What is grooming? It’s about making sure the person or people you are going to abuse come to accept the abuse as normal. If done effectively, it not only affects the victim, but the people surrounding the victim as well. Others begin to see the behavior as normal and acceptable. This can be seen in Raising Dion with the character, Pat. Now, if you have not seen season one of Raising Dion and you do not want spoilers stop reading now.
Now that they’re gone let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Pat, Dion’s godfather and Mark’s best friend was the villain! How did people not see it coming? Well, I kind of did, but mostly because of watching “Unbreakable” and remembering Mr. Glass said that the villain and the hero often begin as friends. Also, Pat’s migraines seemed odd. However, the reason the characters on the show did not notice is not because they did not see one of the few good M. Night Shamalyan’s movies. It’s because Pat was able to groom the individuals around him into accepting his socially awkward and boundary breaking behavior.
For example, when Pat was told not to show up after work, there he would be, at the door, with a pizza. When he was told to go home, he would stay just a little longer. “Pat, don’t investigate this woman. I can handle it on my own.” Against, Nicole’s wishes he did it anyway. He consistently broke the personal boundaries of those around him, and rather than be called out on it, they often let it slide. Not only that, but they called on him to pick Dion up from school, take him to school, take him out for pizza, keep his secret from the hospital, and so much more until he began to be a necessity. Grooming is how abusers retain their power. They pray on the weak to the point where it appears their life is impossible to live without them. They make boundary breaking because it’s “needed” or they “want to help” or “they know best”. Pat knew Nicole did not have many people in her life to help with her son so he knew he that eventually he would find a way to become a necessity in their life. With Pat, he knew Nicole needed help with her son. With other abusers it could be that they know their victim needs money, time, a break, anything that relieves the stress of life, even if it means wavering on well established boundaries. But what happens when hard boundaries are finally drawn? Pat offers an example for this as well.
When Nicole tells Pat that he could not dictate her choices and that he could not be a part of Dion’s life, he became defensive and angry. He told Nicole, “I think you’re taking advantage of me.” He made himself appear to be the victim who is not appreciated for always being there, and always being willing to help. When this does not work he becomes angry. He lashes out, becomes controlling, and obsessive until his true colors as a villain are revealed. Abusers who groom their victims and have to live with established boundaries they attempt to make themselves appear to be the one who has been wrong and taken advantage of. Eventually, they become angry and obsessively controlling.
The goal of survivors is continuing to maintain healthy boundaries, no matter how hard the abuser attempts to weaken the borders. It is the only way to keep the Crooked Man out and save your inner Dion.