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Commentary: How to spot grooming (don’t let people tell you otherwise)

In light of Julia Montes and Coco Martin’s recent revelation about their relationship, many are now wondering: “Isn’t that grooming?”

Well, let’s gather the details.

On May 23, Martin shared that he’s been in a relationship with Montes for 12 years. Considering that Martin will turn 42 years old in November and Montes is 28 years old now, they’ve been in a relationship since Martin was 30 years old and Montes is 16 years old–a rather uncomfortable gap by our societal standards, but one that can be technically viewed as “okay,” given that the age of consent in the country is 16 years old.

But the details we know now do get progressively worse.

The concern in the age gap is by no means something to take lightly, as Martin connected with Montes when he was a grown ass man and she was still in that age where she was right smack in the middle of her teenage life. In another interview, Martin shared that he tried to court Montes when she was 13 years old. Again, doing the math, Martin was probably 27 years old at that point (Basically, a mid-20s man trying to court a kid). Montes had practically just finished grade school at that point.

If that’s not weird for you, just imagine that by the time he was trying to solve science and math problems at school, Montes was probably still swimming in her mother’s womb.

Coco Martin continues to clarify that that the 12 year relationship being quoted by media actually pertains to their working relationship. However (and unfortunately), the ick has already commenced. So there’s that.

Whether Martin ‘groomed’ Montes or not may differ from person to person, but the fact that he made a move on a minor when he was a full-grown adult is not something we should be comfortable with. Like, ever.

Grooming has always been a situation that needs other people’s attention for it to be spotted and called out.

According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), grooming is “when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.”

Grooming can happen regardless of age, gender, or race (believe it or not, grooming can also happen to adults, but that’s another story); however, it is common in young people as they are in the age of exploring while being naive and gullible.

Telling if a child is being groomed might actually be hard because, most of the time, we’ll just look at it as if the kid is simply maturing, or undergoing a puberty phase. However, there are some instances that might be just out of the ordinary, which could be signs that they are being groomed, such as:

  • Being secretive about their life, and their online activities.
  • Talking frequently and wanting to spend a lot of time with a particular older person, especially privately.
  • Is in an actual relationship with an older person.
  • Receiving gifts from someone that they don’t want to talk about.
  • Disinterested in school and/or family.
  • Wants to spend more alone time.
  • Engaging in vices, such as alcohol or drugs.
  • Having sexualized behavior that is not appropriate for their age.

Though these are not all there is to it, nor are they concrete signs of grooming, they can help in determining that they’ve been into something that is far from being ‘normal’.

There are also some signs to check if you’re the one being groomed:

  • Someone is getting excessively interested in your life.
  • Someone is asking you to keep a secret and/or lie.
  • Someone talks about illicit topics with you, particularly discussing sexual stuff and talking you into using drugs and drinking alcohol.
  • Someone is trying to gain your trust by flattering you with gifts and/or words of affirmation that are out of place.
  • Someone is trying to be alone with you.

So what should you do if you or someone you know is in that situation?

Well, for one–it’s okay to be overly cautious as grooming can be quite difficult to recognize. If you have suspicions, go tell someone you trust and develop a plan to get yourself or someone you know out of that situation, or think about reporting things to authorities.

If it’s someone you know that is in this situation, remember to suspend judgment until help has been given.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: With the elusive nature of child grooming, it’s important to listen to those people who do come forward and tell their stories after experiencing this, and learn from them. We must continue to push for concrete change to be made in light of these cases, so that those affected may get the justice that they deserve. It is also just as important to speak up against people and scenarios that condone this type of relationship

Never become used to the idea of grooming.



Other POP! stories that you might like:

Child grooming isn’t something we should be ‘getting used to’

Korean EXO-Ls demand the removal of Chen and Chanyeol by sending protest trucks to SM Entertainment

Taylor Swift announces collaborations with Ice Spice and Lana Del Rey

Miami Zoo responds to accusations of ‘deranged treatment’ of its lone Kiwi bird

Erwan Heussaff earns James Beard Media Award nomination for ‘Advocacy of Filipino Cuisine’.

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