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How child molesters think and act and how to protect children from them

As previously reported in the Metro Voice, scandals involving child molesters are rampant. The release of the documentary, Leaving Neverland, recently has increased the national conversation about pedophilia and child molestation.

A child molester is defined in a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) publication as “a significantly older individual who engages in any type of sexual activity with individuals legally defined as children.” The DOJ’s publication, “Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis For Law Enforcement Officers Investigating Cases of Child Sexual Exploitation,” points out that, technically, “pedophilia” is a psychiatric term.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes pedophilia as a psychological disorder with “recurrent, intense, sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies, of at least six months duration, involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child. The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.”


Profiling Pedophiles and Child Molesters

Law enforcement agencies provide a composite picture of how pedophiles think and operate. Knowing their profile and how they operate can help you protect your children, grandchildren and the children of others.

FBI Profiler descriptions of child molesters may surprise you. They are not always the suspicious looking persons you may notice at a park or other public places where children are present. Agents and detectives describe a common profile of child molesters. While they’re present in various income groups, “members of higher socio-economic classes are overrepresented among child molesters,”

The DOJ and FBI clarify that some pedophiles do not act on their attractions with children, but only themselves. The profile of pedophiles and child molesters usually includes an attraction to and possession of child pornography. However, they are only, technically, child molesters if they they act on their attractions and fantasies. Some pedophiles are charged and convicted for possession of child pornography only, without committing acts against children.

The DOJ warns that “to assume that someone is not a pedophile simply because he is nice, goes to church, works hard, is kind to animals, and so on, is absurd. Pedophiles span the full spectrum from saints to monsters.”

Child molesters having been exposed in churches substantiates warnings from law enforcement officials. They lament that “over and over again pedophiles are not recognized, investigated, charged, convicted, or sent to prison simply because they are ‘nice guys.’”

Officials also stress the importance to “recognize that, while pedophiles prefer to have sex with children, they can and do have sex with adults. Adult sexual relationships are more difficult for some pedophiles than for others.” As explained in Child Sex Rings: A Behavioral Analysis, by Kenneth V. Lanning, “one might have occasional sex with a single mother to ensure continued access to her children.”


Where Pedophiles Target and Molest Children

Sexual predators of children, as defined by law, sometimes target their victims from positions of authority through faith communities, sports teams, schools, youth groups and other settings in which children participate. Children in multi-family housing can be more vulnerable than those in single family housing. Others use or target massage parlors that are sometimes fronts for prostitution, some of which have been exposed for trafficking underage girls.

Statistically, most cases of child molestation involve a relative, neighbor or friend. Most perpetrators (77%) of child sexual abuse (CSA) are male and range in age from teen to middle-age. Children are available and vulnerable targets. CSA by a child molester may be a one-time event or last years, as in the cases of serial pedophiles.

The home of the victim is often the setting for CSAs, but can also be the resident of the offender, a vehicle or secluded place in public. Boys are more often abused outside the home than girls. Offenders were often victims of CSA as children themselves. Many perpetrators lure victims through online activity, which may include offenders who traffic victims into CSA with multiple offenders.

In the case of the allegations against the late Michael Jackson, as documented in Leaving Neverland, a pattern of grooming was allegedly evident. Through grooming, child molesters gradually build relationship and trust with their child victims. As is alleged and portrayed in Leaving Neverland, Jackson built close relationships with the parents and siblings of his alleged victims.


Child Molesters “Look Like the Guy Next Door”

State officials directing one of Missouri’s Sex Offender Rehabilitation Treatment Services (SORTS) facilities say that child molesters usually “look like the guy next door.” Missouri law affords civil commitments for child molesters after they have completed their prison sentences through which they can be held indefinitely.

Ensuring the safety of children, grandchildren, extended child family members and the children of others requires being proactive. While not wanting to be paranoid or fearful, vigilance is called for to protect children. Today’s society with online and social media access to sexual promiscuity and adult and child pornography has made the world much more dangerous for children.

Pedophiles and child molesters have more tools−particularly online−and sources of motivation to commit CSAs, especially through luring children online. The spectrum of threats against children range from every parent’s worst fear next to losing a child−abduction by sexual a predator−to offenders that target children through gradual grooming.

Remembering that 65 to 70% of sex crimes against children go unreported−with many offenders committing CSAs for years and even decades without consequences−should provide greater motivation to protect all children.

The number of children molested in childhood is 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 6 for boys. Many victims are fearful of exposing offenders, being manipulated by their threats or monetary and material benefits offenders provide them or their family. As the saying goes, “you can’t be too careful.”

There are practical ways you can be vigilant and protect your children, grandchildren, child members of extended family and the children of others from exploitation by sexual predators, child molesters and pedophiles. Click this link for the pdf.

For those who have been sexually exploited, molested or assaulted, confidential help is available at the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673) or online at rainn.org. Missouri’s Child Abuse and Neglect hotline is (800) 392-3738. The Kansas Child Abuse hotline is (800) 922-5330.

–Metro Voice Editorial Board

‘Leaving Neverland’ stirs controversy, discussion of abuse