This week, Chiamaka takes a peep at grooming and the many ways its subtlety perpetrated in our society.
While coming of age and emerging into adulthood, there are a lot of shared experiences across similar groups and classes of young girls. At times, the experience might feel so surreal that one does not even realize it is a negative one until they are past it by some years. The feeling is heady, an older man treating us specially and making us forget all the various heartaches brought upon by boys our age. For bigger girls, they insidiously convinced us that they were the only kind of man we could possibly attract since our body type had made us unwanted by boys our age from the very beginning. We easily believed this because while romance was happening in the background for pretty much everyone in secondary school, it was non-existent in our corner. So, we clung to the older men we attracted, grateful for even the slightest smidge of admiration and care. We liked that they were able to give us dashes of freedom our parents would not, like car rides after school or the occasional monetary gift. We liked it when they would remind us how mature we were, how pleasing it was, to know that we ranked past our mates when it came to relating to adults.
Sometimes, we even met the friends of these older men, who would remark on how ‘fresh’ we were. “You do not even seem your age! Well developed, so wise!” and we would blush from all the praise and gratification that it brought to us. There was hardly a time we would stop to consider why those older men did not go for women their age, we were just very grateful to have them around. In fact, we would often convince ourselves that women his age did not impress him enough to satisfy the desires he had thankfully found in us. Under the guise of discussing with our girlfriends, we would chat with the older men on the phone, arrange secret meetings and unsupervised link-ups with them. When we saw them, they would draw from our childish desire and attempt physical kisses and rubs with us that never felt quite right. Unfortunately, some would go even farther whether by verbal or physical coercion. Some would make a disturbing remark about how they could not wait to have us, but how patient they were in making sure that we were ready before anything serious occurred. For those of us keeping our ‘virginities’ till marriage at the time, this came as a relief to our ears. We planned how we would bring them home to introduce to our parents at the right time, possibly once we turned eighteen. We could not wait for our budding romance to blossom into eternal commitment and then, babies. In a sick twist of events, many of these men would not even make it to our sixteenth birthdays, talk less of meeting our parents when we came of age. They would be gone in the wind, on to another younger girl to take advantage of.
Grooming is the act of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes their family in order to lower the child's inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse. It works very well because it goes almost unnoticed a lot of the time While still very much unable to consent, teenagers may feel an inflated sense of self because they desire to have adults treat them as older and as a result, be afforded adult-like privileges. It is very important that parents or guardians have discussions with their coming of age children about grooming and what forms it may come in. This only works if they are knowledgeable about the topic themselves. Predators are counting on the uninformed and vulnerable senses of children in order to achieve what they really want, which is sexual abuse. We see some forms of grooming follow children into adulthood, where they may sympathize with or make excuses for their groomer. Some go on to have long relationships with their groomer or even marry them. Predators often become bored of their victims once they get older, which also causes personal insecurities within victims.