19. Grooming – transfer of responsibility

Grooming – the transfer of responsibility


Grooming is the process an abuser uses to manipulate a child into feeling responsible for the abuse. This transfer of responsibility often involves coercion and manipulation, making it falsely seem like the child has a choice about what happens, and is one of the ways an abuser makes it harder for a victim to speak out.

Understanding this process can help survivors recognise the manipulation, and begin to let go of their misplaced guilt. Despite all our experiences being unique, these stages of escalation are often familiar. They can occur over a short period of time or take many years.

This model shows sexual abuse as an example, but can be applied to any type of abuse. Note that there are multiple stages to the process before the abuse escalates. This means that by the time something more obviously wrong has happened, something that a child might feel is wrong, they are already isolated and would find it very difficult to make a disclosure.


This model was developed by Dr. Michael Welner, NYU School of Medicine.


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