taking place is very difficult. In fact, research shows that people are generally not able to recognize grooming behaviour before it becomes clear that abuse has taken place. Given the blurriness between what one would feel as affection, and what might be an insensitive advantage taken against them, identifying grooming becomes complex.

Miss B, was 12 years old when she eloped with “the love of her life”. That love of hers was a 33-year-old man she met on her daily route to the forest while cutting grass. Having a troubled household with no parents living together, her grandparents were guardians- whom she assisted at home and took care of. They had to involve the police to track and bring her back before she made it far away from home with the man. Upon interrogation, the man was unreachable, and the girl claimed nothing happening between them. She believed the man and took no second thoughts to question his intentions. In fact, the whole process of grandparents and police was what troubled her more than what could have happened if they didn’t interfere in time. Rumour among adults was that the man already had a wife, but rumour among B and her friends was how heartbroken the man became over this fiasco that he had to hide in fear.

When asked what she loved about the man, her response was that he listened to her, brought her yummy foods and clothes, and provided anything she would ask. She was curious about travelling to different places and took it as an opportunity when asked by the man. Deprived of


love at home, she found solace in this man’s words and actions. The girl thought she loved him, but actually, she was ready to love anyone. Given the family atmosphere, she was seeking validation and appreciation from someone. This 33-year-old man became the source of the same, and chances are, had there been someone else in his place, the girl would have reacted no different. The key to understanding grooming is that many of the grooming behaviours appear to be completely harmless in themselves. We oftentimes fail to distinguish rational behaviour and grooming because the intention of making someone ready for abuse, blurs the difference between grooming and love. Especially, for individuals who develop attachment issues because of dysfunctionalities while growing up, navigating the fine line between grooming and love becomes ever more challenging.

Maybe the man did love B, or maybe it was grooming, these are not mutually inclusive. Maybe B had already been numb to abuse if any did take place, or maybe the man never got to make his move. Regardless, it becomes important that we put a sharp eye to identifying any forms of love that come our way- especially with children who are primary targets of groomers and face a harder time distinguishing the fine line between love and being groomed. Often, love and grooming go hand-in-hand, and we should stand aware to rectify the cues of love- for it doesn’t mean you weren’t loved, it just means there were advantages taken in toxicity of love.

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