Don’t Call It Consent: Being Groomed for Sex

Consent requires that a person have all the necessary information to make a decision and the power to choose and have that choice respected by others.

The possibility of authentic consent rests upon equality of power in a relationship. Consent should never be confused with submitting, going along, or acquiescing.

~ Marie M. Fortune SEXUAL VIOLENCE: THE SIN REVISITED

Did I consent to have sex with Dr. T? I guess it depends on whom you ask. If you were to ask him, I’m sure the answer would be yes. If you were to ask any of my other therapists, my lawyer, or any of the folks I know from SNAP, the answer would be a definitive no. If you were to ask me, the answer would be something like: Umm…no… There’s no such thing as consent for sex between a therapist and a patient. I’ve practiced that statement enough now that I sound pretty convincing, even to myself.

Like some victims of professional abuse and exploitation, I was “groomed” for sex over a period of time. The process involved a methodical, systematic wearing away of my boundaries, my morals and values, and my quite appropriate inhibitions and prohibitions.

* * *

One week after my then boyfriend and I decided to split up, Dr. T introduced physical contact into my therapy sessions. He did so with the noblest of intentions (or so it seemed): to provide me with a nurturing connection that could support me in my therapeutic work. After careful consideration, he decided it would be “okay” for us to hug at the end (or beginning) of sessions, and he also suggested that someday he could perhaps hold me while I processed highly emotional issues like loss and abandonment. I was thrilled at the possibility. I felt privileged, special, and very, very lucky. Our first embrace was a momentous occasion that took on an almost mythical quality in my mind.

While he’d always been easy-going, he became even more so during the next few months. He’d crack jokes, tell me funny stories—he was good at making me laugh. I found it easier then to let down my guard, open up more, take things less seriously. Once in a while he’d even call me at home—to check up on me or just say hi. He’d greet me casually, calling me by my last name and saying, “Hey—it’s your buddy!” I loved it when he called. I felt like he really liked me and cared about me. He was no longer just my therapist, he was also becoming my friend.

After about five months of weekly hugs, he began to increase the level of intimacy—a longer hug, a kiss on the cheek, a back rub. Every week it was something new. He approached all of this with nonchalance and calm control. He made all the decisions, judging what was okay, what not, where we could touch, where not, for how long, and how often… There seemed to be no reason for concern. He told me that he loved me and trusted me—he wanted me to be happy and feel good. I deserved that, he said, and he wanted to give that to me.

He decided that it would now be okay for him to try holding me during sessions. He let me pick the position. We’d sit on the floor, me in front and him behind with his arms around me. It felt really good. I felt secure, supported and loved. I found it easy to talk about difficult issues, partly from being held, but also because I felt less self-conscious, since he couldn’t see my face when I talked. After a couple of sessions like this, he took it to the next level and started touching me more, especially around my breasts—at first subtly, almost “accidentally,” then much more intentionally. He seemed to want me to get turned on. He also experimented with different ways of holding me, some of which were highly sexual. Sometimes the things he did felt nice, other times I found myself spacing out or not feeling anything at all. I felt embarrassed and confused about that, but I just couldn’t muster the nerve to say anything about it.

He’d remind me from time to time that he intended our physical contact to be for therapeutic purposes, not just for pleasure. He didn’t want me to take it for granted and sometimes accused me, playfully, of “junking on the hugs.” He thought I should take it all in and allow it to sustain me between visits. Wasn’t it better, he asked, to be aroused than to feel needy and depressed all the time?

During this time he was also introducing more sexualized content into our sessions—he’d ask me about my sexual history, question how I’d feel if he told me that he found me attractive or that I turned him on, ask about any “inappropriate thoughts” I might be having. Sometimes he’d talk about the spiritual benefits of tantric sex. Often, he’d make appreciative—and quite provocative—comments about my body. Truthfully, I felt excited by his flattery and beamed under his attention.

Sometimes I wondered if he knew what he was doing. The hugs were one thing but the more intimate stuff was strange territory; it confused me and I didn’t always know how to respond. But he always found ways to reassure me and diminish my concerns, sometimes teasingly dismissing my discomfort. I began to believe that, if there were any problems with the situation, they were mine—my way of thinking, my more conservative upbringing. He encouraged me to question my beliefs and long-held moral values. Essentially, his philosophy was this: Examine everything, then keep what works and discard the rest. I liked that. I wanted to be different—more confident, less troubled, less weighed down. I wanted to be more like…him.

