Starting Us Young – Looking for Love and Groomed for Abuse
You don’t have to come from a broken or abusive household or childhood to be subjected to grooming. The sad reality is that it happens to innocent teens all of the time. According to Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Education (S.E.S.A.M.E.), 1 out of 10 K-12 students is a victim of educator sexual misconduct.
Teens are already struggling with the concept of growing up, changing bodies, and rampant hormones that they do not yet understand. Teenage sex in general is on the rise, but when their precarious psyche is taken advantage of by an adult in power, their hormonal imbalances have difficulty differentiating between sex appropriateness or attraction.
And that’s what predatory educators are counting on.
I recently read a novel, My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, that portrays a sexual assault scenario in the classroom, and the lifelong impact it can have on a person. It really helped the reader to see how deeply manipulative (and easily employed) verbal entrapment can be.
This novel is a dark, disturbing look into the twisted sexual relationship between a teacher and a student, wrought with denial, frustration, and abusive sickness. It takes you on the journey of a seemingly normal teenage girl, adjusting to life at fifteen with the typical hormones, parent arguments, and uncertainty about herself and her future…taking an unexpected detour into the arms of a predator.
Enter her English Lit professor, who encourages not just her writing, but her “darkness,” and we see the sadistic (and effortless) process of grooming; of manipulating a young girl into a world she doesn’t know she doesn’t belong in.
A life of non-consensual control of her body, mind and soul, well into adulthood.
As someone recovered from emotional and narcissistic abuse, I could see the red flag so clearly. It was frustrating to watch her convince herself she wasn’t abused and to keep going back for more. To see people trying to help her, to support her, to wake her up from this nightmare, for her to only want to protect a man who stole 17 years of her life. More than once I wanted to hurl my book across the room!
Now looking back as how easily I was groomed myself, I can see my younger self in Vanessa as she defends, lies, and protects the man she “loves” because she is in so deep and so convinced of her own darkness that she can’t see the light. But I walked away with a greater awareness of the signs to watch out for, and felt empowered to trust myself that if ever presented with that situation again (or see a loved one in it), I can walk away or support someone through it.
If you don’t have the stomach to read the reality of abuse, this book isn’t for you—but if you can withstand truth, darkness, and exposing something deeply wrong in our society, then this novel will awaken more than your imagination. Heart wrenching, but fantastic read about grooming, lovebombing, and teenage sexual assault that wakes you up to the world our children are growing up in.
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