How to Protect a Child From Molesters
Brad Nakase, Attorney
Child Sex Abuse
Child sexual abuse can include exposing, fondling, oral sex, masturbation, intercourse, and pornography. Very often it begins with an offender getting a child’s trust and friendship. The predator would then test the ability of the child to protect themselves through different tactics. He may tell adult jokes, engage in horseplay, rub child’s back, kiss them, or show them pornography. If the child appears curious or comfortable with this type of behavior, the predator will gradually increase the amount of touching.
Children are curious by nature and many of them do not understand that what is being done with them is wrong. Most offenders keep in mind that if they would physically harm a child while molesting, the victim will be more likely to tell others about it. In fact, they would make the victim feel as if it is actually they who are responsible for the offender’s wrongful conduct. Children thus become trapped and they are unable to tell anyone about it. Research has shown that most of the school‐based child abuse prevention programs fail to save many children from abuse and have little bearing on reporting. The key reason for the lack of efficacy of these programs is that the victims are not in a position to protect themselves, especially if the predator is a parent or caretaker.
Given the way child sexual abusers operate, it is essential that adults become educated about child molestation, keep a more close watch on their children and their activities, and take immediate action if they suspect someone of abusing children.
Parents, churches, schools, as well as community groups, must also work hand in hand to develop effective prevention programs that include parent training and encourage reporting.
Who Child Molesters Are? Research shows that 25% of U.S. children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. In most cases, children are preyed on by their own family members or by persons they know very well, like relatives, family friends, or neighbors. One study reveals that one out of every 10 men has sexually abused a child.
The rate of child molestation is very high but only 16% of victims are able to tell someone about it and only 3% of culprits are caught and prosecuted. Most offenders remain unpunished for years and keep on victimizing children.
These facts make it binding on us all that we adults – parents, teachers, caretakers, and community members – educate ourselves about sexual abuse and child molestation to improve our ability to protect children. It is important that we understand how “normal” the predators look and how easily they can get access to children and make them into believing the sexual abuse is “ok.”
Many offenders even make children think that it is they who are actually responsible for the abuse. This makes it very hard for the children to tell anyone what is happening with them as they start feeling guilty.
The Typical Child Molester
In their appearance and usual conduct, child molesters are very much the same as other people and they belong to all age, sex, and social groups.
Keep these facts in mind:
- Your child’s predator may be well known and even liked by you and your child.
- The predator can be a man or woman, single or married.
- He or she can be an adult, adolescent or child.
- They can be of any race and religion and may have any sexual preference.
- They can be a family member (parent, sibling, grandparent, stepparent), a relative (an uncle or aunt, a cousin), or a family friend. The predator can also be a babysitter, clergyman, teacher or anyone who comes in contact with your children.
- They are likely to be financially stable and respected community members.
- Their education and intelligence don’t refrain them from preying on your child.
Simply put, your child’s predator can be anybody. Parents and community members can defeat the predator if they work together. The best defense is to educate yourself and members of your family and community.
How Predators Gain Access to Children?
It is often very easy for the molesters to gain access to children.
- They present the appearance of being a person you and your family can rely on.
- They pay close attention to the victim and make him feel special.
- They get to know the child’s likes and dislikes.
- They would buy the child gifts of their choice or offer them treats.
- They involve the victim in fun activities and take them where they can be together alone.
- If you are a single parent, the predator may exploit your fears about your kid lacking a stable home life or a father figure.
- If a predator’s career affords them the opportunity to work with children, they may prefer spending their free time assisting children or taking them on outings.
- Predators take full advantage of children’s natural curiosity about sex. They would tell children dirty jokes, show them pornography and play sexual games with them.
- A predator will probably know more about your kid’s taste and preferences (in music, clothing, video games, language, etc.) than you do.
- Predators would often make comments like, “Child molesters should be shot!” or “Sexual abuse is the sickest thing in the world”.
- If the predator is a parent, he or she can very easily isolate, manipulate, control and molest his own child. They can sexually abuse their child or children for years without their spouse ever having any suspicion.
- The predator may touch your child in your presence in order to make the child believe that you have no problem with it.
Why Don’t Child Molesters Always Get Caught?
Once a predator starts, he will do everything in his power to carry on molesting your child. The offender is sexually turned on by children and he enjoys engaging in sexual activities with them. He will not stop on his own and he won’t care if his acts are hurting the child. After enough practice, the molester can become too skilled to be caught.
After a predator starts molesting a child, he maintains victim’s cooperation and silence through fear, guilt, shame, and, sometimes, “love.