As things progressed, he tried to get me to take a more active role in our contact. He asked why I didn’t test the limits. Was I afraid of making a mistake? I felt shy and uncertain, and scared by the new feelings I was having for him. I didn’t want to fall in love. I wanted to know that I’d be safe. He assured me that he was there for me, and it would be okay for me to push the envelope or surrender to whatever feelings I might be having. Of course there would be a “net” to catch me if I fell. Besides, what could be wrong with feelings of love? Why not just enjoy them, surrender to them?

The possibility of the two of us having sex was something he’d casually mention from time to time as if it were no big deal. He and his wife had “an arrangement” and I was single, so that was all okay, he said. I couldn’t quite believe he was talking about us having sex. Was he serious? I tried to take it in stride and not think about it too much.

He did want me to understand that, whatever we chose to do, we would never date or have an outside relationship. But as long as I could handle it, why not let ourselves have this gift? And as far as the prohibitions against therapist-patient contact, well, as my therapist, wasn’t he in a better position to judge what was best for me?

Even though he’d never done this before with a patient (or so he said), he had great confidence in his ability to manage the situation and whatever arose. Sure, he was breaking the rules and could lose his license if anyone found out, so we had to be careful. And, if it turned out that I couldn’t handle it emotionally, then we’d have to stop the contact altogether and go back to a more normal therapeutic relationship. But he hoped that he was making the right decision and that I would benefit from this approach he was taking. Of course, the decision was up to me.

That he would go so far for me and take these risks on my behalf made me feel very grateful and very loyal. I wanted to protect him and prove my worthiness, and I happily took on the responsibility of safeguarding our relationship. That included being careful about my own responses. I certainly did not want to disappoint him or appear ungrateful by questioning any of these “gifts” he was offering me—I might lose everything. I had to live up to my part of the bargain. I needed to show him that I could handle whatever we did, no matter what happened.

It took him about two and a half months to get from hugs to sex. Despite everything that had happened up to that point, when it came down to having sex, I hesitated. Things had progressed rapidly the previous couple of weeks—he had finally decided that it would be okay for us to kiss, really kiss—and I was feeling overwhelmed. Kissing him was one thing, but I had this feeling that sex would change everything, and I was terrified. Mostly, I was scared of falling completely in love with him. That felt dangerous, since I knew we could never be together as a couple. I didn’t know if I could handle having those kinds of feelings for him. But there we were, kissing on the floor of his office, and he was saying he really wanted to and asking if he could. I didn’t know what to say. I loved him. I wanted him to be happy, but…this? I tried to avoid a direct response and hoped he’d take the hint. Initially, he did. But then he asked again, promising to do whatever I wanted if I just said yes. To say no, to deny him what he wanted after all he’d done for me—I couldn’t do it.

So I…complied. I acquiesced. I submitted. Repeatedly. On a weekly basis for about the next three years, and on every occasion thereafter.

There were times I didn’t really want to, but it was hard to say no. I’d become “addicted” to him (through traumatic bonding)—both to the contact and to the feeling of validation I got from him when we had sexual contact. And I was worried about losing our special relationship, our friendship. If I refused him, or if he thought I couldn’t handle it, I feared he would end our contact altogether and we would go back to being “just” therapist and patient. That would be a devastating loss and I just didn’t feel strong enough to cope with it. I needed him. I depended on him. Compliance felt…safer.

So there was no saying no.

Periodically, Dr. T would remark on how much power I had in our relationship. This statement invariably confused me, since I felt like I didn’t have any power and couldn’t imagine what he was talking about. Sometimes he’d remark on how much sexual power I had—that he couldn’t resist me and had no discipline around me. He seemed to think I should find this flattering. (I didn’t. I didn’t want his inability to control himself to somehow be my fault.) Other times he would remind me that I could report him and cause him to lose his license. Horrified, I would protest that I would never do that, how could he even think that I would do that… And once again, he would be reassured of my loyalty. Of course I would never betray his trust.

* * *

Dr. T was truly a master of manipulation. He knew my history, my psychological issues, my vulnerabilities, and he understood how to use that information to control me. He created the illusion that I was consenting of my own free will, that I had power and choice and was aware of the risks. I was so deeply under his influence and in such a profound state of denial that it was not until I was well away from him that I started to understand what had really happened. I am still sorting it all out.

On AdvocateWeb there is a brilliant piece of work by Dr. S. Michael Plaut, Ph.D called Informed Consent for Sex Between Health Professional and Patient or Client. Dr. Plaut, a psychologist who specializes in sexual and boundary issues, created his own version of what a statement for informed consent for sex between a health professional and patient might look like. In my opinion, it is both darkly funny and terrifyingly accurate as a document that informs both parties what could happen should they “consent” to have sexual contact. I will hopefully get permission to reproduce the document here on the blog, but until then, you can link to it above or from my Articles and Publications page.

