At Voice Found, we’re often asked how it’s possible to identify a sexual predator or how do they gain access to a child. After all- most parents are diligent about the care of their children and would not ever leave them with someone they didn’t trust.
But here’s the thing – and this is really important – sexual predators are cunning. They are experts at selecting their victim and they take their time. They don’t just suddenly reach out and start touching a child inappropriately. They groom their victims AND the adults surrounding the child.
Sadly, the children of single parents are prime targets. It’s exhausting being a parent and with so much to do, it is easy to be charmed by someone who offers to take care of your child while you go run an errand or put your feet up for a while. I don’t want to scare you from accepting help – help is always welcome and not everyone has ulterior motives. What I want is for you to be diligent – let facts – not blind trust guide your judgement.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about pedophiles:
They are predators. This means that they are sly, cunning, target their victims and choose settings where there will be children for them to prey upon.
They do not look like pedophiles. Despite the fact that they are monsters – they don’t look like monsters. They look and act like everyone else.
They do not act like pedophiles. Unless you know what to look for and are very astute and observing them over a period of time – you will not be able to pick them out of a crowd.
They are not strangers. These are people who are known and trusted by the family, community and child. (only about 5% are strangers)
They carefully groom their victims AND the people surrounding the child. Grooming is a process that is slowly and methodically played out. The child is subjected to different techniques that have the dual objective of weakening his/her defense and deceiving him/her to trust the offender. The grooming process even goes to the extent of convincing the parents or caretakers that the offender is a friendly and wholesome individual.
They are everywhere. You may live in the nicest neighbourhood around and think that there is NO way a pedophile would be living there….and you would be dead wrong.
They are both men and women. Yes. Women are sexual predators as well.
They are family members of victims. Approximately 30%-40% of the time, children are sexually abused by family members.
A few words from some convicted child molesters.
“Parents are so naive—they’re worried about strangers and should be worried about their brother-in-law. They just don’t realize how devious we can be. I used to abuse children in the same room with their parents and they couldn’t see it or didn’t seem to know it was happening.”
“I was disabled and spent months grooming the parents, so they would tell their children to take me out and help me. No one thought that disabled people could be abusers.”
“Parents are partly to blame if they don’t tell their children about [sexual matters]—I used it to my advantage by teaching the child myself.”
“Parents shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about things like this—it’s harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you’re up to.”
The BEST way to protect children is to become educated and to talk about it. If the topic makes you uncomfortable – well that’s really just too bad. Predators LOVE the silence around this taboo issue. Silence allows it to continue.
I want you to know that child sex abuse is largely preventable and children who are abused and who get help in a timely manner can and do heal. It takes courageous action by adults and knowledge of what to do.
Over the coming months I will share information that will help you to understand what to look for, questions to ask staff and volunteers who serve your child(ren), the reality of sex trafficking in Ottawa, how to manage disclosure. Meanwhile the best advice I can give to you is this –get educated on prevention, spend time with your children, listen to them, and check in on them – whether online, at a caregivers or with family and if a child discloses let them know you believe them and you will help them. Don’t let them see anger or fear….wrap them in love and if you find yourself in a situation and don’t know where to turn, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will help direct you to the right support.
Voice Found offers child sex abuse prevention training called ‘Stewards of Children’ that teaches how to recognize, react and respond to child sex abuse. We are planning to deliver this training for this group and I do hope you can attend.
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