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When I think back over my life, and what happened to me when I was 20, when I met Bill Gothard, I think of this quote from the character of Rosa Dartle in David Copperfield. With my good, acute memory that never allows me to forget, I can put myself back in that room, that hour, the one that changed the course of my life, and I now think of it as an evil hour. It brought harm to me, to my family, and to my friends.
My predator issued a new-ish statement this morning on his website, and for a brief moment I thought about issuing my own retaliatory statement on my blog in response to his very personal attack towards me and the other women who bravely shared the secrets he was hoping we would keep. He continues to deceive in his veiled sentences with their double meanings and the pious use of God’s language, in his attempt to make everyone believe he is still a holy man.
But it is futile to try and argue with a narcissist, in what could end up being an endless slinging match of she said/he said. So, instead of focusing on the personal element this is to me, I am choosing to use this opportunity to bring awareness to how a sexual predator works. Even in Bill’s new statement and the ‘testimonies’ from the eight women that accompany it, I am very concerned to still clearly see the elements of grooming in his letter and in some of their letters.
Let me lay it out here – there is a clear process of sexual grooming that a predator uses. Every woman I have spoken with who has experienced some form of sexual harassment or abuse agrees that these are predominant aspects of a groomer. At some point in this process, your groomer will start touching you—at first it will be very mild, very innocent, very grandfatherly. As it was for me; a pat on the hand, a side-hug, a special ‘look’ that exchanges between you. If you have been selected by the predator, this will progress to full bodily hugs, to holding hands, to rubbing his leg up and down your leg, to caressing your hand and your fingers, to putting his face close to yours. This can progress to further violation.
This is the method that seldom fails when a predator selects their target.
Maybe you can see them also.
Predators are good listeners. They will spend hours talking with you, paying attention to your words and your story. They will ask questions, they will empathize. And they are sincere. So very sincere. You will feel grateful to them, and humbled that they have shown such interest in you.
A predator will make you feel special and favored by them. They will use words like this: “I have probably spent more one on one time with you than any other young woman you would know.” They will make you feel that you are the only person in the world that makes them happy. They will tell you that you give them energy. If you have a faith of any kind, they will use God’s name to reinforce that. They will say things like, “God has brought you here,” or “I have been waiting for God to bring someone like you to me/this ministry,” or “what a blessing from God you are to me.”
At this point in the relationship they will feel safe enough to start probing for your secrets. If you open up to them, trusting them because they have been kind to you and you believe you are special to them, you will share your secrets. My groomer would say things like, “can I ask you a personal question?” This would be followed by questions along the lines of, “have you ever done something you’re ashamed about,” or “are you a virgin?’ With the initial, qualifying question making it feel like you have a choice whether to answer or not, lulls you into believing it is safe to share.
They may even share a secret or two with you from their life. It is unlikely they will share anything too personal – remembering that a narcissist/sociopath has denied their authentic self and is living a double-life. Any secret they share will be innocuous. My groomer shared a ‘secret’ with me when he admitted that he sometimes felt nervous speaking in front of thousands of people. I felt privileged that he would share that with me and nobody else, but what is that secret compared with ‘are you a virgin?’
To cement this growing relationship your predator will start giving you things. It depends on the circumstances you are in at the time, but for me, I was given a bedroom makeover, clothing, gifts of money, phone calls to my family overseas paid for by my groomer. The gifts are a way of reinforcing to you that they have been kind to you, that you are special to them, that you share a secret bond.
Fear can come in many forms when you are in a relationship with a groomer. But ultimately this step is designed to make you fear that one day the relationship will come to an end. Your groomer will start dropping subtle nuances about this. His fear will seem very real to you but it is designed to make you worry about losing them.
This will make you work harder to please them.
The next step is to isolate you from family and friends. If this cannot be done physically, it will be mentally. Your groomer will start confiding in you about other people and their faults. They will use words like ‘trust’. My groomer said things like, “other girls will want to be your friend just to get close to me.” This made me look on my peers with mistrust, believing they had ulterior motives to befriending me. It also devalues my worth in my own eyes. It says, I am not worthy of being a friend. They don’t really like me, they like him.”
By now you and your predator think as one person.
Well, you believe you do.
He is the center of your world.
Do not listen to others who tell you they have concerns about your relationship with this person. They don’t know him! They don’t know how sincere and kind and special he is. They don’t know his generous heart and his vulnerability.
When you find yourself thinking this, you have fallen into his web of lies and deceit.
Your groomer has won your heart, he has won your trust, he has won your mind.
In my case, I was fortunate enough that I had an intervention in the form of the USA Immigration Service—God bless their honest red tape!
If my story and the lost twenty years of loyalty to my groomer has any redeeming fact, I hope that it has this—to bring greater awareness to the process of predatory grooming.
Let us cast light into the corners of those shadows. Let us drive out the evil lurking in our churches and schools and homes and communities and our lives.