Protect Your Children From Sexual Predators

victimOne in five women and one in twenty men self report being childhood victims of sexual abuse. Sixty to eighty percent of the abusers are known to the child or their family. As many as half that are family members. Up to twenty percent of the abusers are females. Predators come from all walks of life, but studies overwhelmingly show they are likely to be someone you, the parents or protectors of the children, trust. We tend to think of sexual predators as a man in a trench coat who jumps out of a dark van and snatches a child away. In real life, the predator may approach a child online, they may be a teacher, a relative, a priest, pastor, youth worker, a volunteer at a church or youth facility, or a friend. They may be the parent or care giver of a friend of your child. They are likely to inspire trust, be charismatic or good with people, and probably are not at all going to be the person you expect to be a sexual predator. They can be patient, often grooming a victim over a long period of time.

The abuse may come in the form of a violent attack by a stranger, or it may be a seduction by a beloved family member. It might not even involve touch. It could come in the form of inappropriate comments, indecent exposure, or cyber stalking.

There are many variables in the who, what, when, and why when it comes to victims of childhood sexual predators, but there is one rock solid constant. All the victims will be left with devastating long term effects from the abuse. Childhood sexual abuse is associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, guilt and shame, eating disorders, repression or denial, sexual promiscuity, and relationship problems, in addition to physical injuries from the abuse. Physical injuries can include tearing and bleeding, sexually transmitted diseases, and even internal damage. Research has shown neurological changes related to childhood sexual abuse, changes which can alter brain development.

As a parent, grandparent, or anyone involved with children, there are steps you can take to protect the children you love.

watchingFirst, recognize that sexual abuse can happen to your child, and that it could involve someone you know. Be a suspicious parent. Do not assume that every scout leader, volunteer, teacher, priest, doctor or relative is safe. Don’t let down your guard for someone just because they “seem” trustworthy, charming, and especially if they have a special interest in your child.

Second, avoid situations where your child is at additional risk. If your child is invited to a sleepover, do you know the parents? If they are involved in school, church, scouting, or other outings, know the adults involved, and who will have access to the children. What are the sleeping arrangements, and what protections have been put in place? You be the adult who asks the tough questions.

Third, do not force contact on your child. Never force them to hug or kiss an adult, and recognize their boundaries. Teach them to have boundaries, teach them in plain terms they can clearly understand, and then always recognize those boundaries. When you speak with your child about adults and “bad touching” or whatever term you use, set aside your discomfort and speak clearly on their level. Let them know they always have the right to refuse touch, and discuss other dangers such as adults who take their clothes off, say bad things, or want to talk about things that they don’t feel comfortable with, including pictures.

Fourth, Teach No, go and tell! Be sure they feel confident in their right to say no to any actions they are not comfortable with. Tell them to go to the nearest adult immediately.

Fifth, trust your instincts when it comes to your child and their safety. If you are unsure about an individual or a situation, don’t put your child at risk. Trust your child’s instincts as well. If they are reluctant to be with an individual, or a part of a group or activity but cannot tell you exactly why, trust their instincts. They may be sensing danger.

Most adults are baffled by how predators are able to get a child to conceal their actions, and feel their child could never be victimized this way. Better to take precautions, because these people are masters at manipulation. If you are a single parent, and especially if there is no strong relationship with their father, a child is at additional risk. The predator may tell a child that he will hurt or kill him, his parents or siblings if he tells. He may also tell a child that their parents will blame them, and children are especially susceptible to this child and nunargument if the predator is a family friend, a relative, or other trusted individual like a pastor, teacher, or priest. If the predator is aware of an activity or action the child may not want his parents to be aware of, he could threaten to tell. If the children expect to be yelled at, to be “in trouble” because of family dynamics or troubled relationships, they are less likely to come forward. No matter what your family situation, good or bad, be sure to let your child know that it is okay to go to any adult they trust and tell. Let them know you want them to get help, and that if they feel safer telling a relative, teacher, or pastor, then that is what they should do, and you will not be upset with them. Practice different scenarios with them. We all know the candy rule, but what if an adult tells them Mommy is hurt, or they have a kitten for them? As soon as they are old enough, teach them to be aware of their surroundings, and what to be cautious about. You can find a way to emphasize safety to your child without making them be afraid of the world. Practice builds confidence. Be open, be confident, and be smart. Don’t avoid conversations that might save your child from harm.

