Is there a predator stalking your family, and targeting your child? Or worse yet, is there a predator in your own family?
Anyone of us who watches the news nowadays is aware of the frightening numbers. Statistically, one in every 7 girls and one in every 25 boys with be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.
But even these horrific statistics may not be telling us the whole story. The sexual abuse of boys is the most under-reported of all crimes, especially once they enter puberty.
Only 10% Are Abused by Strangers
Worse of all, the numbers tell us that 90% of victims know their abuser. We very carefully prepare our children to protect themselves against “stranger danger” but only 10% of the sexually abused are victimized by a stranger.
30% of children are sexually abused by someone who is supposed to love and protect them, a member of their own family: uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, sometimes even siblings.
Hofstra University researcher Charol Shakeshaft found that as high as the numbers on sexual abuse by priests may be, the sexual abuse of students in schools is 100 times more likely.
Who Do You Trust?
So how can we know who is or isn’t to be trusted? Forget the image of the creepy pedophile, he or she (yes, many are women!) exists mostly in fiction. The predator targeting your child looks exactly like he or she should — nice, kind, trustworthy. Some children are even abused by other, older children. Don’t we all trust children?
So what should we look out for? Firstly, the predator will work just as hard at grooming the family as at grooming the victim. You are your child’s last line of defense, so once you are convinced the predator is “safe” his or her way is clear.
Spotting The Predator
Successful predators are not impulsive, they will prepare the scenario for their crime with extreme care — this is a premeditated crime. Child predators are cunning, and refined manipulators, and will sometimes spend years grooming and isolating their victim.
Predators will be there ready to help the family in times of crisis, are always available for babysitting, and will often volunteer to take the children out for special treats.
Many will shower the intended victim with gifts, and be particularly affectionate, hugging and stroking the child’s arms or hands. These first contacts are important. How a child reacts to physical affection will allow the predator to gauge the level of risk of discovery.
Every Child’s Best Friend
One of the red flags parents should watch out for is an adult (friend, family member, or otherwise) who clearly prefers the company of children to that of adults.
Imagine you are having a barbecue. Everyone will be laughing and chatting around the patio, having a beer, maybe flirting a little; but your predator will be hanging out with the children. Sometimes he or she will be in your child’s room building a special rapport, becoming a confidante.
Child predators feel more comfortable, confident, and powerful around children — which is why some will choose a profession that gives them unlimited access.
Statistics on convicted predators in the United Kingdom indicate that one in every seven predators has a job that will bring them into contact with children, or participate in voluntary activities that will allow them access to a victim pool.
The Wolf Among The Lambs
Others will hunt exclusively inside the family, where shame, fear, and a sense of loyalty will protect them from exposure. These predators will often abuse successive generations of children in their own families.
There have been cases of predators who abuse their own children, and then go on to target their grandchildren. The uncle, the grandfather, and the cousin’s crimes are usually disbelieved — often they make sure that their victims are too afraid to tell — as the victim’s parents try at all costs to keep the family from disintegrating.
Keep an eye out for adults who seem too interested in your child. Single mothers are a preferential target for predators who often date the mother to have access to her children.
If your child is reluctant to be in the company of an adult who was a special favorite, pay attention. Alterations in behavior, such as withdrawal, anger, aggression, nightmares, and bedwetting can also be danger signs.
A normally truthful child who suddenly starts lying may be calling for help. One of the first things predators induce their victims to do is to keep secrets from their parents. These small secrets, small lies, quickly become huge and terrifying secrets, designed to hide their crimes.
- Talk To Your Child.
- Information is your child’s best defense.
- Teach your child that no-one, not even a doctor, is allowed to touch them intimately without a nurse, or mom and dad by their side.
- No secret is ever a good secret. If anyone ever tells a child not to tell a secret, no matter what it is, they must tell immediately.
- Encourage your child to tell you everything, and anything, that makes them feel angry and uncomfortable.
- When a child tells you someone has touched them inappropriately believe them, no matter who it is. Remember that most predators are the people no one ever suspects.
- Any predator will most likely be high on the list of the people you would trust your child to.
What To Do If You Spot The Predator
So what happens if one day you walk into your child’s room and see something that disturbs you? It may be something apparently random, like a hand too far up a child’s thigh, or “uncle” helping to adjust underwear or even a sudden silence.
Trust your instincts and take action. Even if you are wrong, the risk of doing nothing is greater than that of making a mistake. Always err on the side of caution.
Have a quick sit down chat with the possible predator away from your child. Calmly tell the person (no matter who it is) that they have overstepped the boundaries, and are no longer welcome in your house or near your child.
Adults nowadays are very aware of the dangers of even apparent inappropriate behavior, and the person in question will certainly not be an exception. A well-intentioned person will understand your concern.
Talk to your child, and if it becomes clear that any inappropriate behavior has taken place, and even if it is just suggestive talk or mild touching go to the police. Predators rarely have only one victim, and some groom several targets at the same time.
Make sure your child knows that they are not to blame and that you are there to protect them, on their side, no matter what.
Remember that a predator’s greatest weapon is your silence, his greatest defense is your unwillingness to believe.