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34 Comments

  1. Kristi,
    You did well! Another excellent entry. Your work is so very important. You are one of the front runners in exposing this. Your bravery in exposing what happened to you is so powerful! I am proud to call you my friend as well. Keep up the good fight!

  2. HI Kristi….
    wow…wow…wow….
    you seem to be talking about me and my story with my former T. i am still under such a spell. But so many common elements make the story familiarly freaky. For one thing, his having ‘an arrangement’ with his wife.
    i felt so privileged… imagine that- he chose ME over her. I was positive that he chose me because i was more intelligent, more supportive, more intuitive than her. He and I were obviously much more suited to each other and i had finally found ‘the’ One.

    I kept waiting for the day he would announce we were so blissfully happy together that he was leaving his wife to be permanently with me.

    i was making all the arrangements- working hard, saving money, building a nice career, making sure i had plenty of assets in my trust to put at his feet the second he would say ‘i do’…

    The other detail…his love for yoga.
    i often wonder if his devotion was real or if it was part of the grooming process. After all, being a disciple of yoga is about being spiritual, forgiving, a peacemaker. It would provide the awakening that would preclude anger and litigation. and then there were the beautiful women in yoga class… he’d often pay much attention to them and then inform me that a couple of them were lesbian and that i would be a wonderful partner for them.

    I remember the shock…the pain, the confusion. if we were really a couple, why introduce me to anyone else??
    kundalini yoga… what i think is his greatest gift. from there he convinced me that I needed to see a tantric to have ‘mystical’ sex with.

    he wanted to have me experiment with a lot of things. Need i say more?? i was terrified, but did comply. it was catch 22. if i complied, i would please him. but i incurred the risk of being left for infidelity. if i didn’t comply he would take off on me for not wanting to please him. but i would have proven my faithfulness to him and thus passed the test.

    confusion, pain, addiction, anxiety, fear, elation, relief, regression, projection, anger, forgiveness, heaven and hell all have combined in one cancerous mass.
    and when i asked about when might we be together at last, as he said, he simply said ‘i don’t think i can do that’.

    thanks for your posts.
    M

    • Wow. Some of that sounds frightening similar. Dr. T was quite the yogi, claimed to be friends with a famous yoga teacher (who left the area after being accused of having an affair with one of his students…birds of a feather??), and said he’d likely been doing yoga for lifetimes. (I wrote a little more about his “spirituality” in the Search for Healing posts.)

      I am so sorry for what you’ve been through. Have you considered taking legal action? Whatever you decide, I wish you the best for your healing. If you’d like to contact me privately, you can use the contact page to send me an email.

  3. While this is about sexual activity in a fiduciary relationship, I believe that there is no such thing as true sexual consent in ANY abusive relationship. The lack of consent is simply clearer to see in a fiduciary relationship or adult/minor sexual relationship, but even in “regular” sexual relationships (those between adults outside of a fiduciary or custodial role), consent isn’t possible without the ability to say no.

    If a man smacks a woman every time she refuses sex within a relationship, then consent cannot be possible, even if she “agrees” to sex some of the time.

    Power differences between abusive “partners” and their victims, or between anyone and some abuse victims, are just as much a factor in relationships as those between adults/minors or professionals/clients.

    Many aspects of abusive relationships can be found across categories – i.e. both sexually abusive therapists and child molesters groom victims. The purpose of abusive relationships regardless of origin is to gain (or increase power) and control over a victim.

  4. Just as many others has said this is all too familiar .I’m in the middle of this situation right now.This was my licensed christian counselor/ and pastor.I can see how he groomed me over many years.He allowed me to believe I was like a daughter to him.Recently I found out that he has already done it to 2 other women in the church.which truthfully I think there are many more.We did expose him in the church and are trying to move forward.I tell you every moment of the day I find myself thinking about it.It has nearly destroyed me emotionally,physically,& spiritually.I’m quite surprized of how often this is happening.Hopefully one day I’ll be strong enough to help others this happened to but for now i’m just trying to survive each day

