Active Event Awareness:
AWARENESS is the key word here.
A predator 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 member or workshop presenter during the event involving a child must be reported and recorded by and to a staff member.
Follow your intuition, if your gut tells you that there is something wrong or not safe about someone, it’s probably right.
The predator that I dealt with worked very hard at trying to develop ‘mentoring’ 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 adults around the child to gain access to and time alone with her/him.
However, in extreme cases, offenders may use threats and physical force to sexually assault or abuse a child.
More common, though, are subtle approaches designed to build relationships with families.
The offender may assume a caring role, befriend the child, or even exploit their position of trust and authority to groom the child and/or the child’s family. These individuals intentionally build relationships with the adults around a child or seek out a child who may have fewer adults in her/his life. This increases the likelihood that the offender’s time with the child is welcomed and encouraged.
The purpose of grooming is:
To reduce the likelihood of a disclosure.
To reduce the likelihood of the child being believed.
To reduce the likelihood of being detected.
To manipulate the perceptions of other adults around the child.
To manipulate the child into becoming a cooperating participant which reduces the likelihood of a disclosure and increases the likelihood that the child will repeatedly return to the offender.
Although not all child sexual abuse involves grooming, it is a common process used by offenders. It usually begins with subtle behavior that may not initially appear to be inappropriate, such as paying a lot of attention to the child or being very affectionate. Many victims of grooming and sexual abuse do not recognize they are being manipulated, nor do they realize how grooming is a part of the abuse process.
An adult frequently initiates or creates opportunities to be alone with a child (or multiple children).
(Grooming info and definition from https://www.nsopw.gov/en/Education/CommonQuestions Please visit this site for more information regarding grooming and other useful information.)
*Please visit the Red Flags 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 predators 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 THE ATTENTION TO THEIR KIDS!!
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 in detail, ask who they ended up playing with, etc.
*Educate your staff and volunteers to recognize children and youth who are most vulnerable to predators.
Predators seek to exploit kids and young adults who are generally unsupervised, have a low self-confidence, feel unloved, come from troubled or broken homes. Encourage your staff and volunteers to keep a close eye on those who may be vulnerable in these ways.
*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 to report it to staff immediately. This applies to situations with adults as well as children.