Desensitize (de·sen·si·tize): “To make insensitive or unresponsive to a sensitizing agent.”
Even people with strong personal boundaries and good awareness skills can be targets of predators if they don’t understand that some criminals are experts at desensitizing their prey with incredible patience.
Desensitizing is the slow, steady dismantling of your warning bells and red flags. You are made to see a harmless teddy bear, but the bear is actually a grizzly in teddy bear’s clothing.
For example, predators testing the waters at a workplace might take days or weeks to painstakingly follow a plan of action using repeated exposure to desensitize you like this:
✦ Sit uncomfortably close to you a few times until you get use to it
✦ Remove some lint from your clothing or fix your hair to get you comfortable with having your personal space invaded
✦ Bring publications to your side of the desk, then lean toward you to read them with you
✦ Place a hand on your shoulder or leg, gradually increasing the duration
✦ “Accidentally” touch your breast or drop something in your lap
✦ Get you alone and try something overtly sexual
✦ Force themselves on you saying, “Hey look, you wanted this or you would have stopped my earlier advances.”
Desensitization is so subtle and controlling, a target barely feels their boundaries slowly receding. Predators in a position of authority have it even easier.
Predators make their slow desensitizing tactics seem like standard operating procedures. Some predators use “permission marketing” sales techniques to worm their way into your confidence and past your boundaries. Unlike friends, they strategically push smoothly past your comfort zone by throwing a subtle challenge to your strength or good nature with questions or statements such as:
✦ “I’m not making you feel uncomfortable am I?”
✦ “You don’t mind if I come around and show you this report do you?”
✦ “Do you think I’m being too friendly or are you OK with this discussion?”
✦ “I know I’m a bit straight forward, but you can handle it, yes?”
✦ “I speak from my heart. I can’t change. You understand don’t you?”
✦ “I wish more people were like you. I feel I can tell you anything.”
✦ “I know this gift seems like a lot, but you helped me out so much with the project.”
✦ “You don’t think I’m being a jerk about this do you?”
Predators work on stealing trust as hard as most of us work on becoming successful at work, school, or at sports. Don’t underestimate their cunning. Some like to push into your level of trust by:
✦ Giving inappropriate gifts or tips to make you feel as though you owe them
✦ Providing too much personal information or “secrets” so you will feel special or obligated to volunteer private information in return
✦ Going too fast into friendly or overly familiar conversation (”I just love you, hun. We are just so alike!”)
If you are uncomfortable around somebody, give yourself permission to ask why and to draw a line around your personal safety.
Have you ever faced an office “teddy bear” like this?
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