How to Stop A Child Sex Predator

*flag: this article is explicit. victims of child abuse may want to skip*

Every forensic tv fan (myself included! love Joe Kenda!) knows this old police chestnut: “before you look at the outlaws, look at the in-laws.”

Its meaning is simple yet deep. Most perpetrators of violent crimes are people within the allegedly safe circles of relatives, close family friends and supposedly caring adults like teachers or clergy people.

Stranger danger is wildly exaggerated because it’s a more popular idea to be afraid of outsiders than to admit there are dangerous insiders who could poison your family’s stability. According to RAINN, 59% of perps are people known to the victim, 37% are family members, while sex crimes by strangers make up only 7% of the total perpetrators of sexual violence and abuse. This means that the greatest threat to your family’s safety is most likely to come from someone in your family’s circle. It may be scary but it’s a fact we all need to absorb to protect our children, our families, and our core values.

As a survivor myself, my feelings on the abuse of children are cold, maybe even draconian. All perps should be outed, whether or not they are related by blood. All perps should be reported so police have them on their radar and the justice system can prosecute. All victims are entitled to a day in court and legal reliefs for their suffering. All victims are entitled to health services to help them recover from their trauma, whether physical or psychological.

I won’t work with un-treated perps in my practice because of my own traumas and because I know they need a level of rehabilitation that talk therapy alone cannot address. You can’t “talk” someone out of poor mental health. They need to be medicated before they can even re-learn how to be a good human being. For that reason, psychiatrists must be involved in the process of treating perps with personality and mental disorders. Drugs to stabilize their twisted brains are the first step towards successful rehabilitation.

At the end of this piece, I list three ways that adults can break the cycle of child sexual abuse, exploitation and predation. First, some clarification on what I’m talking about when I talk about child abuse and people who prey on minors.

 

WHAT IS SEXUAL PREDATION?

Sexual predation is what your child believes it is. While some small number of kids may either not understand the difference between “ok” touches and “bad” touches, or may have a penchant for exaggerating things, the vast majority of kids who tell their parents someone touched them inappropriately is speaking their truth.

(And, by the way, if your child has a history of false reports, get your kid to a therapist. Something is very wrong with their development. Normal, healthy kids do not invent stories about sexual abuse.)

Sexual predation means an adult, a peer, or another minor is interfering with your child’s development. For most children, any type of predation (i.e., unwanted and/or criminal sexual attention) can be a game-changer for life. It harms their self-esteem, creates massive trust issues, instills shame and guilt, and opens up a can of psychological worms they may never be able to seal up again. It may also open a gulf between parent and child that never previously existed, especially if you dismissed their complaints or defended their perpetrator.

Please take it seriously when a kid says someone messed with their bodies. They need parental support and affirmation more than ever. Show compassion and reward them for bringing their concerns to you. Keep a close eye on anyone who seems weirdly close to your child or seems over-eager to babysit them, especially the “in-laws” and authority figures in your child’s life. Investigate the event and NEVER accept the word of the alleged perpetrator! Sex predators are, by nature, liars and deceivers.

Child predation may be a symptom of a significant mental disorder in the perp and a red flag for serial child-abuse. So do your own digging. Ask the parents of other kids if they ever complained about or seemed to fear a particular adult. Yes, even if it is your pastor, priest or rabbi, never blithely assume an adult has your child’s best interests in mind. If the Catholic church scandals proved anything, it’s that ungodly animals may hide behind clerical cloaks. Ask your child to explain, as best they can at their age, exactly what happened. Little kids should be asked to draw a picture about it if they are not fully verbally developed enough to put it in clear words or to use dolls to show you what happened.

I was lucky because I became a sexologist and learned how to safely frame my experiences to alleviate the trauma and despair I once felt. Regular people may never develop those tools. So I’m urging you to do just that — educate yourself on the facts about predation and learn how to eliminate those scoundrels from your child’s life.

 

WHAT IS SEXUAL EXPLOITATION?

Exploitation is a kind of predation and probably the most common type of crime committed against children. Children seldom can fathom the difference between exploitation and “what adults do.” It’s up to parents to identify it and act on it for their kids’ sake.

Exploitation includes, but isn’t limited to, people who send sexual content to minors (sexts, pix or porn); people who obtain pix of your child and post them on porn sites, dating sites, or other adult-oriented sites; and people who collect and/or distribute child pornography.

Coercing or encouraging a minor to do any type of sex work (whether stripping or providing personal pix) is another form of sexual exploitation. Exploitation may mean your kid is directly harmed (for example, being coerced into sex work), but can also apply to anyone (adult or underage) who uses a child to make money or gain brownie points with other pedophiles. In the Internet age, you must be vigilant that your child’s image, however innocent, is not being exploited to satisfy the lusts of sick people.

 

Three Steps To Stop Child Predators

 

Teach Your Child to Report them to You and Then You Report them to the Police.

We all know silence=death when it comes to LGBT lives. Apply that principle to child predation. Every time you cover up a crime, every time you give adults a free pass on touching your child inappropriately. Every time you value a senile grandpa’s or Cousin Weirdo’s statements over your child’s account of the event, you become complicit in your child’s abuse.