hurtFinally, here are behaviors to look for in your child that should tell you something may be  wrong. Do not ignore changes in your child’s behavior, or tell yourself it is just “puberty.” If your child exhibits sudden unusual behaviors such as anger, fear, or avoids situations or people, find out if anything is wrong. If your child begins to have nightmares, trouble sleeping or eating, their grades begin to fall, check it out. If they suddenly want to discontinue activities or sports they participate in, find out why. If they change their way of dressing, seem too comfortable with at risk behaviors, or want to spend unexplained time away from home, investigate. Always monitor your child’s online activities, and set limits. Know their friends, and what they are involved in. There is no substitute for having a loving, trusting, and involved relationship with your kids. Letting them know you care, that you are watching out for them, that you are involved, is the best protection they have. Additionally, abusers need to find the least protected children. The more you are there, involved, asking questions, and being suspicious, the more safe your child is from a predator who wants to mitigate his risk. The harder you make it for him to get to your child, to gain their trust, the less likely it is that he will try to victimize your child, or be successful at it.

Take the time to find out about a kind of child abuse called grooming. Many predators use tactics such as online chat rooms to establish a relationship with a victim. Think they pose as a hunky fourteen year old boy who is trying to impress your young daughter? Think again. They just might be posing as a girl who wants to meet her at the skating rink and talks clothes and music with her.

They may use what is known as foot in the door behavior to gain trust with a child or parent. They may offer positive reinforcement to a child, start giving them attention, then simple gifts, money, buy them an ice cream or a baseball. They will know the child’s interests, and very likely know their fears and insecurities. They are very skilled manipulators. A hand on the shoulder will advance to a touch, a stroke. Then it will become a hug and a kiss as the child is desensitized to contact. Conversations may turn sexual in nature. At some point, pornography, pictures or videos, may be introduced. At this point, the child is extremely vulnerable, because they have come to trust the predator, and they fear offending him or her. They may fear a parent’s reaction, or they may feel guilty for liking the person.

As your child gets older, continue to make them aware of how adults or even older children can be a danger, teach them to trust their instincts, arm them with knowledge. You probably keep yourself current on drug fads, what the latest “high” is. You should feel just as confident in keeping your child sexually safe. If you are a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or a friend, stay aware. These precious children are also in your care, and it may be one of your friends who is a danger to the child. There can never be too many people looking out for our kids.

betrayalFinally, lets talk worst case scenario. If your child has been victimized, you must take immediate steps to protect and help them. Put aside yourself, and your rage, your shame, your guilt, and make a vow to act in the child’s best interest. Notify the authorities, get medical assistance, and especially, find therapy for your child. Pretending it didn’t happen is not an option that will be in your child’s best interest. Telling yourself it is better for them if no one finds out is an insidious lie, to yourself and to them. They will feel guilty and ashamed, and be denied help when it can most benefit them. Do not lose time in getting them the help they need to overcome what has happened before they take on a lifetime of pain and dangerous behavior. This will not go away just because you want it to. It will get worse. Do not protect a family member or friend. If the child is not old enough to feel the pain of your betrayal now, the day will come when he or she will know that you chose someone else over him. Children have a very developed sense of justice and right and wrong, and they know that evil should be punished. They also will feel empowered that the predator has been stopped and will never hurt another child. If you deny them that, you will be affecting their feelings of safety, and their ability to heal, as well as guilt they will feel for being made to be silent when they know this adult is hurting other children. You may not know it, you may not believe it, but they do. Never, ever negotiate with a predator. If someone you know has hurt your child, you want to believe them when they swear to you it will never happen again. Do not put yourself in this situation. Call the authorities. Finally, be prepared for a long road. Know that you will not always be perfect, and you will have bad days and good as you help your child deal with the daily trials they will face. Don’t ever give up, and keep your family looking at that light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope, and sometimes just knowing that is what you have to cling to. 

If you are the victim of past sexual abuse, and you have never had treatment for that abuse, there is hope. Consider asking someone you trust, such as a family doctor, or your pastor, for help finding a competent therapist. This is not one size fits all. Once you decide to seek help, know that just as you may not like the first church you go to, or the doctor you choose from the yellow pages, so it may be with a mental health professional. Find the person and treatment that is right for you. You may be unable to fix your problems all at once, but train yourself to take baby steps. If the thought of making an appointment with a therapist is overwhelming to you, do some research online first. Talk to a trusted spouse or friend. Perhaps consider a non traditional therapy, such as on line or skype therapy. Take one small step at a time. You do not have to accept your pain. There is hope. Find your way out of the prison of your past. I believe you will find many caring people, ready to help you deal with your problems.