    • Hi Karen
      My Wife and I gave also very recently gone through this with our pastor.
      My wife war extremely vulnerable, and he was meeting with the both of us and using information that I was sharing to get to her, and he ultimately got what he wanted.
      It has been the most traumatic experience of my life and we are still trying to move forward.
      We have recently become the only UK support contact for the The Hope Of Survivors that are based in the United States, We are aiming to provide support to both primary and secondary victims as we are familiar with the kind of devastation this type of abuse brings. Please have a look at the website it has been an amazing blessing to us. Another great web site is the spiritual abuse support line, these guys are based in London and we have met with them face to face , and again a real blessing to us.
      Both my wife and I are now working to bring about change and raising awareness of clergy sexual abuse.
      You are not alone!
      Our prayers are with you.
      God Bless

  5. Kristi, you are a brilliant writer, able to put into words what I struggle with so frustratingly to say, concerning the abuse by my massage therapist. Please keep writing, at least until I recover from the PTSD, as my head is still swimming almost three years later. My attorney thinks the jury will see my returning as consent, and will therefore, ultimately find me guilty. He has bumped me up against a dismissal deadline-my attorney! He is forcing me to let my case go, at least that is how it appears to be. I can’t start over, the statute of limitation is long gone at this point. I feel as if I am still trying to get someone to believe me, to listen to me and understand what happened to me. This sucks! My massage therapist Chris A. did all of the manipulating talked about in these articles on abuse, thank God he’s not a psychotherapist.

    • Hi Calmbreezesnow,
      I hear you are going through a really tough time. I am really sorry to hear that you are not getting the support you would like from your attorney. I know from my own experience that things don’t always go exactly how we want them to go. Sometimes it turns out to be for the best; other times, it’s just damn frustrating. I know I was really attached to having one of our press releases picked up—which never happened, despite all the effort I put into it. I took it really hard. However, partly as a result of that, we now have this website and blog. I might never have started it if I hadn’t been so desperate to express myself and say what had happened. So, you never know. Whatever happens in your situation, I hope you can find some acceptance for it. Sometimes when we let go of what we’re holding onto, some space opens up for healing and for new things to come in. Yes, the situation sucks. Yes, your lawyer has you in a corner. Yes, you’re feeling anxious, frustrated, depressed, angry…. If you let it be what it is and stop struggling (and stop trying to not feel the feelings), what happens? I can’t remember if you’re seeing a therapist, but this is good stuff to work on with someone who can hold the space for you. Your healing doesn’t depend on what does or doesn’t happen with this. You are in your healing process regardless, and you will heal. I am in no way trying to tell you what to do. Let your intuition guide you.
      Much love and care to you!

  6. I’m in this “club” too, Karen. I believe the damage from the physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse is beyond what most people, I suspect even the abuser, can comprehend. I would not wish this all-encompassing suffering on anyone, not even him. Like you, and certainly so many others, this is with me every day. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that there are moments when I consciousely choose to not let it be at the top of my mind. And in those moments, and they are all too brief, healing is able to take root. It makes me realize that we can’t give the abusers “top billing” in our minds and hearts because in doing so we continue to hand all the control over to them. Among the few things I can pray about anymore are victims of this type of abuse. You are now among them in my prayers.

  7. Thank you for writing this. Everything you wrote about, your conflicting feelings and his methods of manipulation all hit home very strongly. While in my case he wasn’t a doctor he was my sporting teacher which is still in a position of authority. I felt very alone with my shame and fear. I find it hard to articulate how I feel particularly because it is so psychological you fear people can’t fully comprehend why you went along with it. Thank you so much for helping me on my journey.

  8. Pingback: Therapist Abuse « Kate Is Rising

  9. 10 years on and I’m still dealing with my teacher relationship. I have always said that he had legally done nothing wrong as I was of the legal age of consent and I didn’t say no, however I realise now how I have been groomed and I love what you have written about with regards to a sexual relationship with your abuser. The sex that I experienced is now not with consent as I was 16 years old, he had groomed and manipulated me over the years to get away with a crime.
    Tomorrow I have an appointment with a police officer who will be looking at my case again.
    Thank you for this blog. Well done. You have opened my eyes and I am so very grateful :)

    • Thank you for your comments. When there’s that kind of power differential and one has that much authority over the other, there really is no consent for sex, because there’s no power to say no or have a “no” taken seriously. Consent requires the power of choice. “Submitting” or “going along with” is not the same as saying yes.

      It takes strength and courage to look at what really happened and then take action. I wish you all the best at your appointment and in moving forward with this!

