Archive for the ‘sex predators’ Category

How the Child Molester Chooses His Victim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

He looks in their eyes. He looks for shyness, a lack of confidence. Sadness, loneliness. Anger at mom and dad. Needs unfulfilled. When he sees any of this, he knows his chances are good. When he sees trust, he knows he’s hit the jackpot.

Trust is the key. It allows a predator to establish (and continue) his relationship with a child. Whatever a little girl or boy is not getting at home–attention, kindness, validation, love–that’s what the sexual abuser will give them. The problem is that this “gift” comes at tremendous cost to the child, who can spend the rest of their life paying for it.

Who is this guy?? As I’ve alluded, the child sex offender is most often male. He can be virtually any age, from 7 to 75 and beyond. Look around; you and he probably know each other. I’m not implying that you hang around with criminals and low-lifes. I’m saying that he’s someone you might not expect: a married neighbor… a co-worker… your friend who comes over on weekends to help with a project… the guy at church who’s a “grandpa” to all the kids… maybe Uncle Joe who’s not really an uncle but a close family friend.

One thing I’ve found in the years I’ve been teaching Child Safety and Self-Defense is that the catchy phrase, “Stranger Danger” frustrates the heck out of me. It’s cute because it rhymes, and lets parents believe they’re protecting their children by steering them away from people they don’t know. But it’s dangerous because it’s misleading. Certainly, there are still cases of children being abused by the stereotypical stranger hiding in the bushes, waiting to grab them. But in over 90% of cases, day-to-day child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child already knows. Over 90% by someone the child knows.

How does he seduce a child? With the things that children love. “Mommy’s too busy to play with you? You can come to my house and we’ll play; I have lots of toys!”

“You’re not allowed to watch that show at home? Well, you just come over here, and we’ll watch it together!”

Maybe he has a scooter in front of his house, or a child’s bike. Or maybe there’s a bench or a picnic table because he enjoys chatting with the kids–it “keeps him young,” he says. In the parlance of criminal psychology, these items and their placement by the predator are anything but innocent. They’re called set-ups. He uses them to lure children into his lair.

If you’re in a social setting–maybe at a party, or at a park–with children and adults, is there an adult who seems to prefer being with the kids? Someone who spends more time playing with them than seeking adult company? This is a red flag. Teachers, pediatricians, childcare workers, etc. love children, which is why they choose the careers they do. But, put them in a gathering with families and, after smiling and encouraging the kids, they’ll turn their attention to the adults for stimulating conversation. The predator finds stimulation among the children.

I offer these danger signs to be aware of, so you can continue to protect your children as much as possible. None of us likes the idea of living near a possible sex offender. And certainly, nobody wants to march down the street and start hurling accusations at a neighbor. Even if you did, a predator will lie to protect himself. But, like my grandmother used to say, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…” that may be one bird you want to keep a close watch on.

The Biggest Reasons NOT to Attack a Woman

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Criminal psychologists, sociologists, and others who study human behavior have gone into prisons to ask convicted rapists and murderers how they chose their targets. What they have learned may surprise you. Attackers don’t look for the smallest woman, or the one who seems weakest. They’re not really concerned with what she’s wearing or how far from the store she parked. They look for what’s not there: confidence and awareness. Criminals are expert in interpreting the nuances of human behavior, and they can quickly size up who most likely will and won’t fight back.

Someone walking with her head down, perhaps with her arms crossed in front of her body, projects insecurity. Because she’s trying so hard to be invisible, she’s not paying attention to what’s going on around her. This leaves her open to a surprise attack.

Conversely, a woman who walks briskly with her head up, eyes alert and scanning the scene around her, signals, “Don’t mess with me.” According to many of the convicts interviewed, they won’t.

Imagine the following scenario: A serial rapist lurks in the shadows outside a shopping center. He’s assessing potential targets as they exit the mall and head into the parking lot. Who would make an easy victim?

  • First is a cute 21-year-old in a slinky dress, probably going to meet her friends for a night on the town. She strides purposefully to her car.
  • Then, there’s you, dressed for function rather than to impress, in relaxed-fit jeans and a comfortable top. You’re chatting on your cell phone with a friend.
  • And here comes an elderly lady, toting shopping bags and looking around the parking lot as she makes her way slowly to her car.

