“Pedophiles, The Worst Kind of Predator” by Debbie Love
To protect our children, we need to get smarter about the hidden dangers they face. We all know knowledge is power, but the power only comes when we take what we know and apply it consistently. It’s the lack of knowledge and understanding that gives sex offenders, especially those that hurt children, their edge–as parents we need to do everything we can to level the playing field.
Sex crimes against children are more prevalent than anyone could ever imagine and parents must be aware of the harsh truths. There’s no room for naivety here.
One harsh truth is that one in three girls and one in six boys will have sexual contact with an adult before the age of 16. The second truth is that the offender is most likely someone the family knows well and trusts with their children.
In school, children learn about stranger danger, but how do you warn them about people they’re supposed to trust like their scout leader, priest, therapist, teacher, babysitter, coach or uncle? When there’s a skilled predator, one that’s been operating for decades, they are adept at shielding their dark side from everyone, except their victims. The offender may obey all other laws, be a loyal friend, good employee, or a pillar in the community, with the only difference being they like to have sex with children. Some are in their 20’s, and others in their 70’s. How do you talk to children about this without making them completely paranoid? (See Talking to your children about safety, below)
Pedophiles are stunningly effective at identifying vulnerable children and gaining control over them. They first befriend the child and shower them with attention, which may be lacking at home. They take them places, buy them gifts and constantly tell them how special they are. These techniques used to seduce and entice is “grooming.” But grooming doesn’t end with the child, the parents are groomed too. Some examples of parent grooming include, being around all the time, eager to babysit, and always available to help out in a pinch, joining in on family functions and outings. They may even tell a parent a lie the child told, whether true or not so if something occurs down the road, the parent may believe the predator over their own child.
Here are some ‘red flags’ parents should watch for:
- Anyone paying way too much attention to your child, while not showing interest in any other child, including their own.
- Anyone having “secrets” with your child.
- Your child who loves a sport or any lessons like piano, but no longer wants to go.
- Anyone who always insists on giving your child a ride home
- Someone who seems to show up at your kid’s events who you don’t know. Predators will hang out at kid’s activities they saw on a flyer, in the paper or online.
- Your child has always loved Uncle Joe, but no longer runs to him and even avoids him.
- Anyone who has access and privacy with your child.
- Become familiar with the Sex Offender Registry in your neighborhood, near the school, or anywhere your child spends time.
Be aware of the risk. One may assume that every coach, every priest, every teacher is not likely to be a sexual predator, but that one could be and that you will not know if he is. Given that we cannot detect child molesters or rapists with any consistency, we must pay attention to ways of stopping any potential offenders from getting access to us or our children.
You must pay attention to probabilities and avoid high-risk situations. For any given situation, you must weigh the odds. You must consider anyone who works with kids, plays with them after work, focuses his entire life on them. But also consider that the children he focuses on most always seem to be the same age and sex, that he has no adult love interests, and finally that perhaps he is seeking an overnight alone with your child. Is there possible risk here? Yes. Can my son go? No.
Another gain from being present. A parent who is constantly attending her child’s extracurricular activities has a less vulnerable child. If you are an involved parent, it is a signal to pedophiles that you are watching. Most pedophiles are not looking for a challenge, most are looking for an easy target. Above all, offenders need opportunities to get to know your child, to gain his or her trust, and finally they need time and a place to abuse them. No opportunity. No abuse.
Talking to your children about safety. It’s never too early to start talking to your children and giving them information to help them stay safe. The only thing that changes over time is the level of discussion and the vocabulary used. For example, a “bad vibe” for a teenager, may be a “yucky feeling” for a young child. Oftentimes, spontaneous conversations offer the best opportunities for discussions. For instance, if you see a homeless person begging for money, you might ask your child if that person makes her feel uncomfortable. Or you may turn it around and ask what she would do if someone offered her money or candy or a gift.
Do not use scare tactics when teaching about safety–it can backfire. But kids do need to know how to defend themselves in age-appropriate ways. As an example, who to approach if lost in a store or what to do if someone tries to grab them.
Never dismiss your intuition–or your child’s. If you’re ever uncomfortable about something having to do with your child–whether tangible or not–don’t dismiss it. That uncomfortable feeling is telling you something and you need to listen. Even if you’re not sure anything has happened. Don’t second guess, don’t brush it off and don’t reconsider. That is your intuition.
You must also listen to your child when they say something makes them feel uncomfortable. They need to learn to trust those instincts. That goes for older kids too. If your daughter is on a date and gets the feeling something isn’t right, let her know she can end it. It’s a good idea to have a plan in advance to help her get out of it, like a simple text.
Internet predators. The biggest unknown and a major threat to children today are internet predators because their access to kids is practically effortless, always private and never out in the open. No one has to see them or hear their voice (which would be a dead giveaway) They are totally anonymous. The child believes he or she is chatting with another kid, not an adult. The grooming still exists, and is even easier online as there are no adults to worry about. Because the child believes he or she is chatting with another kid, it is easy to lead them into conversations about sex.
More Information About Debbie Love and Heads Up Self-Defense for Women: HeadsUpSelfDefense.com
Hear Debbie Love interviewed on The LIFE CHANGES Show, at: https://lifechangesnetwork.com/heads-up-self-defense-for-life-with-guest-debbie-love-and-musical-guest-alex-nester-on-the-life-changes-show-573/