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/
More Red Flags include:
Someone who continually tries to arrange time alone with a child, often with lots of reasons or excuses which exclude you
Someone who repeatedly befriends one “outstanding” child, singling them out, lavishing them with extra attention, praise, gifts, affection
Someone frequently offering favors to “help you out”; i.e. babysitting for free, transporting a child to activities, free lessons, or taking kids on overnight trips without their parents
Someone who uses guilt tactics when the child or parent insists on setting boundaries or limits
Someone who insists on being physical with a child (hugging, kissing, tickling, wrestling, lapsitting), even when the child does not want this physical attention
Someone who makes inappropriate comments about a child’s looks or body, particularly sexualizing a child
Someone who continually invites children to spend time alone at their home, enticing them with the latest video or computer games, toys, gadgets, etc. – especially an adult who does not have children of their own
Someone who repeatedly ignores social, emotional, or physical boundaries or limits and seems to have no boundaries of their own
Someone who frequently enters a bathroom or locker room where children are changing or showering and does not respect a child’s need for privacy
Someone who prefers to spend most of their free time with children and seems to have no interest in age-appropriate relationships or friendships
Someone who appears especially preoccupied with one child
Someone who seems “just too good to be true”
Someone who insists on closed doors and an unobservable environment whenever they are with your child
Someone who seeks to isolate the child from others
Someone who treats a child as if he or she were older
Someone who offers expensive gifts or money to a child for no reason
Someone who undermines a parent’s authority by allowing children (especially pre-teens) to engage in behaviors or activities that a parent does not allow
Someone who frequently engages in accidental touching, touching games, or invades a child’s personal space
Someone who frequently volunteers to rescue a single parent, stepping in and taking care of parental duties, suggesting they can be a “role model” for the child
Someone who offers to teach lessons to a child for free as a favor to the parent, when they would normally be paid for this job
Someone who uses secrecy or tries to create a special/secretive relationship with one child
I found this list at http://safelyeverafter.com another great resource for information and tips!