- He convinces the child that it s/he who is responsible for molester’s behavior.
- He makes the victim think that no one will ever believe them if they tell on him.
- He threatens the child that s/he will be the one who will receive punishment if they talk about the abuse.
- He may even threaten the child with harming him/her, or their parents, or a pet, or some other thing they highly value.
- He could even get the child to feel sorry for him (the predator) or make them believe that it is only s/he who understands him.
- If the molester is a parent or live in a home with the victim child, his behavior may look accidental in the start. He may “accidentally” expose his body or “accidentally” walk in the room when the child is changing clothes.
- If the predator is a father, his behavior might look pretty much “normal” to other people. He may exploit situations like tucking the children in at night in order to touch them sexually.
- A predator parent might tell his children that this (molestation) is what all fathers do with their kids.
- He might be so good at manipulating kids that even adults may try to protect him out of love for him
Don’t think that your child is safe from predators! As frightening as it might be, at least one out of every four children will be sexually abused by the age of 18. Here are some ways to protect children from molestation:
- Don’t Assume Things: Never expect your children to be able to protect themselves or assume that they will always tell you if someone sexually abuses them.
- Communication is the key: Listen and trust what your child says, as children rarely lie about molestation.
- Watch for signs: Notice any symptoms of abuse that your child might show.
- Education is important: Teach your children healthy values about sexuality. If you don’t teach them, a predator will take advantage of their natural curiosity about sex.
A Very Touching Book by Jan Hindman is an excellent guide for teaching children about sexual abuse. Teens can benefit from No is Not Enough by Caren Adams, Jennifer Fay and Jan Loreen‐Martin. And, John Crewdson’s By Silence Betrayed is an excellent read for adults on this subject.
- Give your children information about where on their body they should not be touched by others.
- Let them know that people who sexually touch children need psychological help.
- Tell your child that “secret touching” by others is never their fault and keep reminding them about it.
- Tell your children about the ways someone could try to manipulate them into believing there is nothing wrong in secret touching or that keeping it secret is in their own interest.
- Make sure your children know that you want them to tell you immediately if something happens to them.
- Assure them whatever anyone else may tell them, they will not be in trouble by revealing anything to you.
- You must know your children’s friends and the homes where they play.
- Be wary of adults or older children who seek to spend a lot of time with your child.
- If you feel something is wrong in your child’s relationships, act on your intuition.
- Learn the details about the prevention program being run by your children’s school and discuss it with them.
- Engage in “safety talks” with your children every now and then. Inform them about the risk and dangers of encountering such materials on the internet as are sexually explicit. Also, inform them about the known adult offenders in the community.
- As much as one-quarter of the U.S. children get exposed to pornography through the internet. Use an internet service that offers screening for pornography and obscenity.
How To Know If A Child Is Being Molested?
The symptoms of molestation vary from kid to kid as each child is unique, but here are some things that can help identify if a child is being sexually abused.
- Behavioral symptoms may include sudden changes in modesty which range from children’s becoming excessively concerned about their bodies to showing unfitting sexual conduct.
- Physical symptoms may include itching, genital pain, discharge, and bleeding.
- In some cases, children may also develop headaches, stomachaches, and other physical complaints.
- Other changes can include bad sleep, bedwetting, mysterious fears, or refusal to be with certain people or go certain places.
- Problems at school, difficulties with peers, depression, excessive crying, aggressiveness, and secretiveness are also some common symptoms.
- Children facing sexual abuse sometimes try to cope with their problems by adopting “escape” behavior. This may include running away, use of drugs or alcohol, becoming isolated or daydreaming.
- Some victim children may not show any negative symptoms. This happens especially when offenders are able to “groom” children for molestation in a way that makes them feel comfortable and exciting and they may even become protective of the predator.
- If a child shows any abrupt changes in behavior, he or she may have something to talk about. Supportive information and repeated inquiries are necessary because if a predator has begun manipulating your child, the child may feel confused about telling. Most often the children are made to believe by the offenders that if they reveal the secret, it is they who will be in trouble. The offender may even threaten the child with harming their parent, sibling or close friend.
What To Do If You Catch A Molester?
Sexual abuse is a serious crime. If you believe someone has molested your child or any other child, do not try to handle it yourself! When caught, a predator will always say that it was their “first time” and he will also promise never to do it again. But he will be lying and he is good at it. Call the police and report abuse! The best thing one could for one’s own child and for the other children (past or potential victims of the predator) is to report the crime to the authorities. If a molester has preyed on your child, he will do it to others too unless he’s stopped.
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