"Parents, please forgive yourselves." I heard these words from a woman-a mom- at a parent/community night where I was recently presenting. I was explaining the grooming process and expressing that kidnapping is not the way traffickers get their victims- our kiddos. No, it’s a process of relationship building, a grooming process, that creates a bond so strong that it makes it extremely hard to pull someone out of once they are entrenched. The grooming process has 6 stages:
They target you
They gain trust
They fill a need
They create distance between family and friends
They sexualize the relationship
They maintain control
These stages are critical to understand when it comes to how traffickers lure our children into relationships. I always stress the importance of recognizing the stages of grooming within the first three stages, because once they enter stages four through six, it’s very difficult to pull them away from their groomer. When I finished my presentation on these issues, the audience provided me (as they always do) with wonderful and insightful comments. And then a woman approached me speaking words I will never forget. She shared a story about her daughter who wasn’t trafficked, but groomed in the exact same manner for drugs. The mother realized what was happening within the first two stages, but couldn’t stop it. The daughter was out of reach so very early. She did everything in their power to win her back, but to no avail. She lost her daughter to an insidious evil- drugs. And then she said to me, "the only thing you didn’t say that I hope you consider saying in the future is this: Parents, if you lose a child to such an evil, please forgive yourselves" I was struck by those words. There are so many times that as parents we do everything we know to do, and yet, it doesn’t always seem like enough. But this mother's words ring true: If you have lost a child to the evils of this world, don’t allow that torment to destroy your life as well. Parenting is the toughest job out there. We want to do our absolute best for our children, but we only have so much control, only so much power. I think we should all remember this wise woman's words and give ourselves, and each other, a little grace. And I will do what she asked. I will begin now by saying those very powerful words: "Parents, please forgive yourselves."