Toxic Tuesday: Protecting Children from Predators—Part 2
First let us clear up misconceptions I have heard from people regarding how to identify a child predator:
Myth: “You’ll know because the hair will stand up on the back of your neck when you see or hear them.”
Truth: Most predators are someone the you know; and most often, someone you trust.
Myth: “They give off vibes; you’ll know!”
Truth: Most predators are someone you know; and most often, someone you trust.
Myth: “I’ve taught my kids about ‘Stranger Danger,’ we are prepared.”
Truth: Most predators are someone the child knows; and most often, someone the child trusts.
Myth: “I know my child and I know my child would tell me if anyone tried to do something to them.”
Truth: Estimates suggest that only 3% of all cases of child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994; Timnick, 1985) and only 12% of rapes involving children are ever reported to police (Hanson et al., 1999).
Boys tend to have a more difficult time with abuse than girls and are less likely to report sexual abuse than girls. Lyon, T.D. (2002). Scientific Support for Expert Testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation. In J.R. Conte (Ed.), Critical issues in child sexual abuse (pp. 107-138). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. (on-line:http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.pl?65+Law+&+Contemp.+Probs.+97+(Winter+2002 )
Myth: “If they are normal looking, well-educated and/or a well-known leader they do not fit the description of a predator.”
Truth: Predators love the general public’s assumptions. This makes their attack all the easier. Child abusers come from all classes, racial and religious backgrounds and may be homosexual or heterosexual.
Myth: “I can’t believe he is a molester, after all, he has been alone with my children several times and never touched them or made them uncomfortable.”
Truth: Predators are very careful in their selection so as not to get caught. They do not molest all children they come in contact with; contrary, they select few and the victimization is a gradual process.
Here is an admission from a convicted molester: “When a person like myself wants to obtain access to a child, you don’t just go up and get the child and sexually molest the child. There’s a process of obtaining the child’s friendship and, in my case, also obtaining the family’s friendship and their trust. When you get their trust, that’s when the child becomes vulnerable and you can molest the child.” (Salter, 2003, p. 42)
Myth: “Once an abuser is arrested everyone will know their guilt.”
Truth: People are too quick to believe that the accused is innocent, even if there is plenty of supporting evidence. According to Dr. Salter, “Normal, healthy people distort reality to create a kinder, gentler world than actually exists” (p. 177). Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ourselves and our children. New York: Basic Books.
Myth: Molesters are usually unmarried men in need of sexual release.
Truth: They are often married; sometimes for the purpose of throwing people off their tracks. Sexual gratification is not necessarily the primary motivation for victimizing children. Power, control and anger are often the primary motivators. Again, studies show that most predators are married or in consenting relationships.
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The signs that an adult is using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons may not be obvious. We may feel uncomfortable about the way they play with the child, or seem always to be favoring them and creating reasons for them to be alone. There may be cause for concern about the behavior of an adult or young person if they:
- Refuse to allow a child sufficient privacy or to make their own decisions on personal matters.
- Insist on physical affection such as kissing, hugging or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it.
- Are overly interested in the sexual development of a child or teenager.
- Insist on time alone with a child with no interruptions.
- Spend most of their spare time with children and have little interest in spending time with people their own age.
- Regularly offer to babysit children for free or take children on overnight outings alone.
- Buy children expensive gifts or give them money for no apparent reason.
- Frequently walk in on children/teenagers in the bathroom.
- Treat a particular child as a favorite, making them feel ‘special’ compared with others in the family.
- Pick on a particular child.
*From: Parents Protect! http://www.parentsprotect.co.uk/warning_signs.htm
Other warning signs:
- They enjoy watching their children play naked.
- They bathe with their children of the opposite sex past age two.
- Play seemingly ‘innocent’ games involving bondage where the children become frightened and have to beg to be released.
- Takes pictures of children who are not their own; at the park, at parties, in the neighborhood.
- View child pornography. Child pornography viewing/possession is punishable by law. TURN THEM IN TO THE AUTHORITIES.
- Be alert to people, especially men, who work with youth but do not themselves have youth in the activity. If they have a strong desire to be with youth and you notice they seek affection from the youth; there is great reason for concern.
- Watch who your children hang out with in the neighborhood, park, church or youth club. Get to know the leaders. Offer to assist with the activities.
- Internet safety is paramount. Consider a ‘No technology’ policy in your home when guests are visiting; or keeping all technology in the kitchen within everyone’s sight. Just like a coat rack, shoe rack or bench; you could have a tech bench where all guests’ electronics are placed.
- Consider having an ‘Open door’ policy when your children’s friends are visiting. Bedroom, office, family room doors stay open for safety purposes. You should never assume you know what goes on in another person’s home. You never know what has been said or done by a family member, relative or neighbor that a child may unknowingly act out or repeat.
Pray for and with your children. Keep avenues of discussion open and let them know how much you love them. We cannot protect them from everything by micromanaging their lives, but we can watch, listen and be proactive.
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Child abuse is not a private matter and we as a society need to stop treating it as such. By doing so we protect the guilty and further damage the victim. We tend to be so, ‘hush, hush’ about it. Yes, it is ugly. Yes, it is destructive. IT IS REAL! Talk about it. Seek counseling for it.
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Trust your instincts. Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact the authorities.
If you suspect abuse; do not ask your child questions. Allow a trained professional to interview them. Asking questions is considered leading the witness and the issue will most likely be thrown out in a court of law.
If your child tells you of abuse inflicted on them…
- Keep calm.
- Tell the child you believe them.
- Show interest, care, and concern.
- Reassure and support the child.
Take action – it could save a child’s life. Report child abuse to your local or state child protective service agency AND to your local police/sheriff. Also seek professional help from a pediatrician and a licensed child psychologist.
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What does an online predator “look like”?
1) Blends into society
2) Is typically clean cut and outwardly law abiding
3) Is usually white, middle-aged or younger, and male
4) Uses position in society to throw off suspicion
5) Can rise to be a pillar of society while actively pursuing children
6) Often engages in activities involving children
7) Appears trusting to both parents and child
“One of the devices that predators use in the interactions with kids is sending them explicit photos of themselves. What they’re trying to do is sort of deaden the nerve endings. They’re trying to beat down the resistance. It’s part of the grooming process to normalize what they’re trying to do. And it’s pretty insidious.”
— Ernie Allen, President & CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Remember: The ultimate goal of the “groomer” is to arrange an in-person meeting to engage in sexual relations with the child or teen!
For more internet safety tips go to: http://www.internetsafety101.org/profileofapredator.htm
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“Predators are in all professions. Unfortunately, we have seen doctors, lawyers, law enforcement and clergy. There is really no common trait. In fact, many of them are drawn to those particular professions which give them access to children.”
—Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. District Attorney, Western Pennsylvania. Enough IS Enough
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All of this information is magnified when a mentally ill predator enters in to the scenario.
For the difference between a molester and a pedophile see a previous post:
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Psalm 5 – A prayer for the children. A petition for child abusers/molesters/pedophiles to be found guilty in a court of law.
1 Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
2 Hear my (the children’s) cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
5 The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
6 you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest.
7 But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
EIGHT COMMON MYTHS ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE (#7 & #8 are must reads if you have doubt about a child’s accusation of child molestation.) http://leadershipcouncil.org/1/res/csa_myths.html
CHILD MOLESTER MYTHS: http://www.child-safety-for-parents.com/child-molester.html
http://www.parentsprotect.co.uk/ is a top notch resource for parents who want to protect and/or help an abused child.
I also have Christian resources listed in the right margin of my blog. Hover over each entry to see the details for each link.