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The 'Secret:' the key to understanding
child sex abuse


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The "Secret' is the key ingredient of child sexual abuse.  

The 'Secret' is the bond established by the abuser with the child victim.  It ensures that nobody knows of the abuse other than the abuser and the abused. It is kept in place by embarrassment, fear, respect; even love.

Embarrassment that friends or family will find out what happened. An emotion sometimes secured with photographs.

Fear for the safety of the child and their family should they disclose anything - fear that the abuser will inform – parents – friends, about the behavior their child has been pulled into and subjected to.

Respect or love for the abuser – strange as this may seem – for the attention and concern that they have shown the child that the child craves and does not receive at home. Over time, absent a good relationship between child and parents, the abuser seduces the child, earning their trust and friendship.

For this reason the child will keep the secret intact out of a need for the attention received from the abuser and the fear of losing a friend should the abuser be caught.

Other reasons
Disruption of the family by revealing the abuse - when the child sees the disruption to their family that follows the revelation of abuse, they can see this as being their fault, that the disruption and upset is as a result of their disclosure or of their behavior. Recantation sometimes follows and the secret is intact again.

Life disruption. This belief that it is their fault can at times be reinforced by other family members who either don’t believe the child or live in denial. In the case of a single mother, panic may set in at the through of a destruction of a lifestyle if dad or her boyfriend is forced to leave. There is pressure on the child to recant or not tell at call – a conscious or unconscious pressure.

The child thinks the behavior is normal. They have been abused from such a young age that they don’t know any differently. They don’t wonder why sleepover at friends houses is discouraged where they might find that the abuse is not a normal part of life at all.
Their abuser tells them and the child believes that the behavior is love. “This is how daddy (Uncle) shows how much they love you.” They believe them because they don’t know any better.

Abusers seldom intentionally hurt their victims because they know that will lead them to tell someone about it or to see help. You can see how this reinforces the seductive nature of the relationship.

Its success depends entirely on the abuser knowing that parent won’t or don’t talk to their children. 'Our little secret' is what makes abuse thrive, knowing this is a key component of helping unlock the secret and freeing your child.

Seduced; groomed to secrecy
To understand the Secret you have to understand the process of child seduction – here’s an overview:

Pedophiles, abusers, are rarely strangers. They can family members (fathers, mothers, brothers, cousins, uncles), close family friends, step-fathers, pillars of the community, neighbors, clergy, doctors, boy-scout leaders, any social position that gives access to the child. Pedophiles who are truly strangers set out to change the relationship so that when they do abuse the child they are friends not only of the child but also of the family. Friendship makes for a lasting abusive ‘relationship.’

Pedophiles are about more than just sex, although sex is the ultimate goal of the abuse. Pedophiles spend time – sometimes lots of time - planning and searching for, grooming and gaining the trust of their victims and this denotes more than a sexual deviance. This behavior is about control.

Just as one adult courts another, he seduces children over a period of time by gradually lowering their sexual inhibitions. The child must fit the predator’s preferences and demonstrate the vulnerabilities that pedophiles know will make them susceptible to abuse. This pattern characterizes the offender who engages children in sexual activity by “seducing” them—grooming them with attention, affection, and gifts.

His victims arrive at the point where they are unwittingly willing to trade 'sex' for the attention, affection, and other benefits they receive from the offender. The child may be unaware of what is happening or that there is anything wrong with the ‘relationship.’ Seducing the parents is also part of the process, infused with charm, friendship and a demonstration of caring for their child(ren).

When victimizing young children, the sex is often made part of a game or horseplay and usually not completely understood as real sex by the child. Most of these offenders are simultaneously involved with multiple victims. This may include a group of children in the same class at school, scout troop, or neighborhood. The characteristic that seems to make this individual a master seducer of children is his ability to identify with them. He knows how to talk to children but, more importantly, he knows how to listen to them. He also knows how to charm the child's parents into thinking that he's the nicest guy around.

His adult status and authority are also an important part of the seduction process. All children are at risk from such seduction, but offenders frequently select as targets children who are from dysfunctional homes or victims of emotional or physical neglect.

The biggest problem for the child molester is not how to obtain child victims but how to get them to leave after they are too old.

