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.
I also feel like it is important to mention that 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 exactly 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.
Grooming: is a form of manipulation that uses building 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.)
Personal Space: Doesn’t allow the child to set boundaries. Forceful affection/touching (Hugging touching, kissing, tickling) when the child does not want it. Predator will frequently “accidentally” walk in on a child when they are changing or using the bathroom.
Relationships with children: Acts like one of the kids, will often prefer hanging out with them over the adults. Wants uninterrupted time with the child and will manipulate the child as well as adults around the ways to get it. Predator is too good to be true, always available to babysit, frequently brings gifts and gives 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: Frequently points out sexual images to a child or frequently tells suggestive sexual jokes with children present. Exposes child to adult sexual interactions or images without apparent concern.
A WONDERFUL resource that covers all this and more is: https://www.stopitnow.org/