Vice Ganda's vague ‘grooming’ viewpoints garner vexing gap


Disclaimer: This article does not intend to provide a conclusive definition of sexual grooming. I am not a psychologist.

Vice Ganda, arguably one of the most influential celebrities in the Philippines, inadvertently ignited an online discussion following the release of a social card by GMA Network featuring a quote attributed to her regarding the concept of “grooming.

The quote in question originated from the Expecially for You segment of the April 29, 2024 episode of It's Showtime. This segment introduces a twist where a guest seeks new love, with their ex participating in the process of selecting potential suitors.

In this particular episode, the featured individuals were Miyuki and her ex, DJ, who have a notable 7-year age gap. When Vice Ganda discovered this age gap, the host inquired whether Miyuki was still a minor when she and DJ began their relationship. Miyuki responded, Ay, hindi po. Sinagot ko po siya no'ng nag-18 po ako.” [“Oh, no. I agreed to be his girlfriend when I turned 18.”]

The interview progressed with Vice Ganda questioning DJ about why he pursued a younger partner.

Vice Ganda: Ba’t ka jumowa ng bata? [Why did you enter a relationship with someone younger?]

DJ: Tinry ko po kasi feeling ko, um, it would work. Kasi mga nagiging jowa ko po before, mas matanda po sa akin, ka-age ko. So I tried po nung mas bata. [I tried it because I felt... it would work. Because my previous partners were older than me or the same age. So I tried being with someone younger.]

Vice Ganda to Miyuki: Pero at that time… did you feel like you were groomed?

Miyuki: No, at that time, no.

This led to a discussion centered around the concept of grooming. The former couple revealed that Miyuki was 17 years old when DJ courted her. Following this revelation, Vice Ganda addressed potential interpretations of the situation:

Kasi ‘yong ibang tao, maaaring sabihin, “Ay, grinoom niya si Miyuki kasi underage, tapos siya, 20-something na siya. Pitong taon ang ano— Pero kasi ‘yong grooming, according to the psychologist na nakausap ng team, masasabi mo siyang grooming, hindi lang sa edad, hindi lang dahil sa edad, kung malayo ang edad. Hindi porke’t malayo ang edad niyo, grooming. Grooming kung merong tatlong bagay na evident do’n sa sitwasyon: kung may abuse… kung merong… manipulation, at saka merong… exploitation. ‘Yong A.M.E. Kung may abuse, manipulation, or exploitation. [Some might say, Oh, he groomed Miyuki because she was underage, and he was in his 20s. There's a seven-year difference— But grooming, according to the psychologist consulted by the team, can be identified not just by age difference but by three evident factors in the situation: abuse, manipulation, and exploitation. A.M.E. If there's abuse, manipulation, or exploitation.]

Vice Ganda further elaborated:

Kasi kung ang ano daw is relationship, hindi daw siya grooming. Tsaka celibate sila, eh… Alam ng parents… So, ‘yong kaso din nila… Kasi maaaring magsabi, “Naku, grinoom siya.” ‘Yong kaso din nila, actually pinaalam— inano namin, eh… Inano sa MTRCB at saka sa psychologist. Sinabing walang grooming do’n sa ano nila. So, klaro tayo do’n. [Because if it's a relationship, they say it's not grooming. And they're celibate... The parents know... So, their case... Because some might say, Oh, he groomed her. Their case, actually, we informed— we informed the MTRCB and consulted a psychologist. They said there was no grooming in their situation. So, we're clear on that.]

Social media gap

Following Vice Ganda's explanation regarding the nuances of grooming, the discourse has spilled over onto social media platforms. While some users resonate with Vice Ganda's perspective, others have voiced dissenting views.

Complexities of grooming

In an interview with TODAY Parents, Erinn Robinson of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, defined “grooming as “a set of manipulative behaviors that the abuser uses to gain access to a potential victim, coerce them to agree to the abuse and reduce the risk of being caught.”

For the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, “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.” The British child protection charity added that “anybody can be a groomer, no matter their age, gender or race. Grooming can take place over a short or long period of time – from weeks to years. Groomers may also build a relationship with the young person's family or friends to make them seem trustworthy or authoritative.”

Despite increased awareness surrounding the term grooming, experts are still grappling with defining its parameters, especially in the context of child sexual abuse and other criminal acts. Grooming, which plays a pivotal role in the process of child sexual abuse, lacks a universally agreed-upon definition or conceptual framework, adding complexity to efforts to combat these crimes.

The intricacies of sexual grooming behaviors often blur the lines between normal adult-child interactions, making it challenging to identify and intervene effectively. This ambiguity underscores the urgent need for a clearer understanding and definition of grooming to aid in prevention and prosecution efforts.

Experts stress the importance of clarity in clinical evaluations, refining investigation and prosecution tactics, implementing preventative measures, and shaping policies to address this issue comprehensively.

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