They are in your community. A search of the sex offender registry in your area will yield disturbing but grossly understated results. Disturbing at the number of sex offender you will find in your area, and even more disturbing as you may recognize one or two of them. It's that man I see at the bank all the time. It’s the kid who was bagging my groceries. I know that face, and I have seen him around just can’t remember where. The gross understatement is that sex offenders refuse to register, give false information, relocate without reporting their whereabouts, have not been caught yet and they are out there offending, have gotten caught for a non-sexual offense, or pled out to a none sexual offense that does not have any registration requirement.
The Grooming or Courting Type Offender
The internet is a remarkable source of information and learning. Children can learn about science, math, history foreign languages, and countless other topics online. They can also be interviewed and groomed by predators online. A computer should be looked on as a window to the world. It is not a one way mirror. Chat rooms are a place for pedophiles to entice children. A commonly asked question that a predator will ask a child in a chatroom is “how do your parents along?”.
Oh, they yell and fight all the time? Gee, that’s too bad. Lot of empathy and sympathy, kindness and understanding. After the child’s trust has been gained, let’s meet somewhere. They meet, and are very nice. They buy the child an ice cream sundae, smile a lot, and ask about school, their home, their pets, what they like to watch on TV. From the child’s point of view, this is a kind and friendly stranger who bought them a sundae, and listened to them eagerly and attentively. To the pedophile, this was as date. They meet again, and the pedophile starts testing boundaries, shaking hands, a pat on the back, or hand on the shoulder, then a hug. These progresses to the predator bringing the child to their home, a hotel room, or another private place, where the touching escalates. This is combined with swearing the child to secrecy, and threats like the state will take you out of your house and away from your parents if they find out about this, no one will want to be friends with you, your dog will get sick and die. Terrified, confused, and enticed all at the same time, they acquiesce.
The molestation can go on for months or years. Typically, the sexual predator will end what is to them a relationship when the child begins developing and reached puberty. At this point they are too old and no longer attractive. They move on to another target.
- Be attentive to behavioral changes in your child. A frequently cited one is age inappropriate sexual knowledge. This has grown inconclusive as the availability of easily accessed pornography on the internet. Even if your child is not viewing such material, other children are, and they will share what they have seen. There have also been media reports of children being exposed to highly inappropriate behavior in the school, such as drag queens, which will leave them very confused about sexuality, as well as discussion about sexual identity and gender identity to pre-adolescents, is absurd and harmful.
- Children who are afraid of specific adult or situations need your attention. A child who previously enjoyed going to soccer or weekends with the boy scouts, and suddenly does not want to go should be noticed. It will be important not to push your child into this previously enjoyed activity. Children need to explore many different activities, and they will enjoy some, and then may lose interest. But losing interest versus fear avoidance is sending different messages.
- Pedophiles attempt to separate a child from their parents emotionally, and to cut off communication between the child and parent. In this way, they can perpetrate for years. Do not make it easy for them. The strong bond between parent and child prevents this. The best way to protect your child from sexual predators is to keep the lines of communication open. An age appropriate but frank discussion with children about sex is an important part of this.
The Blitz or Ambush Type Offender
Another type of child sexual predator is the ambush or blitz attacker. This is a rarer type, but difficult to prevent as they cannot be easily identified until they have taken aggressive action. They may engage in exhibitionism (displaying their genitals) frottage (rubbing their body against a child) or groping, or take photos, or molest and rape children. They move quickly, waiting for an opportunity where a child is momentarily separated from an adult. This can happen in a crowded store, at a public event, or when a child is walking alone. Typically this type will be a stranger. They are more dangerous than the courting type offender in many ways, in that they are violent and acting out in impulse and compulsion. They have likely held back their urges for a long enough time where considerable tension has built.
Know your children and be involved in their lives, be sober, know what they are doing on line, and who they are spending time with. Your children include nieces, nephews, cousins, students, and young siblings
The shortcomings of the criminal justice system must be considered here. Pedophiles escalate their behavior over time, both the grooming and blitz type. They have likely had previous encounters with the criminal justice system, and were not properly contained and monitored. Parent must advocate for extremely aggressive prosecution in the event of an attack on their child. Parents must also be proactive, and talk to lawmakers about keeping sexual predators off the street, or at least intensively monitoring them in the community.