  10. Oh, wow. I have recently begun to wonder whether my current issues with finding sex creepy are connected with sessions with an elementary school counselor decades ago. I’m starting to wonder if he was attempting to groom me (at one point, he asked me to take my shirt off. I didn’t.) Even though he didn’t succeed in grooming me any further, I wonder if my problems are related to that time in my life. I have always had to “submit” to sex and it’s a pattern I want to break. (I enjoy sex once I have been convinced to have it.) I don’t want to be creeped out when an attractive man finds me sexually attractive. I have started to search on this issue and have found lots of suggestions to see a counselor (not going to happen) and very few resources for those whose trauma might have come from a counselor.

    Thank you for posting this.

    • Hi Jen,
      Sorry that we didn’t get back to you right away. Absolutely, if you had sessions with a counselor, ESPECIALLY as a child, that involved any kind of sexual or intimate content, you could be feeling major effects from that. And a counselor asking a child to take her shirt off is definitely a HUGE violation, whether or not you complied. Of course, there could be other factors influencing you now, too, but that’s a big one. Just your increasing awareness of what happened and what it might mean may help you to unravel its effects on you, but if you’re able to do some trauma release work around this incident, that could be a great benefit. If you don’t feel able to see a counselor, you may be able to find a bodyworker or other health practitioner trained in EMDR, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), Somatic Experiencing, or other trauma resolution work. (You could try doing EFT on your own, too, but it might be easier with someone experienced who could guide you through the process.) You may also find that simply talking about the incident and your feelings may benefit you, so I encourage you to find people you trust, people who understand, who you can talk to about this.
      Wishing you the best!
      Kristi

    • Hello there Jen,

      It’s been a while since you posted this, so not sure if you’ll see my message now. However i relate very well to what you have written. I am afraid to say it, but i relate well to it because i am exactly the same when i encounter a new sexual partner in my life. There is no doubt in my mind that my issues come from abuse, as i was sexually abused by my own father when i was just 8 years of age. I was forced to face up to this situation a little while ago – just over 2 years ago, i’m afraid i encountered an internet groomer (i am a fully grown adult, and have been for more years than i’d care to admit), so i can relate well to the rest of this thread too. We never actually met, but he was very clever at getting what he wants out of people. I have been actively seeking D/s as a lifestyle choice, perhaps because of our shared issue, or perhaps not, while i am your stereotypical alternative lifestyle seeker, from studies which have been undertaken, i am very much in the minority, that most people who seek it as a lifestyle are usually very successful, emotionally stable people who don’t have any history with abuse. I’m going off the point now, feeling a need to justify my lifestyle choices, but it is relevant to my story as the person who tried to groom me tried twisting something which is built around love, mutual trust, and mutual respect, whereby on the outside it may appear one person has all the power, but inside the 2 people concerned have already discussed in depth, openly and honestly what each is wanting and needing from the relationship, what each others limits are and sticking by them, so the one who appears to be in the weaker position, is actually in the stronger position as their limits, wants and needs dictate the boundaries of that relationship – twisting that into a situation of abuse where i’d have been afforded no respect, no limits, and no consent. I am only just waking up to his grooming tactics after reading an article i found online regarding grooming, and suddenly all his odd behaviour suddenly fell into place. He told me he could help me, that he’d helped people heal in the past by going to such extremes with them – at the same time, proceeding to bombard my brain with lots of philosophy, and also alternative theories and conspiracies. I am degree educated, but my life didn’t go exactly to plan, so i greatly enjoyed the intellectual stimulation this gave me, not getting that level of stimulation much elsewhere in my life, but of course while the mind is open to perhaps some brand new ways of thinking and seeing the world, it’s that much easier to get a foot hold of the mind in question. The level of corruption in the world seemed to upset him greatly, and he appeared to want to help expose all the worlds wrongs – but all he was doing was circulating documents, oh and the very well written articles posted on some whacky and far out conspiracist’s website, and radio interview of said conspiracist – ‘look at me and how good i am, i couldn’t possibly be an abuser, i care about the world’.

      Anyway back to the point of replying to your post. Last year, when he was deep inside my mind, and i was just trying to recover from round 2 of personality transplant from kind friend to telephone rapist it made me look hard at that fear response we share – he kept hitting that response trying to force me to go there over the phone – he always made me feel like everything was all my fault and that i was flawed, or worse to someone like me being called disobedient when there was no choice involved, it was just like hitting a mental brick wall each and every time. He refused to even talk to me about it so i done a lot of reading around the psychology of abuse, and also the psychology of D/s too, both very interesting and very separate topic areas. Up until that point, i had been encountering that response in a real life situation where as you said the other person can force you into it, i don’t mean force as in rape, but in things like heated kissing sessions for example, so i guess i never put that much thought past just that i found it embarrassing sometimes that suddenly i’d be giggling like a little girl and pushing them away when i was enjoying the kissing etc. Reading around such topic areas while i was dealing with all that fall out i guess i suddenly realised what was going on. I think it’s an automatic fear response buried in the depths of my psyche – i have found i have got past that with long term partners in the past, but until enough intimate trust is there which happens over time, not overnight, in the initial stages of intimacy i think i turn into an 8 year old, as that’s how old i was when that response was instilled in me.

