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  • Pedophiles

  • Preferential Child Sexual Abusers

  • Situational Child Sexual Abusers

1. Pedophiles have a sexual preference for children. This in itself does not make them criminals. They get into trouble when they act on their impulses and, for example, start paying for viewing or collecting child pornography which is a serious victim-exploiting crime.

2. If pedophiles act on their impulses they become the second type of predator; preferential child sexual abusers. They have no interest in having sex with adults, only children, usually pre-pubescent. These are generally male and have a distinct pattern to their predatory behavior, including recruiting victims – referred to as ‘grooming’ – and retaining them in an ongoing pattern of sexual abuse while ensuring that they do not disclose the abuse - see 'The Secret' below and on how homepage here. These first two kinds of predators are called preferential; meaning that they have a distinct sexual preference for children.

3. The third kind is the situational sexual abuser. This abuser is one of opportunity. He or she enjoys having sex with adults and have sex with children when the opportunity arises. For example, when they are left alone with a child, they’re drunk, they’re angry at the child or mother and assault the child to hurt the mother – there’s a long list of reasons. They key word is opportunity.

All three are dangerous to children all the time. What is a distinctive feature in their behavior is their lack of conscience.

How do we identify a predator?
Contrary to popular belief, predators do not often skulk around playgrounds in dirty raincoats. They are everyman or everywoman. They live in plain sight among us; sometimes in our own families. They are fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, friends, doctors, soccer coaches, clergy, boy-scout leaders, police, child care workers, therapists, teachers. Not all of these people are child sex abusers but many child sex abusers choose these professions for access to children. The key word here is access.
A particular red flag are single parent families which offer predators’ immense opportunity to have access to children under the guise of dating, marriage or being ‘good to the children.’

Grooming: how predators and abusers choose their victims.
Children in general have certain characteristics that make them ideal victims from the offender’s point of view. Among these children's characteristics: they are naturally curious; many are easily led by adults particularly when brought up to respect their elders; they have a need for attention and affection (most of us do); some have a need to defy their parents.
Attracting these children is referred to as 'grooming.' Predators also groom the parents to lull them into a sense of security in letting the predator have access to their child.

An important element in the grooming process is the selection of a victim. Many abusers have multiple concurrent victims and, if left to run their life course un-arrested, some will have had hundreds if not thousands of victims in their lifetime.

Grooming: how it's done
They ‘court’ the child the way adults court each other in a romantic relationship. Gifts, flattery, play, attention, all go into the mix. What the abuser is doing is replacing the parent’s role of affection and attention. They often choose as their victims children who have problems communicating with their parents; those whose parents don’t pay enough attention to them. They look to fill that void. They're so good at what they do that parents never suspect their intentions. They also woo the parents to be accepted and trusted with the children. Predators are masters at building relationships. Their biggest problem is not getting the child, it's getting rid of the child when they become too old for them and their interest in them wanes.

The 'secret.' As already mentioned recurrent abusers rarely hurt the child as that would encourage disclosure. They encourage the child to understand that the behavior be kept a secret – just between them. They do this by keeping photographs, warning of the embarrassment to the child and family should anyone find our about what has happened; by blaming the child for initiating it; by rewarding the child with gifts and outings; by telling the child that disclosure would break up the family structure; that the sexual abuse is a demonstration of their ‘love’ for the child. On and on. And the child, being a child, believes them. They know no differently. The 'secret' is the key component of this disturbing relationship, one that is a cornerstone of a child sexual abusers success and survival.


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