Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Vulnerable men in danger

I have been closely following a worrying case which is currently being investigated by the state police in Massachusetts. A fifth grade student named Betty (to protect her family, her surname has not been published) has been accused of grooming a middle-aged man on the internet. His name is given as "Fatso" Schlegel, and he is an unemployed steel worker aged 54. For months, Betty had been carrying on an email correspondence with him, masquerading as an imaginary steel worker called "Plug" McCory, a man with an unpleasant skin disease and a criminal record.

She gained Schlegel's's confidence by pretending that her (Plug's) interests—shooting craps, pool and possum-hunting—are just the same as his, while concealing her real obsessions, which are Barbie, Sweetie Belle's Gumball House and Snickers.

Her object, of course, was to lure him into a meeting, and she even sent him a photograph of some of the men she tells him that she hangs out with, promising that she would bring them along so that they could all play seven-card stud together. She did not intend to molest him, but was intent on enjoying his disappointment when he came face to face with an adorable golden-haired poppet rather than the bunch of smelly overweight thugs with whom he had been hoping to bond.

Fortunately the police stepped in before the meeting could take place, and we may hope that a stiff custodial sentence for Betty will be a warning to others who might attempt such cruel impostures.


Gervase said...

Here in Auchtermuchty we have had a few cases involving the grooming of vulnerable elderly men by pre-teen geriatrophiles—usually girls—posing as, for example, retired sanitary workers. These dangerous young perverts will engage in months of email correspondence with their target, pretending that they are sexagenarian sanitary workers themselves to gain the trust of the gullible men and ultimately persuade them to meet.

If they are successful and a meeting does take place, the victim will suffer a terrible shock and then an ordeal in which he finds himself surrounded by little girls forcing him to play Ring-a-Ring-O'Roses or even Musical Chairs, instead of having the game of cribbage and a few beers with other pensioners that he had been expecting. So far there have been no reports of any men suffering physical harm, but the trauma must take its toll and it can be only be a matter of time before such experiences lead to nervous breakdowns or even suicide.

Elizabeth said...

Hoots mon.

Froog said...

'Grooming'? I'd never heard that usage of the word before. It means something far less unsavoury where I come from.

Or did you make that up too, you naughty man?

Tony said...

Have you really not, or are you pulling my leg? It is common in many countries, though of course as the reverse of what I described, which as far as I know is rather rare

Froog said...

No, I honestly never have.

I wonder if you'd care to investigate its history for us, Tony.

I can't find any online references to this use of the word from more than about 7 or 8 years ago (after I left the decadent 'West' behind). I don't even recall it from Chris Morris' notorious Brass Eye special on paedophiles.

Tony said...

The OED has this under DRAFTS FOR 2007:

Of a paedophile: to befriend or influence (a child), now esp. via the Internet, in preparation for future sexual abuse.

1985 Chicago Tribune 28 May V. 8/2 These ‘friendly molesters’ become acquainted with their targeted victim.., gaining their trust while secretly grooming the child as a sexual partner. 1996 A. MULLENDER Rethinking Domest. Violence vii. 200 Children have been ‘groomed’ by their abusers to associate abuse with apparently harmless topics that can continue to be mentioned in letters and cards. 2005 Big Issue 3 Jan. 18/2 While ‘stranger danger’ does existlike internet chat-rooms where abusers groom childrensexual abuse often involves people intimate to the family or even within the family.

Froog said...

So, it does look as if it's a relatively recent coinage, then: ultimate origin perhaps only within the last thirty years, and probably not becoming 'mainstream' - at least in the UK - until the last decade. Do you have any recollection of when it first started becoming a common usage in the British media? I believe it would be post-2002.

outeast said...

Surely, Froog, it's only a specific use of the long-established (L19; orig US) use of 'groom' to mean 'prepare or coach (a person) for a particular career, activity, etc.'