One final note on the statistics quoted in this post. As you can imagine, sexual abuse is often not reported, and the statistics available vary from one source to another, even in government reports. I used a range representative of the studies and reports I found to be most credible, as well as figures I obtained from a practicing clinician, a doctor who specializes in treating victims of sexual abuse.

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34 Responses to Protect Your Children From Sexual Predators

  1. akathesob says:

    Excellent article…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hawkeye13 says:

    Wish I had read this 5 years ago, could have discussed and perhaps saved some from this type of tragedy…


    • Sharon says:

      Do you think that perhaps there’s a point coming we’re all going to stop being quiet?

      So well done, Menagerie.


      • Menagerie says:

        I think there is a point coming where we had all better stop being quiet. Actually, I think we passed that point. And thank you.


      • Josh says:

        I hope so, Sharon, but no, I do not believe so. “we” is all too encompassing. There are always going to be those that remain silent.


  3. Sharon says:

    This puts the destruction of the family into a horrible frame as well, because there are millions of kids across the country who never “feel safe”- they have become totally accustomed to being uncomfortable and unsafe in their immediate families. A flood of evil is what it is….

    ACT on what we know about damaged people ( any age) in our own circles. I have the feeling that if we, personally, raise a flag of purity and “safe shelter” those who need both will head in our direction. God, help us.


  4. justfactsplz says:

    This was a great article. You covered the subject so well. I hope a lot of parents get to read this.


  5. ZurichMike says:

    Excellent public service announcement.


  6. judy says:

    This is such a hot topic for me and this excellent article is one to file for future reference when sharing might be of benefit. Thanks!


  7. St. Benedict's Thistle says:

    Thank you for this article.

    I would add one point. Children and teens often abuse other children.


  8. triage says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I have had people close to me (sister etc.) that are going through the effect of child abuse and have suffered so much through their lives. I have always wanted to provide comfort in any appropriate way I could but even modern therapy does not offer much and I felt inadequate to help most of the time.

    I read therapy books about victims of child sexual abuse and they say that they can expect a life of depression, anger, fear,substance abuse, poor relationships etc.. I refuse to except such a hopeless prognosis and I think the best thing we can do for victims is to give them hope that they can be happy, that they can love and be loved. I think we act differently around people that we know have survived such horror and it effects them.

    I know that I focused on the person who hurt my sister with anger more than I focused on her for a long time and they become forgotten and don’t get the love and care they need. If you know someone who is suffering because of the actions of some monster just love them as they are way low on love and you can’t love them too much. Sorry to ramble but I think we need to do better at helping victims feel that the future can be happy and God can solve what we can’t.


    • Menagerie says:

      Victims of sexual abuse will be changed forever. Their life will never be what it could have been had the abuse not happened, but that does not mean that it cannot be ever so much more than what it might have been, in a different way. That is entirely dependent on the person, whether they are willing to allow themselves to heal, and give themselves hope and happiness. It will never be easy, but it will always be possible. If they do find the strength to heal, they can live a wonderful life, but yes, it will always carry pain and challenges. But so does each and every human life, each in different ways.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Sha says:

      triage : The books aren’t always right……. Every person handles bad things in there on way. I know of what I speak I promise you. Anger – check , depression- check , fear- check , substance abuse – never , poor relationships – No, I have life long friends and I have been married 27 years to my high school sweet heart. I am and will always be an over protective mom because of what happened to me. Love your sister and teach her to love her self , don’t let her dwell in the past help her to move on into a bright future she controls. 🙂


  9. Excellent article…really well done.


  10. sundance says:

    Excellent Menagerie – Really well articulated. “find your way out of the prison that is your past”… excellent encapsulation.

    I hope this reaches many thousands who save and share with many more thousands.

    Value in this. Much.


    • Josh says:

      “find your way out of the prison that is your past”
      I like this too. It can refer to most any “prison”.


      • Spar Harmon says:

        My life changing encounter with AA has also led me into a consciousness the 12 Steps are 12 necessary steps to self healing. Specifically, there are many counselors, therapists, and other professionals that are incorporating those 12 Steps in helping Sexual abuse survivors… Al-Anon can provide helpful leads to such.


  11. StormyeyesC says:

    Very nice article Menagerie. Very informative. I have sent it along to friends with young children and grandchildren. Thank you.


  12. Sha says:

    Menagerie : Great Job ! You touched my heart……… 🙂


  13. whiteradish says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. If it can prevent just one… it changes everything.