      I hope my waffle has helped a little, and i hope you find yourself a decent, loving, and more importantly empathetic partner, that you may one day get you past that barrier, and if you ever come across anyone who makes you feel bad in any way because of it then just remember something i forgot for a while, they are not worth your time and attention and the problem is very much on their shoulders, not yours.

      I hope you recover and heal from your past experiences one day – i know i have been on a mission to do just that since my father died in my teens and i was finally able to talk about it – but i guess some things talking can’t reach. I did get counseling, for a full year too, i didn’t encounter any real problems there, she was happily married, middle aged and female – it was a voluntary organisation specifically for survivors of child sexual abuse – but as lovely as she was, as understanding as she was, as much as she backed up that it wasn’t my fault and i was a decent and kind person – it didn’t quite reach where it needed to. Never give up though, all we can do is remain open to love and compassion – that way the abusers never win :-)

      xx

  11. I was wondering what you think about whether sex can be consensual between a boss and a subordinate. I was groomed for sex by my boss and after she got what she wanted, she acted like I was a total stranger. She praised, charmed, flattered, bought gifts, gained my trust, told me secrets to keep, etc. all behind closed doors where I was isolated from everyone else. There was definitely a power differential plus a big age difference. I consented but at the same time, I almost feel raped. Thoughts?

    • I’m not surprised you feel raped. It sounds to me like she used her power and authority to get you to foster a sexual relationship. As you say, you were groomed. If someone is groomed, then it can’t really be consensual, can it? I can only offer my own opinion about this, as I’m neither therapist nor lawyer. I think the boss-subordinate thing makes it really tricky. Just because two people are adults doesn’t automatically mean there’s consent, especially when one has influence and power over the other. If they then use that power to their advantage, well, isn’t that sexual harassment? While I do think this sort of thing is case-specific, to me, the power differential would make any boss-subordinate relationship suspect. As long as one person has authority over the other, that’s an issue.

      • It’s just that I’m having a hard time getting people to understand my situation. My boss definitely has Borderline Personality Disorder but also has sociopathic and histrionic traits. She was my boss and she used me for sex and to boost her ego and then dropped me to look for her next victim. She even refers to the people she does this to as victims and she always seduces married people. I feel that this is wrong that I was put in the position of being a subordinate to her. In addition, she was not qualified for her job. She introduced herself to me (a lesbian) as a single lesbian alone in a new city. It turned out that she is actually the mistress of the CEO. I got a lawyer, but she didn’t believe me that I was a victim in this situation so I fired her and am considering getting a new lawyer. It’s very hard to figure out what to do. She tried to fire me for something totally made up (she lies constantly) and then after I let it be known that she had sex with me, she was fired. Any advice? I know you guys are not lawyers, but still.

        • To me, this definitely sounds like something for a qualified attorney. You could check out the ones listed on my legal resources page and see if any of them could either help you or give you a referral. Given that this is a workplace situation, I’d recommend you consult with someone who’s truly qualified to advise you, since any action you take could have a variety of ramifications. I’d also recommend you find a therapist or someone else you can talk to about what you’re going through. You’ve been violated and you need some good support to deal with what’s happened.
          Wishing you the best!

  12. Oh lord … This is my situation. Why am I so weak. Please help me stop this. It is all wrong, I know it, I never wanted it …. He pushed and pushed and pushed and persisted. He lies. He goes on and on about how “I” have the power. How I own him. How I could get him to do anything. He lies but he flatters again and again … and then I fear. He sulks if he doesn’t get his way – verges on the aggressive and I am defeated.
    He never takes a no.
    Please help me – what do I do. I want to stop this but he phones every single day. He doesn’t let me break it off but I could – I just have to be firm. But he is the one constant in my sad, pathetic life … I fear then what would be left if even that went but I was FINE before him so can be again, I know. He gets in my head – he overrides my morals because I am so weak. Please help.
    I rely on him sometimes for friendship, for advice, for being there or at the end of a phone line but I need OUT. It is all wrong. He doesn’t care about me no matter what he says or he would respect my decisions. He just wants what he wants and he will get it no matter what.

