I spend a lot of my time speaking to the media about incidents of child abuse 'after the fact" when people are trying to make sense of why and how it could happen.
But instead of focusing on what we can do with the creeps after they're caught, I would rather give parents some information to empower them to keep their kids safe. After all, you will never be
able to control others' behavior, but you can control your own.
The first thing to remember is that pedophiles are master communicators. They are very good at sliding into a family and befriending the parents to gain access to their kids. But there are warning signs that you can look for that may indicate someone has less than honest intentions with your family.
Preferential child molesters and pedophiles have distinct patterns of behavior that are highly predictable. As a parent, it is crucial that you learn to identify these patterns as warning signs, as they are an extremely valuable tool in assessing whether someone represents a risk to your children.
Each one of these characteristics, taken on their own, can mean little. But if you can identify a large number of them in an individual you know, you need to remove that person from your child’s environment and never allow him to have unsupervised access.
A pedophile could be someone who:
1. Shows an intense interest in children and childlike things.
It is hard not to care about kids. In fact, you may be suspicious of those who show no interest in children at all. However, there is a balance between average or appropriate interest, and excessive interest. Pedophiles will find everything about your child interesting, seem to relate to them better than adults, and prefer their company.
2. Has idealistic views of children.
A pedophile may refer to children as pure and innocent, and put them on a pedestal. They may think of
children as “projects, offering them extra help after school, for instance, or arranging meetings with the child for ostensibly good and honest reasons. They will likely invest a great deal of time and effort in one child, rather than offering equal attention to an entire group of kids. Some pedophiles have a belief that they are looking out for and have genuine love for children.
3. Has limited peer relationships.
A pedophile feels more comfortable around children. They do not often associate with peers in their age group. They would much prefer to sit at the “children’s table” at a dinner party than with the adults.
4. Calls children “friends.”
Pedophiles will surround themselves with childlike things that attract children and encourage friendships. A pedophile will often be the “cool older guy” in town, and you may find that many kids hang out at his house. He will attract kids with his lack of rules and defiance of parental rules and controls.
5. Is over twenty-five years old, single, never married, lives alone or with parents.
Just because someone matches this description does not mean he is a pedophile. However, if he meets several other criteria listed here, you should be seeing this as a warning sign.
6. Moves often and unexpectedly.
Often pedophiles will feel they have “worn out their welcome” in a particular community, or feel they are close to getting caught. They will move regularly to avoid detection, confrontation from suspecting parents, or to find a new pool of victims.
7. Participates and organizes activities that exclude other adults.
For obvious reasons, a pedophile needs access and privacy to commit the abuse. He will avoid inviting
other adults on planned events or outings.
8. Takes excessive photographs of children.
Pedophiles collect photographs, mementoes, symbols, and anything else from their victims and or other targets that might enhance their fantasies. Most notably, they take an inappropriate number of pictures or videos of children, in their communities, at events, or simply when playing. The pedophile may also have a lot of child-focused movies or music CDs, more than seems appropriate for a single man to possess. These are used for fantasy as well as to lure children into their homes.
9. Works and plays in areas that attract children.
Pedophiles typically choose work environments that allow access to children. This may include working in a school (as a teacher or in some other capacity) or daycare, as a coach or as a volunteer in a community centre, or in any other profession that is child- focused.
10. Decorates his home with childlike décor.
A pedophile is constantly trying to attract children, and relates to them better than to adults. His home, dress, and demeanor will often reflect childlike characteristics.
11. Is generous with gifts.
Many pedophiles choose targets that are needy—both for material things and for attention. They are quick to provide a needy child with toys, games, and money to lure them into a position of trust and eventually a sense of indebtedness.
Finally, parents are the ones that decide who comes into their kids lives, not the kids. Always, pay close attention to people who associate with your kids. If you have a bad feeling about one of them, or your child expresses discomfort, listen.
Don’t look for proof that your instincts are right or wrong. Trust them.
They are always right.