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The Monster You Don’t Know You Know

The trial of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant

football coach found to have abused 10 boys over a 15 year

period, has been in the headlines this week, along with much

discussion about child molesters…who they are, why they

do what they do, how they can go undetected for so long, and

what can be done to prevent children from becoming victims.

This seems to be a good time to help dispel some of the

myths surrounding child molesters, so that parents and

those who genuinely love children can help protect kids.

Myths About Child Molesters

Here are just a few common myths about child molesters:

1.  You can easily spot a child molester.

2.  If I’ve taught my child not to talk to strangers, then

s/he won’t likely be a victim of a child molester.

3.  Child molesters abduct kids, so if my child is with me,

s/he is safe.

4.  Child molesters are on the Sex Offender List, so if

no one I know is on that list, my child is safe.

5.  Child molesters prefer young children, so if my child

is over the age of 10, s/he is safe.

The Truth About Child Molesters

The truth is that the average child molester is a relatively

young man, heterosexual, not mentally retarded, not

psychotic, does not use drugs, is working with or is around

your child or teen on a frequent basis, has the trust of both

you and the community, and is not on the Sex Offender List.

He (or she) is likely to use psychological control methods

to get your child to engage in sex acts and then not tell

anyone.  There is little need to abduct your child once

they have “groomed” him or her to be their victim.

Grooming Children for Sexual Molestation

As a parent, you need to know that the “monster” you need

to be afraid of is probably someone you interact with on a

weekly or monthly basis, has a good reputation within your

family and community, and you feel you can trust him.  Gaining

your trust and throwing off any suspicion of wrongdoing is

essential for a child molester to successfully molest children.

In the very same way that a person would go about

conning an elderly person out of a huge sum of money,

child molesters methodically engage in “grooming behaviors”

designed to gain access to your child, get your child to trust

him, break down any defenses s/he has to engaging in sexual

activity, and then manipulate or force your child to do what

they want.  Similar psychological control methods will then

be used to guarantee their complicity and silence.

The Grooming Process

Although any child can be victimized, molesters look for kids

who are vulnerable:  they lack attention, they don’t have friends,

they aren’t as “connected” or as well supervised, the have low

self-esteem and lack confidence.  Then the molester will shower

that child with attention, treats and gifts, and will likely tell the

child to keep some of this a secret from others.  The molester will

be a sympathetic ear to your child’s complaints, convince the

child that they understand their problems and they really care

about them.  Then there will be some pretense for touching to

begin…it might seem accidental or be non-sexual at first.  Hugs, an

arm around the shoulder, or a hand patting their leg during a talk.

Non-sexual touch breaks down the child’s defenses to proceed

to sexual touch….if there is no clear, definitive “STOP!” from the

child, the molester is just about home free.   The use of bribes,

pornography, alcohol or drugs, force, threats or blackmail

may all be used to move the child along toward cooperating.

As a Parent, What Can You Do?

We can try to tell kids about “stranger danger,” we can teach

them the difference between “good touch” and “bad touch,”

and encourage them to tell adults if anything that feels bad is

happening to them.  The most important thing you can do

is to spend a lot of time with your child, so that you will notice

when there is a marked change in their behavior, and you’ll

know if someone is spending more/different time with your

child.  Parents are the child’s first and best line of defense,

because most child molesters have to gain the parents’ trust

before they can convince the child to engage in anything

with them…much less convince the child that it is their fault

that it is happening and no one is going to believe them.

Pay Attention to Your Gut Feelings

But not even having a great relationship with your child

is enough to prevent them from becoming a victim.

Do not become paranoid, but do not turn your back or

ignore any funny “gut feelings” that you have about someone

who interacts with your child.  Your intuition is often right

on target, even without having any corroborating evidence

yet.  Be suspicious of anyone who continues to give your

child gifts, offers to spend time “babysitting,” or offers to

take your child on trips or excursions.  This doesn’t mean

they are child molesters, but you have to be able to answer

the question :”Why is this person so interested in my child?

Why does this person want to spend so much time with my

child?”  If the answer you come to doesn’t really make any

sense or there are some (even distant) alarm bells going off,

rethink allowing contact with this person.  Remember your

child is unlikely to come out and tell you what’s going on.

S/he is more likely to say  “I don’t want to go with him.”

You Can Believe Your Child

Believe your child.  Kids very rarely make up stories about

people sexually abusing them.  If they say something is

happening, it most likely is.  Beyond believing your child,

be your child’s first line of defense.  Do your best to pay

attention to those individuals who have access to your

children and teens, and do not just depend on the fact that

they have passed a security check or your sister says

“trust me, he’s a good guy.”  It’s the monsters we don’t know

that we know who can do the most harm.

 

Learn more about How Can We Spot a Child Molester

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