    Oh. Oh. Oh. F***. How did I get here. How was I so weak.

  13. My difficulty would be stopping it with him. It means confrontation – a breaking off completely … of course that is what it has to be but I fear that. The break.

    The cutting off of all contact – I don’t do that :-? I am loyal and a people pleaser and always put myself last. How can I stand up for myself at the apparent expense of someone else (even an abuser).

    • Hi Christine,
      I hear how much pain you’re in and I’m so sorry. Trust me when I tell you that what he is doing is truly harmful to you. You need to get away in order to stop the constant harming and begin to heal. I wish I could tell you this will be easy, but things this important are often challenging, specifically so that they will spur our growth. What you must do now is value yourself, your health and well-being, your spirit, more than him. This is an opportunity for you to come through for yourself in a way you may never have before. You must value yourself before him, before anyone else. It is your job in life to take care of you. No one else will do that for you. As you say, you know you were fine before him, and so you can be again. Breaking off all contact takes discipline, just the way it can take discipline to exercise, eat healthy, go to your job, etc., all those ways we take care of ourselves. Think of this as just one more (BIG) way you’re taking care of yourself and safeguarding your future. Your life is valuable! Don’t let him steal another day from you. He is like a con man, ingratiating himself into your life so that he can get what he wants from you. He is only concerned with his own needs — he does not care about yours. Not because you are not lovable, but because he only knows how to think about himself. Likely, he does not know how to truly care about another person — which is very sad. Is this person really worth your energy? His being in your life is only reinforcing your belief that your life is sad and you don’t deserve something better. Learn that you deserve better by honoring yourself and no longer giving your power away to those who don’t respect you. Let him be an adult and learn to take care of himself. It’s time for you to step fully into your own power and fully honor your life. And it is ESSENTIAL that you stop the self-judgment and self-blame. Love, honor and forgive yourself, just as you would a loved one. Let go of the past and any mistakes you think you made and be tender and loving with yourself. You deserve that.

      ~ Kristi

  14. Dear kristi thank you so much for getting back to me with your post … the last lines really made me feel better – it is funny, isn’t it the power of words.

    I must do it – I tried once before but he was clever he suggested we stop everything but remain friends – which was exactly what I wanted of course but then each time pushing the boundaries until we were right back where we always had been. That means I know this time this has to be a total break. I am not sure I can even write to him to let him know – I think I simply have to not answer a single phone call – block his number, not come to the door, ignore all emails, whatsapp, skype etc. Because I think if I try to explain it will just open a route for restarting discussion and – however long it takes – will end up with me caving again. His persistence is beyond my capacity for holding out against it!

    Thanks so much – I think I have the strength, I hope so ….. :-(

    • Here’s what I recommend:
      First of all, don’t overthink it. Many of us have a tendency to try to figure everything out in advance: predict all the things that could possibly happen and come up with a solution for every single situation. That’s a colossal waste of energy. Take it moment to moment — don’t try to address the entire future of possibilities! When you do that, you spend a whole lot of unnecessary energy on things that may never happen. Wouldn’t you rather have that energy available for what actually DOES happen? Instead, choose your opening move, prepare for that, and then trust that you can handle whatever comes up. That will show your inner self that you trust it. And that’s a good thing!

      Next, keep it as neutral as possible. This doesn’t have to be dramatic. What I did with Dr T. was I called when I knew he wouldn’t be available and left a message that I needed some space, asked that he please not contact me, and said that I would let him know when I wanted to be in touch again. I used a very pleasant voice and was respectful but clear. You could do something similar, with no blame, no drama, and, very importantly, NO EXPLANATION. You do not owe him anything, including an explanation. You get to set your boundaries and make the rules. This is how you start learning to take charge of your own boundaries and to stop letting other people set them for you. If you ever find yourself falling into needing to explain, you can just stop and tell the other person that you don’t want to talk about it. Period. The important thing is to not leave it open-ended and to not give him an opening to respond. If you email him, that gives him an opportunity to email you back. (Everyone wants to have the last word!) You do not want to give him an opening. If you feel like emailing him is the only way, then you may want to block his email right away.

      Then if you need to, you can block his number, block his email (many email programs have this kind of setting), and do whatever you need to do to stop contact. If he persists, it’s possible you could file a restraining order. And that might not be a bad thing. Also, consider that if you ever might want to pursue legal or administrative action against him, you will want to keep all evidence (including emails, voicemails, texts, etc.). So don’t automatically delete all of this stuff. If you can keep it somewhere where you don’t have to see it or deal with it, that’s best. (I got a safe deposit box for some things.)

