Summary by Emerald O’Brien

Sexual con artists wear many “masks” to hide their true intentions. These masks can’t be seen as real masks can. They are invisible disguises meant to keep a con artist’s games from being discovered. But if youth learn to look closely, they will see that behind each mask is someone who wants to use and manipulate them. Targets also wear masks to cover up the shame, fear, or humiliation they feel.

As a classroom project to illustrate how teenagers felt about being involved in a sexual con game, students made paper maché or plaster masks to describe how they felt. The students who participated in this curriculum wrote the following true excerpts.

What Girls Said: My mask is a groomer who has blue hair-a cold-hearted, reface-angry for being “Hey baby, would you like to jump in bed with me?” Two hours later: “Ha, ha, I got my way!”

My mask would say, “I’m a great guy. All the girls like me. You’d be missing out if you’re not with me.”My mask hides the darkness in his life and having low self-esteem and being paranoid about others finding out about him.

My mask symbolizes the darkness and hurt feelings that a target goes through when she is taken advantage of. If it could talk, it would scream “No!” so that the violator will know that no game is going to be played with me. My mask also hides the fear that I will be used again. Hiding the hurt I feel from being used the first time. And the shame, not knowing if it was my fault.

My mask is a mold of myself. The color represents how my life has been divided into worlds. The red shows the pain and the black shows the loneliness and the white shows the acceptance. The teardrops represent how hurt I’ve been in both areas. My mask hides the pain, hurt, and fright from the world. The uncertain child that could never grow up and be herself.

What Guys Said: These masks I wear are just cover-ups for what I really feel. It gets me what I want. I build false relationships. I lie. I lose trust in myself and I can never trust others. I just want things my way and to have no one know how much I hurt inside.

You hurt emotionally and physically. You wear your mask so much you don’t know who you really are anymore. You don’t know how to get better. And no one wants to be your friend. I hurt myself by getting deeper into the grooming stuff. It is so hard to get out. It just causes you to have grief and can get you locked up if you get caught. You hurt others by using these tactics on them, taking their feelings and respect away. I wish I had never started saying and doing all those things but now I’m trapped and have a reputation.

* Chapter 7, Unmasking Sexual Con Games, Helping Teens Avoid Emotional Grooming and Dating Violence by Kathleen M. McGee, Laura J. Buddenberg, Boys Town Press