I know. The question is an odd one: Can you spot a child molester? It’s a particularly odd question for a blog dedicated to nonprofit management, marketing, and fundraising.
So, what’s going on here?
Well, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. To mark the occasion every year, I devote one blog post that will help you protect your loved ones from a nightmare crime that affects one-in-four girls and one-in-six boys. Fortunately, we can do something about this national tragedy. Let’s begin with how you can recognize child molesters and, then, we’ll look at actions you can take.
Years ago, I served on a jury hearing a child-sex-abuse case. At that time, I knew very little about pedophilia. My knowledge was limited to what I learned through the mainstream press. So, I assumed that most child molesters were priests or guys wearing trench coats and driving unmarked vans. However, during the course of the trial, I learned that about 90 percent of child-sex-abuse victims are molested by someone the child knows (i.e.: a relative, teacher, coach, family friend, etc.).
Because child molesters are usually people known to the child and his or her family and in their circle of trust, it’s often difficult to recognize them for the danger they represent. Fortunately, there are some helpful clues as to who might be a molester. The blog site news.com.au published a controversial article, “Could You Spot a Paedophile? Here are the Warning Signs.” In the post, veteran crime reporter Candace Sutton identified nine characteristics of a child molester:
1. The Everyman. Child molesters generally do not look like child molesters. If they did, they wouldn’t be very successful pedophiles. Instead, molesters tend to look “normal.” They are often clean cut, respectable citizens. Remember Coach Jerry Sandusky from Penn State University?
“Pedophiles are almost always men, more often married adult males and they work in a very wide range of occupations, from unskilled work up to corporate executives. What to look out for is someone who relates better to children than to adults, and has either very few adult friends or whose friends might also be sex offenders.”
2. Child-Related Workers. While child molesters hold a variety of jobs, many seek professional employment or volunteer opportunities that will bring them into close contact with children. You should not be fearful of all child-related workers. However, you should limit and/or monitor their one-on-one time with children.
“Watch out for teacher adoration beyond the bounds of a normal crush, accompanied by ‘secret’ phone calls and special individual attention.”
3. Happy Snappers. Child molesters often collect photographs and videos of children who are not their own. While they sometimes produce and collect child pornography, many more molesters seem to enjoy images of children who are clothed and engaged in typical childhood activities.
Be cautious around adults who enthusiastically photograph children who are not their own.
4. Close Relatives and Partners. This one is especially tough. Unfortunately, child molesters are often family members. In the child-sex-abuse case I mentioned above, the jury I served on ended up convicting a step-grandfather of sexually abusing his step-grandson.
“The incestuous or family molester is usually an adult male such as the father, stepfather, uncle, grandfather or live-in boyfriend of the mother, who then molests the child or children.”
5. The Gift Giver. Child molesters often “groom” their intended victims by buying them gifts or taking them on special outings, sometimes over a period of years. While molesters will often use coercion and threats, many choose to take the gift-giving approach.
“Beware of toys or gifts from an unknown source turning up in your child’s possession. Pedophiles often like to ‘buy’ your child with presents and often can…”
6. The Always Available Babysitter. While always-available babysitting services may seem like a tremendous convenience, it could actually be a danger sign. For example, the step-grandfather I referenced previously was always available to provide after-school childcare until the mother returned from work.
“Often a single male with no friends, this sort of pedophile will place himself in a situation where he becomes the trusted babysitter, often for the children of several, usually single parent families.”
7. The Internet Groomer. Child molesters use the Internet to learn from other pedophiles about how to find children, how to groom them, and how not to get caught. Internet grooming is a growing problem. Using social media and chat rooms, molesters can make children feel loved and understood. In many cases, the child victim will voluntarily agree to meet the perpetrator. However, this is not to be confused with “consent” which a minor is incapable of providing.
“Pedophiles can still be outcasts and loners, but the Internet is their ideal social tool.”
8. The Damaged. While most victims of child sex abuse do not become molesters themselves, many pedophiles have indeed been victims of abuse or an otherwise chaotic childhood.
“Pedophiles are often the victims of child molestation themselves.”
9. The Good Looking Charmer. Again, if a molester looked scary, they wouldn’t be able to get near children. So, most molesters make an effort to appear respectable. Remember Academy Award winning director Roman Polanski? He’s a confessed child rapist.
“They know how to play upon a child’s need for attention and affection and come across as being helpful and trustworthy.”
Even with the clues I’ve just outlined, it is immensely difficult, if not impossible, to spot child molesters. So, if you can’t spot the danger, how can you keep your loved ones safe?
Fortunately, the expert staff at the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance wrote “The 10 Tips for Protecting the Children You Love from Sexual Abuse” for Parenting Express Magazine and republished on this site with permission.
I hope you’ll take a few moments to read “The 10 Tips.” Three things, in particular, that you should do are:
- Make your home a “no secrets zone.”
- Respect your child’s personal boundaries.
- Monitor one-on-one situations.
For more information, visit The National Children’s Alliance website.
I hope you will share this post with others, especially parents and teachers. As adults, it’s our collective responsibility to keep children safe. If we don’t take action to prevent abuse, we’re accomplices. So, I urge you to take action today to protect your loved ones and share the information I’ve presented so that others may do the same.
Will you help?
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?