      I hope this helps! Maybe others will have additional suggestions for you.

      Good luck!
      ~Kristi

  15. Kristi,

    Thank you so much for writing this. It’s such important information to have out there. I’m wondering if you would allow me to re-post/cross-post onto my website, Our Stories Untold, which was begun as a site to collect stories of sexualized violence in the Mennonite Church, but which has grown to branch out a bit to other religious communities as well. Please let me know if you’d be interested in having your piece republished so a wider audience could see it.

    Thank you again for writing it!

    Rachel

  16. Hi,

    I really appreciate you writing this. My situation is very complicated and I am so confused and feel that I can’t find help. I continue to struggle everyday. I was molested by my pastor at 11 then it continued until adulthood (24 years total). I had 2 previous sexual abuse situations before this happened. I actually told the pastor about those situations. I had no support from family so I was left alone once they found out. The things you said in this article were exactly what I experienced. I am not sure what to do at this point but I don’t want to suffer the rest of my life. I finally ended contact with this pastor.

  17. Pingback: Decision Time | Surviving Clergy Abuse

  18. Hi

    I recently posted a reply further up the thread, however it just occurred to me that perhaps i should have included a couple of links with it. It’s been less than a week that i found the document on grooming, so less than a week that i first realised i had been targeted like this again, only this time in my adult life. I am not saying that all abusers are narcissistic sociopaths, however reading up a little on both personality disorders i could see traits of both in my recent abuser. Reading this helped a lot with letting go of the lie he first presented himself as, as i realised that with some people it isn’t trust issues closing down their emotions, they just no longer know or care to know how to access any emotions full stop, and no amount of patience, compassion, or empathy is ever going to get anywhere with them.

    Here’s a link on both conditions, maybe it can help anyone else who’s ever had the misfortune of encountering someone with these traits.

    http://www.wikihow.com/Spot-a-Sociopath

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/basics/definition/con-20025568

    xx

    • Thanks for the links!
      Yes, a lot of us do find that our abusers could be categorized as narcissistic sociopaths. Check the Psychology, Personal Growth & Spirituality category on the Books & Media page for related books.

      • Thanks Kristi

        I’ll be sure to check out your suggested further reading :-)

        Yes it just seems so wrong that while they’re causing us so much pain and turmoil, they get to feel nothing at all, but i guess that’s where karma comes into play – their karma is self fulfilling as they will never know the true joy of opening up your heart to another human being who is doing the same in return, or of how healing a thing that is. I do find it very sad at the same time though however, as both my abusers were abused badly in childhood too, to think that such tragedy has made them the way they are. But when they simply don’t have the strength to face their pain, and it leads to them then hurting others, they really need to take some responsibility for their actions and face up to what they’re doing. Some never find the strength though, sadly, and are just a lost cause.

        For the rest of us, all we can do is acknowledge our own strength, acknowledge the courage it takes to keep our hearts open, and be thankful we never let our pain destroy us to that degree, that we’ve never had to find reason to twist reality because the truth of our own actions are that abhorrent.

        xx

  19. Wow, Iam feeling better to know Iam not the only person out their. Iam old enough to know better I thought I found someone to trust with my heart, only to experience the thing s I feared the most. But their is a name for it Groomed, Yes I cant belive i fell hard 3 years for him.
    Iam glad i stumbled through here I dont want to let this man get away to continue to hurt and play women for items,and make a game out of controlling people in this way. Is their really laws that can help after you have been coned by a con man. I feel a bit like a fool you might say but he said all the right things, I told myself to good to be true funny, thing is I was on to him if i liked certain things toward the end he would stop doing them, I tried to trust but my gt told me he was lieing to me he blamed me told me things were my fault never his, My last visit with him I got all my answers, While he was maken out in a truck with yet another his response, you just have to over look that. Really Pft!!!
    I was married once to someone who abused me I became a strong independent women raised 3 children,and fell prey to be a victum again its hard to leave but I deserve so much better, Thank you for helping me see it wasnt me I can be so hard on myself internal self needs to think Happy thoughts like before I met Him. He brought me way down. Their should be something I can do he wont return my things even, he wanted to now why i was Mad I just said if I had to explain you wouldnt understand. Then also said FBI was watching him on his facebook lol to end his naughty behaviour he is gone poof I need to get a laywer he told me no laws would help me he thinks he can do this their is a LoveFraud.com makes it sound like being groomed is nothing Hmmm

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