Active Event Awareness:
AWARENESS is the key word here.
Awareness is essential regarding all sexual predator situations, be it regarding pedophiles or adult oriented predators. The more attentive you and your staff are to any sort of sexual predator the more the chance for abuse is minimized.
Follow your intuition. If your gut tells you that there is something wrong or not safe about someone, it’s probably right.
Take all complaints about inappropriate behavior seriously. Investigate and address them IMMEDIATELY. In this instance, remember that there are two sides to every story. Make sure to hear all sides of the situation and only then decide on the appropriate action to take. This is a time to put your already established protocol in place to work and stick to it!
Encourage a ‘no bystander’ attitude among event attendees. If someone sees a situation that seems inappropriate, they should feel comfortable report it to staff immediately. This applies to situations with adults as well as children.
Specifically regarding pedophiles:
A pedophile will use any opening to get to kids. Be aware who the children in your community are speaking to and hanging around. Question adults who seem to ‘buddy up’ to children, especially those without cause to do so. Predators will charm the people around potential victims in every way they can use to get close to a child.
Monitor and establish healthy rules and boundaries for any workshops that may be offered for adults or children. All mentoring relationships that may develop with staff members or workshop presenters during the event involving a child must be reported to and recorded by a staff member.
The predator that I dealt with worked very hard at trying to develop ‘mentoring’ relationships with kids around him. This is referred to as grooming.
Grooming is a form of manipulation that is used to build trust with a child and the adults around the child to gain access and time alone with her/him.
Normally grooming is very subtle and gradual. Oftentimes the predator will befriend the adults around the child and then will begin to make reasons as to why they should be allowed to be alone with the child.
This is frequently under the guise of being helpful to the adults around the child. Always offering to babysit, give rides and mentor the child, preferably alone, if possible. They will dote on the child and cover them with attention, spoil them with gifts. They will befriend the child and sometimes encourage them into adult behavior like drinking or getting high. This then sets the groundwork for ‘secret keeping’ from their parents or other adults. Once the secret keeping starts, it is a good building block for the predator to begin inappropriate sexual behaviors with the child siting, “well this is just another secret between us”. They may tell the children manipulative things to make them feel guilty about saying anything by bringing up if the child says anything to a parent or other adult, such as if their parents knew of this act, the would be upset or disappointed with them.
Pedophiles have a way of ‘proving’ themselves invaluable to adults around vulnerable children. ‘Vulnerable children’ frequently come from broken homes where the adults around them are often very busy and sometimes can be the children of substance abusers. In either one of these examples, the child often seeks anyone who will give them attention and will latch on to them. Predators are happy to fill in the spots where the child might be neglected. Often, they will insert themselves into a sort of caretaker role and befriend the child while normalizing their presence around the child and any surrounding adults. All that being said, children in positive environments with solid home lives are also at risk, so please don’t neglect any red flags simply due to a child’s home life and living environment.
Pedophiles go to great lengths to manipulate everyone around them to lessen the chance of them being exposed for what they are doing. They establish themselves into the role of the ‘good person’. If the child accuses this person of an abuse, it is often hard for the adults are around the child, and who also know the predator, to come to terms with the thought of this ‘good person’ doing something harmful.
The predator is well aware that they have this effect and will gaslight their way out of accusations. They will also gaslight the victim into believing that it was all a misunderstanding so that they can further continue the abuse. Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that is used to convince people that their memory or perception of events is false.
Many times, those everyone who is being groomed by the pedophile don’t even realize that it is happening to them.
In extreme cases, offenders may use threats and physical force to sexually assault or abuse a child.
*Please visit the Red Flags of Pedophiles section of the website to see more Red Flags to be aware of.
*Consider having a safety workshop for parents and children with the 7 Root Safety Strategies as a guide or something similar.
The 7 Root Safety Strategies
- Shout NO! Run and tell if someone asks or tries to make you feel uncomfortable.
- Keep and Speak Secrets. KEEP secrets have endings, like a surprise birthday party. SPEAK secrets have no endings. ALL secrets about touching are SPEAK secrets.
- The Buddy System. Safety in numbers, always bring a friend.
- Trust your instincts. If your gut tells you something is dangerous or wrong with someone or a situation it is probably right.
- Dignity and Respect. You are deserving of dignity and respect. Believe in your self-worth, expect to be treated well.
- If asked to go and a parent or guardian doesn’t know SHOUT NO!
- If asked to share and your parents aren’t aware, SAY NO! Don’t accept gifts or share information with anyone that your parents aren’t aware of or know. Online or elsewhere.
The 7 Root Safety Strategies are listed in detail on the Kids in the Know website.
This website has great resources for things to go over with kids regarding this subject in a way that they and adults can relate to and share a common language. They break down ways to start the conversation about pedophiles with separate age appropriate sections. These would be wonderful tools to present as a workshop for children and their parents or guardians to open the conversation about this between them. Pedophiles thrive in secrecy, open and honest conversation about personal safety will help the child be less likely to be a victim.
Most importantly, encourage parents and guardians to PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR KIDS!!
They should always know where their child is, who they are with and what they are doing. When they return from being out and about ask them about what they were doing and who they were doing it with in detail.
Educate your staff and volunteers to recognize children and youth who are most vulnerable to predators.
Pedophiles seek to exploit kids and young adults who are generally unsupervised, have a low self-confidence, feel unloved, come from troubled or broken homes, or just simply hanging out alone. Encourage your staff and volunteers to keep a close eye on those who may be vulnerable in these ways.
Specifically regarding Adult Oriented Sexual Predator situations:
It is important to keep a watchful eye on all your event attendees. Adult oriented predators come in all forms. Do not be deceived by outward appearances. Just like the pedophile, they love to hide in plain sight. The person seeking adult prey to sexually assault might be the person purposefully lurking in the background, just as easily as it could be the charming, charismatic person in the center of everyone’s attention. There is a common misconception that the popular person in the crowd ‘doesn’t need to rape’ in order to have sex: therefore, they are apparently incapable of sexual assault. This falsehood limits our perception and can blind us to obvious red flags that we may not have dismissed if we were assessing a different person.
Train your staff to be proactively helpful, attentive and interactive with guests. Have them actively engage with your attendees in general friendly conversation. Always remind your guests that they and any member of the staff are around if they are needed in any way.
It is equally important to train your volunteers and part-time staff know the rules and are trained in your protocols.
Make sure that your staff is easily identifiable to guests and stand out in the crowd. Utilize specific colorful shirts for the staff, hats etc. The more approachable you are in all ways, the more comfortable people will be to seek help if needed.
Another thing for your staff to keep an eye on are people who are especially vulnerable prey for adult predators. At risk are people who are by themselves, are becoming increasingly inebriated or are already very inebriated. Have your staff be especially attentive to these types of guests, as they could potentially be exploited.
Hold regular meetings with your staff during the event reminding them of the specific situations that you have protocols in place for and be sure to clear up any questions that they may have. Ideally, the response to any situation will be so memorized that it will be second nature and executed smoothly.
Post signs around the event reminding everyone of a no tolerance policy regarding any sort of sexual harassment and encouraging victims and bystanders alike to report any situation they see and find concerning.