  14. pat says:

    I appreciated your post a great deal, but the most common form of child sexual abuse is incest, which did not seem to me to appear in your post. If you do truly care about child sexual abuse which I believe you do (!), you need another post. The families of incest DO tend to blame the child, it’s not just a threat (it’s because they can’t cope with it).


  15. Note from Admin: Because the commenter’s avatar is a family photo and the comment contains detailed information about the abuse of her daughter, we contacted txconservativemomof2 to confirm that the posting will not create risk for any family member. We are always mindful that internet posting creates potential for dot-connecting by readers, and therefore must be done with care. [Thank you for your understanding and assistance, tcm2. – Admin]

    Even as we all know it’s important that we speak more openly about such things, we want to use wisdom.

    Thank you, Menagerie, for this informative article. My daughter, when she was 2 1/2 years old, was attending a daycare in the city we lived in. It was an excellent facility and one of the first to have monitoring in the classrooms – you could come into the office and watch your child’s classroom and, if you had a home computer – which was “new” at the time – you could watch online (but it was very slow because all modems were dial-up at the time.) The owners of the daycare were a local couple and while all of the “teachers” were women, the man who co-owned the place was there most of the time and all the kids loved him and called him an affectionate nickname. I don’t want to say it here to protect his privacy. One day I was changing my daughter’s diaper and, as was my normal routine, I had cleaned her and in the process of applying A&D ointment and she said, in her baby voice, “Don’t put your finger in me! It hurts!!” I became hysterical. I had NEVER put A&D inside her (or my finger!!) but did, as all parents know, rub it in the pertinent external areas. I immediately scooped her up, strapped her in and drove straight to her pediatrician’s office. He examined her and told me that she had some normal irritation but nothing to signify any sexual abuse. I removed her from the school after that – although I’m pretty sure, in retrospect, it was what the Pediatrician said and nothing more. Why she said what she said, I’ll never know – maybe I got too close and it stung. Whatever the case, it was an eye-opening, heart wrenching moment.
    About 2 years later I had remarried and my husband, who was a criminal defense attorney, had custody of his two teen-aged sons. My daughter was 4 at the time. The youngest of the 2 boys was 15 and he greatly resented my daughter’s presence in their home – he had been the baby and was very spoiled. He actually moved out and went to live with his mother, in the same town. One weekend he was visiting and our home was a typical NE split foyer home. We had a finished basement and that was the boy’s “room” – they had a sleeping area and a den area and a bathroom – but no door. You could hear them in the den upstairs. My daughter asked if she could watch her older step-brother, who was visiting for the weekend, play video games. We were in the den watching a movie and told her that she could. I remember is commenting on how nice it was that he was making an effort to get to know her and include her. My husband was hopeful he would “come around”. Our movie was over and it was time to give her her medication (she was on antibiotics at the time for an inner ear infection) and get her ready for bed. I called down for her to come upstairs and get ready for bed. She came bouncing into the kitchen, her usual bubbly, talkative self, and in her ramblings said something to the effect of “And then ______ put his booty in my mouth!” I may not have even caught it, I was distracted measuring out her medication and she was rambling, but my husband did. He came into the kitchen and said, “What did she just say?” I didn’t even know, but she repeated, “__________ put his booty in my mouth!” Before I could even speak he was bellowing down the stairs for his son to get up here! I got my daughter into bed and came back into the kitchen where my husband was confronting his son. His son was vehemently denying this and said he didn’t know what she was talking about. It was getting very ugly, very quickly. I went into my daughter’s room and questioned her specifically. I got more information and what I realized had happened was horrifying. I went back into the kitchen and told my husband what she said. His son was now crying, saying it was a lie, why would she lie, etc. My husband told me that “something’s wrong with her!” taking his son’s side. I was hysterical but trying to keep it together. I told him I was taking her to a hospital immediately because neither of us was qualified to question a 4 year old. I brought her to the E.R. where she told the triage nurse, the ER nurse and the ER physician the same account, without variance. They called the police and they also did a rape kit on my daughter. By the time we got home at 5:00 a.m., his son had admitted to the act and my husband brought him down to the police station to make a confession.
    So, my daughter was the victim of sexual abuse at the age of 4 – it is your worst nightmare come true. To think, this was the same child I was so particular with all those years. Each night, after I put her to bed, I would sterilize all of her toys, mop the floors, etc. Sometimes you just can’t possibly foresee the danger. She was 4, but almost 5. I did take her to a counselor for a time – this counselor told me that, for now, she was okay. She warned me that we may issues down the road when my daughter reached the age that kids start talking about sexual things and/or upon reaching sexual awareness and puberty. I can say this – my child, from that point on, became “overweight”. She began eating for comfort and we battled this throughout her adolescence and to this day she struggles with her weight. I have brought her to counselors throughout her life. She is now a young adult (almost 22.) She is completely asexual. She had a steady boyfriend her Jr. and Sr. years of high school and finally broke up with him because he was pressuring her to do things she did not want to do. She has told me that the “thought of sex” is repulsive to her. She is not homosexual – she is physically attracted to men and dates, just has absolutely no sexual desire. It’s very sad to me as this is my only daughter and I fear she will never marry and have children of her own. In fact, I’m certain of it. How sad for her. Child sexual abuse is a nightmare that never ends. Watch your babies closely and, even then, sometimes you can’t prevent it.