Report them! Don’t let them get away with hurting your child. Let your child know that you will defend them against anyone who tries to harm them or pervert their lives. Be your child’s fiercest ally against non-consensual touching, whether they are 4 years old or 18 years old. Stop shaming them for being victims. Lift them out of the misery of guilt and bewilderment that prevents most kids from telling their parents how hurt they really feel by it.

And please ban suspected predators from your home. Never leave your child alone with them again, not even for five minutes. I’ve heard a thousand stories from friends and therapy clients how adult relatives secretly used and abused them, from the ones who jerked off in front of them to those who used them like playtoys. Often, the episodes lasted 10 minutes or less — which is plenty of time for a child to be fully traumatized.

When I was a kid, I hid all my horrible experiences from my parents because I sensed they would always take another adult’s word over my own. Their attitude made me feel like I had no right to complain when adults messed with me. So I blamed myself and became another secret statistic. Do not let this happen to your child. Sure, I turned out ok. But it took me decades to actually BE okay on the inside.

REPORT CREEPS! Report people who hurt your kids! Don’t sweep it under the rug and hope your kid will somehow grow up okay anyway. Not going to happen. Fight back, for their sake.

 

Insist on Psychiatric Evaluations of Abusers

If your child was harmed by a perp, get yourself a lawyer who will fight for your child’s rights with full gusto. Don’t trust the courts to be fair or impartial. Put a fire under your legal team to throw every possible charge against them. Make sure family members (parents, siblings, grandparents) who are horrified by this event will stand up in court to make an impact statement to let the judge know how much it hurt your family to see your child hurt. This has the added benefit of proving to your child that he or she has the family’s support during this crisis.

Demand a psychiatric assessment of the perp and hire your own psychiatrist if the Court won’t. Set up a crowd-funding page if you can’t afford it. Direct your lawyer to ask the court to impose mandatory psychiatric treatment — drugs and therapy if needed — for an offender, not just a month in jail learning how to be a sneakier, less detectable abuser from other sexual predators.

If there’s anything that will upset and humiliate a perp it’s being forced into a psychiatric evaluation. They fear the truth about themselves more than prison because they know they are sick people and they know a psychiatrist will uncover a dirty truth they never wanted to face. Make them face it!! Make them FEEL.

Competent care for mentally unstable offenders should take a three-prong approach: medication, counseling (private and group), and a behaviorial modification program.

Most sex predators are adults in mental health trouble because of bipolar disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Really, there is a pretty wide range of undiagnosed mental disorders which can turn an otherwise lovely adult into a beast who harms your child. Such mental health issues cannot be cured, not by drugs or a prison sentence. That said, competent psychiatric care may help them get their minds straight enough to recognize they need to curb their behaviors and re-learn social skills. By competent, I mean compassionate and scientifically valid care, not “aversion therapies” (outdated and largely ineffectual) or institutionalization (i.e., warehousing the mentally ill). Competent care for offenders should take a three-prong approach: medication, counseling (private and group), and a behavioral modification program.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I think child predators can be successfully treated by learning how to empathize better, by eliminating or reducing delusions about themselves and what they are allowed to do, and by education about the impact of their gross behaviors on the lives of innocent kids. We are NOT doing that job now. Not on a medico-forensic level we’re not.

It’s up to parents to be their children’s’ firmest advocate and loudest voice.

 

Educate your Kids on Consent

Even toddlers can begin the process of learning the difference between consensual touch and nonconsensual touch. In the earliest stages of development, parents should begin the process of teaching them the difference between things that feel good and right (like Mommy’s or Daddy’s hugs) and things that feel really creepy to them (like inappropriate affection from less trusted strangers). You may not be able to discuss it with them fully, but you can use other tools to check in on their sexual wellness. Look for any signs or symptoms of potential abuse, including them having fear about being alone with another adult or older minor. Know where your toddler is at all times and keep a nanny-cam going when people babysit your kids — not just in their bedrooms but in the living room too.

By the time your kid reaches puberty, the lessons on consent need to intensify. Your kid should learn that it isn’t acceptable to indulge in nonconsensual behaviors, meaning they aren’t allowed to touch others against their will or without their consent. Your kids should know that rape is always wrong, no matter who commits it. Your kids should know that “sneaky sex”(upskirting, exhibitionism, and other types of sneaky exploitation) is a consent violation. Your kid should also be taught that he or she is safe bringing you any fears, anxieties or complaints about people of any age who make them feel creeped out or sexually freaked out.

Imagine if everyone got a strict education in the meaning of sexual consent. Imagine if every perp knew there will be harsh punishments for their actions, including social ostracization, loss of careers, psychiatric treatment and time in prison. Imagine if you reported a perp BEFORE he or she hurt other children. Imagine if all kids knew their parents had their back when someone messed with them. Imagine if all kids learned that no one has a right to violate their bodies or touch them without explicit consent. Yeah. I imagine those things all the time and I know that if we did give ALL kids that kind of education, then the rates of child predation, child porn, date-rapes, molestations, and crimes against children would decline.

Save your child and save the world the civilized way: educate!

 

Check out RAINN’s useful guide to recognizing the signs of child abuse.

Use RAINN’s guide to locating support for an abused child.