Monday, September 3, 2018

Protecting Our Children From Predators - Two Main Types

I wish that I only had to write an article or two in order to truly educate and equip parents adequately in the quest to protect their kids from predators. I wish it were that simple, that the issue lacked complexity and was just an "in your face, black and white" kind of issue. Unfortunately, it's not. I anticipate this series being longer than most I have ever written.

Mainly, because understanding predators is highly complex and, although I may have more expertise than the average person, I do not claim that I know everything about predators. I continue to study and read about them. I continue to work with them and talk with them, trying to understand what makes them tick, to fathom what switch goes off in the mind of someone that leads them to stalk and groom potential victims. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers and so I cannot even attempt to write the "3 easy steps to identifying and stopping a predator near you" book that I would love to write.

Instead, I will be writing this as a series, attempting to help parents understand predators better, protect their kids more effectively, and feel better-equipped against this population. As I learn more, I will write more...hoping that my understanding and wisdom evolve so that I can pass that on to all the parents who grace me with their attention. This is a deadly-serious phenomenon and I take the subject as such. For this article, I just want to make you all aware that there are two basic types of predators that lurk amongst us:

Aggressive Predators: These are the type of predators that, for years, most of us feared the most. These are the rapists and sadists, the serial murderers and the perpetrators of sexual violence. They prey mostly on strangers or victims of opportunity, although there are certainly plenty of examples of those who stalked particular victims for their violent acting-out. There are certainly plenty of these types of predators out there. No question about it. However, my main emphasis is going to be on the 2nd major type of predator:

The Charming Predator: The more I know, the more THIS is the type of predator that scares me the most. A much higher percentage of rape victims and victims of molestation are victimized by PEOPLE THEY KNOW. It is most often people they trust and that their parents trust. This is a frightening thing for me as a parent! These are the predators who are full of personality; friendly, amiable, polite and "normal-looking". Yet, under their fa├žade of normalcy they are constantly hunting...seeking out potential victims who are vulnerable, isolated, lonely, or insecure.

Children with busy parents are often targets as are fatherless kids or the kids who always feel like the "outsider". Like a lion on the prowl, he thirsts after the "weaker" members of the herd and then works to isolate them through charm, gifts, and making them feel special. We call this "grooming" and it is a dangerous and successful type of attack, for it doesn't feel like an attack at all. The remainder of this article will be focused on the charming-type of predator. HE is the guy I'm most worried about for the sake of my children. HE is the guy parents must be more aware of. HE is the greatest threat to my kids in the long run. HE is the betrayer of trust, the spoiler of innocence, the one with the greatest access to my little boy and my little girl; to YOUR children. Anna Salter in her book, "Predators" says it best:

"Buy a gun if you want, but guns will not likely help you. Sex offenders only very rarely sneak into a house in the middle of the night. More often they come through the front door in the day, as friends and neighbors, as Boy Scout leaders, priests, principals, teachers, doctors, and coaches. They are invited into our homes time after time, and we give them permission to take our children on the overnight camping trips, the basketball game, or down to the Salvation Army post for youth activities."

Ouch! Salter's words ring true as we look back over case after case of children who have been victimized. Too often, it has been a priest or a coach or a teacher or a Boy Scout leader........TOO OFTEN it has been family members or camp counselors or SOMEONE WE TRUSTED! The charming predators fly under our radar, they slink into our lives with a smile and a joke. We WANT to believe in them. They make us want to believe them. And we do....we let down our guard, give them access to our kids and end up picking up the pieces of the wounded hearts left behind.

There must be a way to stop this, to protect our kids. After all, we can't assume everyone is a predator. To do so would be to shelter our kids so much as to be harmful to their social development. Truly, not every adult who loves kids is a predator. But, some are..... and as a step towards greater awareness let me elaborate a bit on the methods of a charming predator:

o They are intuitive about vulnerability: They are excellent at finding children who will allow them to gain control of the relationship, usually because of the emotional voids and needs of the child. Charming predators are uncanny in their ability to identify these kids.

o They approach potential targets with caution: These predators are not stupid. They will avoid detection at all costs so they are more cautious than their aggressive counterparts. They will advance towards their target slowly, offering some kind of gesture (material or emotional) and see how the child reacts to it. If the child seems scared or rejects the overture, this predator will pull back immediately and, if questioned, can easily cover his tracks. After all, his early gestures or gifts will seem trivial to the average person...and he can easily backtrack and hunt for easier targets. Remember, his initial approach to children will be of the "low-risk" variety.

o Vulnerability is emotionally and sexually stimulating to them: The seduction of the child is part of the "juice" that gets him going. He does not prey on our kids by using sex, primarily...he uses trust. He works to gain the trust of the kids AND the trust of the PARENTS. Remember this: the charming predator is a patient predator. He does not mind at all if it takes months to gain the trust of a child or a parent. It is sad but, as parents, we must keep our guard up longer than we would like in regards to new adults in the lives of our kids.

o Charming predators appear as normal people. We don't want to believe this but this is what makes them so successful. The charming predator does not look like a monster. In fact, many times the only abnormal part of them is that they sexually offend against children. Now, we know this is a HUGE abnormality but he hides this part of himself. He is often a great employee, a talented teacher, a concerned citizen, and a loyal friend. THIS IS WHY THEY GET AWAY WITH IT. See, aggressive predators often have more trouble hiding their true colors (not always but often). Charming predators, on the other hand, are masters of disguise. We will discuss, in later articles, how we can better identify them. For now, just realize that even though we cannot fathom how anyone could perform sexual actions on small children and still seem happens all the time.

In my next article, I will go into more detail on the "seduction process" that charming predators often employ. For now, I just want parents to have a better understanding of the types of individuals we are up against. Against the aggressive predators, we must be alert at all times, so we don't give an aggressive predator an opportunity to make us or our children their victims. Teach your kids to act alert at all times, to pay attention to someone following them or to notice if someone watches them more than they're comfortable with. Have your kids walk with a partner all the time, if possible. Enroll your kids in classes on self-defense which will teach them ways to make themselves a hard target. Aggressive predators prefer the easier targets so teach your children how to become a more difficult one, and many predators will move on to more susceptible game.

Charming predators are more difficult to identify. But, don't worry. We're going to work through this together. We're going to learn about their methods and we're going to learn how to be better at spotting the warning signs. Together, we're going to make the world around our children a little safer.

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