A note on predatory grooming

“The realization that I had used, willingly and unwillingly, my charm for the wrong reasons.”

This was a quote from Joseph L. Bishop. He has admitted to “acting inappropriately” (read: sexually assaulting) numerous women during his career in the LDS church.

It was the use of the word CHARM that got me. He still, at age 85, considers himself quite the catch. But he’s a predator.

He thinks that what he did was consensual flirting. But it was really predatory grooming and/or downright assault. You can link through above to the whole MormonLeaks recording. It’s caused a huge stink in the LDS Church this past week.


That—and a presentation by Walter Sipe in my UCI Law Class—got me thinking (again) about predatory grooming. As Walter himself said: it can be one of the more traumatizing things about the abuse. It leads to the irrational questions survivors ask themselves: Why did we go back? Why didn’t we know better? Why did I love him/her?

It leads to the shame and self-hatred that many victims carry for years.

If bad enough, this grooming actually compounds the trauma on victims. For a child who is grabbed by a stranger off the street, that child can say, “I fought back.” “I did everything I could.”

For those who were groomed (especially as teens), they now are faced with the mindf*ck that the abuser hopes to leave: Did I do everything I could? This was my fault, wasn’t it?

A parable to help put things in perspective

Walter started with a story that was very enlightening on the grooming dynamic. I decided to take it a step further.

Come with me, why don’t you?

Imagine you are a 15-year-old kid in the hospital. Hooked up to tubes and monitors. Mom and Dad aren’t there.

Then, the REAL Santa Claus comes in the room. He’s totally alive and embodies the spirit of Christmas. When he holds your hand, all you feel is love and warmth. You can SMELL the hot cocoa and Christmas trees. He is surrounded by love and light and stars and holly and reindeer walk in behind him. Not real reindeer, but cool stop-action animated ones like in the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer TV special.

Santa takes your hand gently, and with a twinkle in his eye, says, “You are going to die. But don’t worry, this doctor here is going to do an operation that will save your life. All you have to do is sign here.”

The smart-looking doctor behind him is surrounded by experts.

What do you do?

You LOVE Santa. And holy crap, you’re gonna die. So of course you sign. He said you are going to die. Santa wouldn’t lie to you. Santa takes care of people.

When you wake up six hours later, you realize you weren’t going to die and the doctor amputated your arms and legs for no real medical reason. Santa tricked you because he thought it was funny.

Now for the questions:

Did you sign the form willingly? Of course you did.

Did you do it because you loved and trusted Santa? Yep.

Did you do it because you believed that Santa and the institution of Christmas would never do anything to hurt you? Yes.

Did you do it because your mom and dad told you your whole childhood to sit on Santa’s lap and trust him with your secrets? Yes.

But did you give informed consent? No.

Was this your fault? NO

You were a child. You were groomed. You were tricked.

Is anyone going to blame you for the fact that you now have no arms and legs? No. You were a child.

Were you at fault and should you be ashamed? No.

It was Santa’s fault. He tricked you into thinking this surgery was okay. He took advantage of you.

A kid is far more likely to be tricked into believing sexual abuse is okay by an adult they love and trust.

Changes your view a bit, doesn’t it?

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