When you say the word ‘pedophile’ to most parents, the image they conjure up is some sinister looking man, that lives in a run down house and stalks neighborhood kids. If you told this same group of parents that they could be interacting with a pedophile on a daily basis, most would vehemently deny knowing such a person and say that’s untrue. The fact is, approximately 90% of child predators are already known to the family. Pedophiles come from all races, economic and cultural backgrounds. They could be your lawn or pest control person, neighbor, child’s teacher, maintenance man or even a family member. The point is, you never know what dark secrets someone you interact with could be harboring.
Child predators are extremely bright, calculating and patient. They usually will work for months, even years sometimes, to gain the trust of a child and their parents. Parents often don’t realize they themselves are being groomed along with their child. Pedophiles work very hard to ingratiate themselves into the parents’ lives and appear to become a reliable, trustworthy adult the parents can depend on in various situations. Child predators will target the children of super busy parents or kids from underprivileged neighborhoods. They will ‘test’ a child sometime during the initial grooming stages by firmly stroking their arms or back for a reaction. If the child does not pull away and seems affectionate, the predator considers them to be a good candidate for grooming. Sadly, most of the time the predator is a relative within the child’s own family. This relationship makes it even easier to groom and then molest the child.
The grooming process of the parents includes being available to help out or babysit at the drop of a dime. The pedophile will always be available to the family during any type of crisis. The child predator will start grooming the child, by making them feel special, encouraging the child to keep little harmless secrets between them, arranging alone time with the child, buying them candy or small gifts or allowing the child to play video games their parents don’t allow. By building this relationship with child, the pedophile is setting the stage for their future abuse. Once the abuse starts, the child predator controls the child through the use of threats against the family or themselves and guilt or shaming the child into thinking they wanted this to happen. Pedophiles will convince a child that no one will believe them or their families will not love them anymore. They use a wide range of psychological tactics and intimidation to keep the child quiet.
According to child welfare agencies, approximately sixty-one percent of child sexual abuse victims are under the age of six. This is no coincidence. Most parents will not talk to children under the age of six about sex, safety or stranger awareness guidelines for fear of scaring their child. Child predators know this and are counting on the parents not wanting to have that talk. Parents must realize that pedophiles are not the scary man at the end of the road, but their co-worker, friend or relative right in their own home. By talking to young children about personal safety or putting them in preschool safety programs, parents are empowering their child to make smart, safe choices. The information gained through these programs or talks, lets children know who to turn to in these situations.
One organization that promotes personal safety for children ages three to five years old is Military Veterans Against Child Abuse (MVACAUNITED). Through the use of age appropriate language and multicultural kids, young children are taught to not keep secrets from their parents, stranger awareness, not accepting gifts and many more safety concepts. For more information about this safety program or the books that are used in the program, go to www.mvacaunited.org