Don’t stereotype child abusers as looking like social misfits

Don’t stereotype child abusers as looking like social misfits

Since April is “Child Abuse Awareness” month, there is something for parents and the public to keep in mind about child predators.

Sexual predators are rarely the scary stranger standing on the street corner, but instead they are typically someone you know.

They are very cunning and manipulative. They know every trick on how to groom, threaten, lie, and put the fear of God into children and sometimes even their family members. They also appear to do a lot of good things; they can be very charismatic and you may think they would never harm a child. They have to be this way, in order to not get caught and to continue to abuse.

Sexual predators are often powerful and well loved. It would be comforting if those who preyed on the vulnerable were obvious social misfits whose appearance would somehow set off alarm bells and give us the willies or the creeps. They rarely do. Usually, predators are among the last people we would suspect of sexually violating others. While they are grooming the child and even family members, they devote lots of time and energy building trust with them by giving them money and gifts. They tend to make children feel that they are special and loved.

Also, we must stop thinking that because a man is old, that somehow he’s automatically safe. It’s just irresponsible to endanger kids by assuming an adult is harmless simply because he or she may be losing hair, wearing glasses, using hearing aids or walking with a cane.

These can be signs of advancing age, but they are not signs that an individual is safe around kids.

It takes a lot of courage to speak up and take action about being sexually abused. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. Some have many. Child predators need to be reported to law enforcement and kept far away from kids forever.

Keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting our children today.

Judy Jones, Marthasville, Mo.

Jones is an associate director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, that has investigated cases in the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.