You just gotta watch your back!!!

This is probably one of the most difficult posts I think I have ever had to write.
Formulating my thoughts, unraveling, trying to make sense.
Recent happenings, blending with historic.
Processing how someone someone who is articulate, intelligent, adult, very aware of dangers, who has been working through the healing process for the nearly 6 years, could get caught by a predator – again?
I am feeling incredibly sick as I type.
Triggers seem to be punching me from every side this morning.
Seems that even after so much healing, there will always be triggers that sideswipe when I least expect them.
Especially when I go back and open doors, taking lids off of boxes that I thought were sealed.
But due to some recent events I have had to reach out for help and in so doing I have agreed to join my voice to the fight.

As a child I had absolutely no understanding of the predatory process.
I just knew that the one person who was supposed to love me the most and should have been my most ardent protector was the one person…..
Who failed me.
Who took advantage of me.
Who took the most precious thing he could from me.
Who changed my life forever.
Those ten years stolen from my childhood have marked me, damaged me, changed me from who I could’ve been to who I became.
Only now as a healing adult can I look back see the damage wrought.
Not just to me but to my family because of the destructive behaviours it bred, the negative self esteem issues, the underlying anger, relationship difficulties, and many more wrapped up in this ensuing ball of ptsd ….
It has been a long battle these past 6 years, fighting my way back up from my breaking point, when my body, my brain, my emotions, my whole being just could not fight anymore.

It has been a hard battle.
I have fought, retreated, picked myself up, punched back harder, been battered and bruised almost beyond recognition.
The fight almost killed me.
But I have survived.
Actually I have more than survived – I became a Warrior.
In the past months I have really come into my own.
Finally found my Self.
Standing strong.
Facing the world head on.

So it was incredibly shocking to me to discover that I had been scammed recently.
Scammed by a predator.
And I never saw the warning signs.
I, who should have known, should have seen.
Been there so many times in the past I have worn out all my tee-shirts!!
I never saw it coming.
Got sucked in big time.
But thankfully, I am not entirely stupid and when he asked me for money the brakes went on fast.
I made contact with John whom I know professionally as a cyber safety educator.
He talked me through the process of what to do and then asked if I could write about my experience to help educate others.

I found these Five Stages of Grooming by a Pedophile on Dr Phil’s site.
They are concise and accurate.
I have adjusted them slightly as they to apply to any predator, not just the pedophile.

Stage 1: Identifying a Possible Victim
Although predators differ in their “type” regarding age, appearance and gender, all predators will look for a victim who seems in some way vulnerable.

Stage 2: Collecting Information
The next step is for the predator to collect as much information on the targeted victim as possible. This is most commonly done through casual conversations with the prey. They ask for your birthday. About your family. Where you work.

Stage 3: Filling a Need
Once the predator has the information he needs, he then becomes part of his/her prey’s life by filling a need. If the victim is lonely, the predator will act as a friend. They appear caring and concerned about you and your life.

Stage 4: Lowering Inhibitions
The predator will then start to lower the victim’s inhibitions. This is so subtle. They might give you proof of their identity to establish that they are real.

Stage 5: Initiating the Abuse
At this final stage, the predator begins to financially extort the victim.

This is what happened to me.
On the 9th November a man connected with me via an internet site.
He was handsome, charming, and was apparently working on a contract in the North Island for a large well known international company.
We chatted and I unwittingly fell into Stages 1, 2 3 & 4 without too much effort from his part.
This is where I could start berating myself and blaming myself.
But I am stronger now.
I will not accept his behaviour as my shame.
He was on the hunt.
A predator looking for prey.

In this situation the story went like this – He was a Swiss American chemical engineer, wife killed in car crash 7 years ago. Two kids 14 & 16 in boarding school in UK. Over a period of several weeks I was sent work ID photos, photos of ‘his kids’ etc. Had to fly directly from NZ to Russia to fulfil a contract – which of course he sent me proof of, then once he got there – oh dear my kids need to go on a school trip from their boarding school in UK but he didn’t get the notice in time and he can’t get the money out of Russia as the relationship between USA & Russia is so bad so his poor disabled from the car crash kids are going to miss out on the trip and fail their grades. I was sent copies of bank account pages showing hundreds of thousands of dollars to make me feel like he was just asking for a loan. It was a shame that he had already sent me photos of strong healthy undamaged kids, plus he was tangling with a researcher and I was on Google faster than you could blink, checking out all the details he was giving me. He sorta shot himself in the foot somewhat and I wasn’t going to let him go down or disappear without a fight!

Despite having fallen into Stages 1-4,  I very quickly retreated and checked for personal collateral damage. Made contact with John, who talked me through what to do to safeguard myself and the family.
Reported the scammer on all the sites he was on, triple checked all my internet sites, and my children’s.
Funnily enough he has disappeared.
Undoubtedly into some other persona with a new story out to scam a new victim.

Facebook is another site being used by scammers.
A friend of mine recently had his account hacked and duplicated.
I accepted the friend request and unwittingly entered a private conversation with ‘him’.
Within minutes though I noticed something on my friend’s real wall and realised something was amiss.
Spoke with him and established that I was not in fact speaking with him in this private chat.
Quickly deleted the bogus account.
However, he had another friend who was not so fortunate and was parted with a considerable amount of money.
I must stress, I honestly thought I was talking to my friend.
So did this unfortunate victim.
The conversation was too accurate, too similar.
These scammers are ruthless and relentless./

These types of people are all around us.
Predators – animals who ruthlessly exploit others.
With no concern for anyone but themselves.
They will find you when you are at your most vulnerable, they can be people you know, people you don’t.
You have to be circumspect, on guard, alert, aware.
You need to be educated.
The internet is making this type of behaviour far too easy.
But predators can also be physically in your lives.
They are not always strangers.
I know of too many stories concerning family and friends, whose stories are not mine to tell, who have been caught by predators – wolves in sweeps clothing.
Preying on the vulnerable.

If you have any doubts whatsoever then back off, be wary, contact John or someone of equal ability, or go to the police.
But Never, Ever, Not Ever, give or send any money in any shape or form.
Sadly there are too many vulnerable people who have been stripped of many dollars and life savings.

Part of becoming a warrior survivor is learning to not hide behind shame and secrets.
Keeping secrets helps perpetrators to continue their dirty work.
As Brené Brown says, our wholeness depends on integration of ALL experiences.
So own your stories.
No matter how difficult they are – own them and use them.

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