Victim Characteristics
Children who become abuse victims have certain characteristics that make them 'ideal' victims from the offender’s point of view. Some of these characteristics are listed below.

Naturally Curious. Children have a natural curiosity about the world around them. As they grow older they become increasingly curious about sex and develop an active sex drive. For most children sex is a taboo subject about which they receive little accurate information especially from their parents. Most parents find it difficult to discuss sex with their children. A clever child molester, to lower children’s inhibitions and gradually seduce them into sexual activity, can easily exploit this natural curiosity and the lack of available information.

Easily Led by Adults. Many parents specifically instruct their children to respect and obey adults. Children are aware that their very survival depends on these powerful adults. In addition to fulfilling the physical and emotional needs of children, adults are bigger and stronger. Any adult child molester can simply exploit his or her size and adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior. Some child molesters exploit their status as individuals such as stepfathers, guardians, volunteers, youth leaders, and counselors to entice children into sexual activity. Child molesters who do not have this added adult authority sometimes impersonate individuals who do. For example they may falsely claim to be law-enforcement officers and clergy members.

Need for Attention and Affection. This is by far the most significant characteristic of children that makes them ideal victims especially for the seduction-acquaintance child molester. Even when they are getting attention and affection at home, children still crave and need it from others in their lives. It is important to realize that all children, even those from “normal” homes and “good” families, are at risk from such seduction techniques. Although all children are at some risk, it seems that the child from a dysfunctional home, who is the victim of emotional neglect or has strong feelings of alienation, is most vulnerable. Many victims get to the point where they are willing to trade sex for the attention and affection they get from some child molesters. It is sad but true that in many ways some child molesters treat their victims better than the victim’s own parents do. The seduction child molester exploits the child’s need for attention and affection to his advantage; however, the child molester is usually willing to supply all this attention and affection only as long as the child meets his age preferences. When the child gets too “old,” the attention and affection usually turn to neglect and rejection.

Need to Defy Parents. Many children, especially when they reach adolescence, go through a rebellious period. The child molester can exploit this to his advantage. Children who are victimized as a result of disobeying parental guidelines or rules will be reluctant to admit their error and may misrepresent the nature of their victimization. This is especially true of adolescent boys.

Single Parent Family. Large numbers of children are being raised in single-parent families. This is an ideal situation for the seduction-acquaintance child molester. Many working parents are desperate for affordable daycare and readily available babysitters. Many parents are not only not suspicious of adults who want to spend time with their children, but they welcome them. Parents should at least be suspicious of individuals who want to be together with their children for long periods of time.

Beware of anyone who wants to be with your children more than you do.

[Child Molesters: a Behavioral Analysis Kenneth V. Lanning FBI]

Children from dysfunctional families and families with poor communication are at significant risk for seduction. Older children are obviously at greater risk than younger children. Adolescent boys confused over their sexual orientation are at particularly high risk of such contacts.  

Although a variety of individuals sexually abuse children, preferential-type sex offenders, and especially pedophiles, are the primary acquaintance sexual exploiters of children. A preferential-acquaintance child molester might molest 10, 50, hundreds, or even thousands of children in a lifetime, depending on the offender and how broadly or narrowly child molestation is defined. And whether are caught or not.

Although pedophiles vary greatly, their sexual behavior is repetitive and highly predictable. While his preferential sexual interest in children affects his victim selection, however, most of his behavior is determined by a stunning lack of conscience.

Men sexually attracted to young adolescent boys are the most persistent and prolific child molesters known to the criminal-justice system. Depending on how one defines molestation, they can easily have dozens if not hundreds of victims in a lifetime. They usually begin their activity when they are teenagers themselves and continue throughout their lives as long as they are physically able.

Abuser behavior rationalization
Many pedophiles spend their entire lives attempting to convince themselves and others that they are not evil sexual perverts, but good guys who love and nurture children. That is a major reason why they do such things as join organizations where they can help troubled children and volunteer to search for missing children. Preferential offender’s have a driving need to rationalize and justify his behavior.

Because so many of them have successfully hidden their activities for so long, when identified and prosecuted they try to convince themselves that they will somehow continue to escape responsibility. This is why they often vehemently proclaim their innocence right up to the time of their trial.


[Edited and complied with thanks: Child Molesters: a Behavioral Analysis Kenneth V. Lanning FBI]


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