Grooming Behavior: The Evolution of Abusive Relationships

Grooming behavior: Evolution of Relationships Amy Dodd Pilkington

I spent a good bit of time dissecting parts of my life in an attempt to fully heal from past trauma. One of the things I’ve had trouble understanding is the evolution of relationships. It’s the change in relationships resulting in either abuse or inappropriate behavior that is problematic. I now recognize grooming behavior.

I don’t understand how things shift in people to allow them to do the things they do and treat people the way they do. These relationships start off as something nice and turn into something bad or confusing or both. Usually both. I’m being careful with my wording because I am talking about two different types of evolutions and I feel they are different in severity and deserve differentiation.

Inappropriate relationships with parental figures

First, I will discuss relationships that evolve into something I would deem as inappropriate. I have tried hard to understand how these relationships change into things that are absolutely not appropriate. The older I get, the stronger I feel about this. I’ve tried to understand how it happens. I’ve discussed it before, but I still don’t get it.

How does a person meet someone as a child and have a parental-like relationship with that child and then change feelings to a physical attraction once the child is grown? Personally, I cannot understand relationships between people old enough or near old enough to be one’s parent. I feel it borders on abusive through grooming behavior.

Learning to identify red flags by analyzing past traumas

My children are grown and over the years we have had many children in and out of our home. These kids were around the same age as our children and are now grown. I’ve known some of them since their early teens. I absolutely cannot understand how anyone could feel any type of attraction to someone they knew as a child. I find it repulsive.

Having said that, I don’t feel ill-will toward some of the people who did such. (Some, but not all.) I do feel it was completely inappropriate and wrong. Looking back, I see a slow shift that definitely could be considered grooming behavior. I will likely never understand it. I’m not angry, but I do feel like this type of thing is taking advantage of someone vulnerable. That falls under abusive behaviors. It is grooming behavior. I am trying to understand how it happens. I did learn how to identify red flags and prevent it from happening to others.

I don’t understand grooming behavior

I still can’t understand the evolution of those types of relationships. Some of these relationships definitely fall under past trauma, but it’s the type of relationships I have written about in my book. A trusted adult figure raped me as a child. After that experience, it was hard to trust adults and the behavior of other adults in my life over the years did nothing to change my mind.

Throughout my life, I was sexually assaulted by several men. I was a child when much of it happened, but I did have men I trusted while I was a child that sought inappropriate relationships with me as an adult. I have never, ever thought any type of out-of-the-way thought about a kid I knew as a child or teen. I find it disgusting. No matter how old they get, I still view them as a child. I will always view them as a child and the idea of being physically attracted to someone I view as a child is repulsive.

Grooming behavior is disturbing and disgusting

Some things are not for me to understand. And I don’t feel these people see anything wrong with their behavior. I’m betting they would feel differently if it involved their daughter or granddaughter.

Can a person really change from a parental-type love of a child to a romantic type of love? I don’t think so. I think that falls under grooming. That type of attraction likely always existed, and that’s disturbing, disgusting…it’s wrong.

Understanding how I was the perfect prey for abusers

Other evolutions of relationships involve what is likely not evolution at all. Instead, it is a deception. Abusers are always abusers, but they draw in their victims by hiding who they really are. I don’t think the person was ever a nice person. I think they built a facade to hide their true self. Nobody would knowingly attach to an abuser. The deception is necessary and is often an elaborate ruse.

I’ve spent years trying to understand how I was the perfect prey for abusers. Because of my experience with adults I trusted, I was leary of everyone. Anyone who took a little time to convince me they were worthy of trust could draw me in and trap me. I see it clearly now. A crafty person willing to spend a little time to appear trustworthy and convince me they would never hurt me could indeed trap me and tear me to shreds.

Stronger, smarter, and free of shame

I realize how I fell into bad situations. I will not say it was my fault because I am not to blame for the behavior of abusers and those who would take advantage of a child. That shame and guilt belongs with those who use and abuse. I will say that I understand how it happened.

Still, knowing how I ended up in these situations helped me heal and helps me educate others about red flags. I have always said I wouldn’t change my life if I could because it took everything I went through to make me who I am. I’m good. I like who I am. It made me smarter. It made me a fighter.

Read more below.



“After all you put me through you think I despise you but in the end I want to thank you because you made me that much stronger.”

Thanks to all of the people who abused me, used me, and hurt me because you made me a better person. You made me stronger than you. You made me smarter than you. You made me into who I am – successful and surrounded by people I can fully trust. You taught me how to identify people like you so I could avoid them and teach my children to identify predators like you.

Thanks for making me a fighter. You have to live with knowing what you did. I don’t have that guilt.

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