For survivors, I encourage you to think about how you can bring awareness into your day to day to prevent further abuse and/or unhealthy relationships.
- Be aware of any person who wishes to spend a great deal of time with your child, seeking out their company and offering to take care of them at any time. For example, an abuser will often ‘help out’ the targeted family at short notice, appearing as a reliable and trustworthy friend. This is the persona a pedophile will go to great lengths to establish.
- Be aware of any person who pays special attention to your child, making them feel more special than any other child; providing them with special treats, presents, sweets, etc. These ‘treats’ may be provided without your knowledge, and be the first of your child’s secrets they are being groomed to keep.
- Be aware of any person who spends a large percentage of their out-of-hours recreation time with children—often without other adults present or preferring to be ‘alone’ with the children.
- Pedophiles can be any person in the community and from any social democratic. They can be single, married and have families of their own. Up to 95% of child sexual abusers are male (Bagley, 1995).
- 1/3 of reported offenses are committed by adolescents (Bagley, 1995) and increasingly a child can be abused by another child slightly older than themselves.
- Children who live with a single parent that has a live-in partner are at the highest risk: they are 20 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents (Sedlack et al, 2010). However, children living with both biological parents or in foster care can be targeted.
- Pedophiles plan their abuse in detail, sometimes over years—grooming both the victim and their family by portraying the persona of a friendly, helpful and reliable person.
- Pedophiles will actively encourage the targeted child to keep secrets. The secret at first may not be of a sexual nature. These ‘fun’ secrets are intended to build up a sense that the abuser and the child have a ‘special’ relationship.
- Pedophiles convince the victim that the abuse is normal and love-based. They will use 'guilt’ and ‘blaming’ techniques to coerce the child into believing that they are an equal participant in the ‘shameful’ secret, and therefore are equally to blame. The child can be so ‘guilt ridden’ they may never disclose.
- Pedophiles use threats and bribes to ensure the child keeps the secret. ‘Keeping the secret’ is of extreme importance to the offender — if the child does tell, the consequences for the offender are catastrophic. Therefore, they will use whatever means they can to ensure the child never tells. This includes subtly discrediting the child by making them out to be a liar—so if they ever do disclose, they won’t be believed.
A Note from Rachel:
I often hear parents say, "I had a feeling something was wrong, but I didn't want to accuse him. I thought maybe I was blowing things out of proportion." What I want you to know is that, if you have have a feeling/thought that something is wrong -- trust it! It's often hard for parents, especially parents who have been abused, to trust themselves. But I say, better to hurt someone's feelings, rock the boat, and be wrong, then to be right and leave your child at risk by doing nothing.
If you are a parent who sensed something was wrong and later discovered your child was being abused, please don't blame yourselves. As you can see from Jay's article, abusers work very hard to conceal what they are doing. Focus on what you can do today to care of and support your little one rather than the "should have's".