WARNING: This article contains graphic, sexual language that some readers may find offensive and disturbing. Please read at your own discretion.
The term “grooming” is coming up in the headlines a lot these days. On any given day, there’s a good chance you’ll come across a story in the news about one celebrity or another targeting young women or men — or if we want to call it like it is, boys or girls.
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You’ve heard the term grooming, but what does it mean? Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. Harsh, right? It’s a harsh reality and it’s happening every day. A young person is being abused by someone they thinks loves them and has their best interests at heart, and it’s happening in your country, your city, perhaps on your street or even in your home.
It’s hard to say the exact moment when I realized that I had been groomed as a child. And at 15 years old, that’s exactly what I was, a child. I was in my late 20s when it became clear to me. It was 2008, the same year the age of consent was raised by two years, from 14 years old to 16 years old.
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It was 1995 and the events that occurred during that summer changed the trajectory of my life. My name is Ange Stever and this is just a small part of my story. In no way does it define me, although I allowed it to for many years. I’ve gone from victim to survivor and now, I am finally able to thrive. I share my story in an effort to help others who find themselves in a similar situation.
In my case, after months of grooming me over the course of a summer at a Bible Camp where I was working and he was a student, I lost my virginity to a 27-year old ex-convict. He manipulated me and others around him. Did I say yes? Yes. But was I old enough to make that decision for myself? No. Of course, I thought I was at the time. Teenagers know everything! Right?
Grooming has been a serious problem for a long time and I’m glad it’s being talked about. Sweeping it under the rug does nothing but harm. If this had happened to me 13 years later, after the age of consent was raised, the man responsible could have been thrown back behind bars. I am thankful the laws have changed. Unfortunately, that change came too late for me. But I hope it’s not too late for someone else.
It was a pleasure sitting down with Shauna Cunningham from Global News and share this publicly for the first time. During the end of the interview, she asked me what I would say to someone in this situation. “Get help,” seems like the obvious thing but what does that mean? Help comes in different forms for different people. But I can say this: please seek professional guidance. I know it really helped me, even 20 years later. There are links listed below for victim services in our area.
If you can relate to this because it happened in your past, and it’s still holding you back, I would recommend talking to someone. Even though you are no longer a victim, therapy can be an important step in learning to thrive. I mean, you’ve survived to this point, right? You may as well take that last step! I promise you, it’s worth it.
Peace and love.
Your local radio DJ,
Ange Stever is the host of the morning show on 96.3 Big FM in Kingston.
Links to victim services:
Canadian Centre for Child Protection
Kids Help Phone