One of the best things that you can do to protect your community is to minimize the opportunity for abuse.
It’s important to remember that predators generally ARE NOT a creepy guy in a trench coat. It is your friendly neighbor, a family friend, coach, teacher or even a family member. Sometimes it’s not an adult, it can also be an older child or teen abusing a younger child or their peer. Predators go to great lengths to blend and hide in plain sight.
Predators aren’t always men either. I have noticed a distinct difference of attitude when it comes to a woman abusing a boy or young man as opposed to a man abusing a girl or young man. Society seems to almost congratulate the middle school boy whose adult female teacher groomed and took advantage of him. If the same thing happens and the roles are reversed, middle school girl abused by an adult male teacher everyone is, rightfully so, appalled. It is because of this double standard that female sexual predators are often overlooked or discredited when they should be taken just as seriously and treated the same.
Sexual predators often look for a child that is vulnerable and seek to exploit that to the best of their ability.
A great place to start to protect your community is to make yourself familiar with red flags that can often be signs of a sexual predator.
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 living environment.
Pedophiles go to great lengths to manipulate everyone around them to lessen the chance of 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 who are around the child, and who also know the predator, to come to terms with the thought of this ‘good person’ doing something harmful. They may employ guilt tactics to get their way when the child or parent insists on setting boundaries or limits.
The predator understands they have this effect and will gaslight their way out of accusations. They will also convince the victim to believe that it was all a misunderstanding so 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.
In extreme cases, offenders may use threats and physical force to sexually assault or abuse a child.
Disregard for personal space: Another common sign of a pedophile is someone who does not allow a child any personal space. They are forceful with affection and will not allow the child to set and maintain personal boundaries. They may be forceful with affection, not taking no for answer if they demand a hug or kiss. The predator won’t stop their physical action if they are playing around or tickling a kid, even after the child is clear that they are done playing and no longer want physical contact from the adult. Pedophiles will also often ‘accidentally’ walk into a room or bathroom where the child might be changing clothes or be physically exposed for another reason.
Inappropriate relationships with children: Often the pedophile will act like one of the kids and will often prefer hanging out with them over the adults. They will seek uninterrupted time with the child and will manipulate people around the child to get alone time. You will find that the predator will be too good to be true. They might always happen to be available to babysit, bring surprise gifts for no reason and will give extra attention to the child. The predator will often have secret interactions with the child, private texts, conversations, games that have “don’t tell” secrets.
Sexual conversations or adult humor around children: The predator might tell the child suggestive sexually oriented jokes or point out sexual images to with children present. They may expose children to adult sexual interactions or images without concern or regard for the inappropriate content. They make inappropriate comments about the child’s body or looks to sexualize them.
Wonderful resources that cover all this and more are: https://www.stopitnow.org/