    • Josh says:

      THIS account is right in line with Menagerie’s post. One simply cannot be watched 24/7. There is just no understanding some things.


    • Menagerie says:

      I am praying for your daughter, and hope that her life will be rich and joyful. Thank you for sharing your story. We just cannot protect our children every minute of every day. We do the best we can.


  16. Josh says:

    Many criminals suffered abuse as a child. They often turned their anquish on animals before humans beings.


    • Yes – the triage – bed-wetting beyond normal, fire starting and animal abuse. My ex-husband is a criminal defense atty and had a case, once, where an older juvenile (think TM) had been arrested for having sex with and strangling two of his neighbors’ dogs. He was in a local psychiatric hospital. My husband said that he saw “evil” in that kid’s eyes. The hospital was directly across the street from our Catholic Church downtown and every time he had to go “visit” with this client he would first go into the Church, bless himself with Holy Water and pray. The Doctor wrote an opinion to the Judge in this case saying that there is no way to predict future serial-killers other than they all have in common one of the 3 traits of animal abuse, bed wetting and fire starting, but he would recommend locking this boy up and throwing away the key.
      That’s scary stuff.
      And yes, they often times begin with animals and move on to humans.


  17. Pingback: Fear, Helpful or Harmful, and is There a Balance? | Sitter In a Pinch

  18. lin says:

    Thank you for this article. It really hit home for me. I want to protect my daughter from what happened to me as a child. When I tell people about my abusive childhood they look at me and ask ” How can you be successful and married and happy in your life when all that happened to you?” Don’t let your past dictate who you will become. Forgive. That is the hardest thing to do. But this can be done. I was talking to my brother a couple of months ago and I don’t know how we got on the subject but we were talking about my step dad sexually abusing my when I was a child. My mom thought I lied and to this day said I lied. I asked him how can I be sure this happened? ma-by I did lie ? He said No you did not lie …. It happened to me too. WHAT????? After all these years he said it happened to him too. Right now I’m crying just thinking about all the pain my brother went through Not telling any one till now. My brother has severe ADHD now I know why he acted the way he did when he was younger… rebellious always getting into trouble. But he got help a couple of years ago talking to a counselor. That is when we all saw a good change in his life. Now I know why. Holding it in and acting like it didn’t happen is not good. It just builds the anger until something happens. I don’t know why I’m writing this but sometimes I need to talk about it. It makes me feel better, somehow. I am not going to let my child go through what I did I will try my best to not have this happen to her I know the pain after all these years But I think the worst was on my 16 th birthday my mother told me to sit down and listen to all the tapes of child protective services recording of me when they interveiwed me after the incident. She told me how I ruined her life and what a lier I was. That I got to say was worse.


    • Menagerie says:

      I am very glad you were able to get help, and that you were able to help your brother talk about it, and then move forward. I am saying a prayer for you and your family as you continue on your journey. As you know, healing is an ongoing process that we are responsible for. Some days are better than others. Thank your for your comments lin.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Patricia Hart says:

    Please, read this For Our children,Grandchildren and .All children ! Be alert, that they maybe mistreated by these predators sick montors! Wish, they could be caught,Need to watch everyone! Theres to many.


  20. Penny says:

    On August 5th 2014 Mason DeCosmo was brutally murdered by his
    mothers boyfriend there had been an open CPS case that was closed 7 to 10 days before his death Mason died of blunt force injuries some of which were 2 black eyes, busted lip, lacerated liver, pancreas, spleen as we’ll as broken ribs and bruises and human bite marks his 8 month old brother Jaxon also had bite marks please let’s stop this madness please sign and share


  21. Lou says:

    thank you for such an informative article, it is so important to stay alert to a variety of situations to protect our children.


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