Who is he going to pick? Not the youngest of the three. The strong, alert way she moved indicated she would fight for herself. Attackers don’t want to have to battle with their victims; that’s too likely to draw unwanted attention and intervention.

He won’t choose the oldest woman, either. Even though her arms were full of packages, she continually noted what was going on around her as she made her way through the parking lot. She would see him approaching, and have time to prepare.

That leaves you. Because your attention is divided between your phone conversation and your walk to the car, you don’t even know he’s there. You’ve made yourself the easiest target for him to surprise, subdue, and violate–probably to the point of serious injury, possibly to death.

Don’t allow yourself to become easy prey. If you feel you need a boost in projecting that “Don’t mess with me” signal, get into a self-defense class designed for women. In RAD, everything we do is designed to strengthen that double shield of confidence and awareness.

Yell for Your Life!

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Just the other day, a woman was attacked in broad daylight. The assailant held a pair of scissors and threatened that, if she made a sound, he would cut her. So, she remained quiet. And he raped her.

Every situation is different, and no one can second-guess this woman’s decision to stay quiet, just as  no one can say that the outcome would have been better had she screamed for her life. The fact is that, against this attacker, in this instance, she made a right choice because she survived.

Notice I said “a right choice,” not “the right choice.” Did she survive because she stayed quiet? We don’t know. The rapist might have been ready to kill her if she cried out for help. Then again, a loud yell of “NOOO!” might have caused him to flee the scene, so no nearby drivers or pedestrians could get a good look at him.

RAD teaches women to yell when responding to an attacker. First of all, yelling alerts everyone in the vicinity that something dangerous is happening and someone needs help. It draws attention and potentially a lot of eyes exactly where the assailant doesn’t want them–right on him. Rather than stay around and continue the attack, he is likely to flee to protect his identity.

Second, yelling keeps you breathing. It’s easy to hyperventilate when we’re frightened; our hearts pound, adrenalin rushes through our bodies, and our breathing becomes shallow. Without enough oxygen, we can become disoriented, move more slowly, and might even pass out. Yelling helps us get an adequate air supply into our lungs and up to our brains so we can fight to protect ourselves.

And, there’s a third reason to yell. When you use your personal safety weapons (fists, knees, etc.) against a rapist, yelling while you strike makes you 30% stronger. Your abdominal muscles are engaged, your blood is oxygenated, and your mind is clear and focused. You can think quickly and do what you need to do to survive.


Real-Life: Not-A-Stranger Danger

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Scanning the national headlines this morning, the first thing I read is this: More than 100 Could Be Victims of Pediatrician. Setting aside concern for what the actual number of children violated by this doctor may be, the point I want to draw attention to is that this man was not a stranger to them. As their doctor, he was someone they were familiar with–and he held a position of authority in their eyes. And he used that authority to help him commit his crimes.

Parents, you are in charge of your child’s safety and well-being. You know this; I’m not telling you anything new. What I will recommend, though, is that you do not leave your young children in the hands of an adult you do not know very well. If your child’s doctor or dentist says, “We prefer to bring the child back for the exam and have Mom or Dad stay in the waiting room,” they may have perfectly legitimate reasons for that. Or, they may want to separate a child from the best caretaker they have. My response to this practice has always been either, “No thank you, I’ll go back, too,” or “Thank you anyway; we’ll go somewhere else.”

Frequently, a concerned parent will come up to me and ask if my classes will teach their child to “Beware of Stranger Danger.” While I assure them that we do cover this quite a bit in radKIDS, I also want them to understand that, very often, it’s not the strangers that they need to watch out for. The danger may well lie with the people their kids already know–especially when those people hold a position of authority over children. This can include teachers, clergy, police officers–adults in general. Children are taught to “respect” their elders and do what they are told. But what does that mean? Is respect demonstrated by blind obedience?  By quietly acquiescing and allowing oneself to be belittled, injured, raped by someone with a sick mind? If a child unwittingly finds him/herself alone with someone who wants to harm them, are they forbidden from protecting themselves?

I believe we must be careful in what we teach our children. They want to please us and do what we tell them. Therefore, we must tell them that it’s okay to protect themselves if they feel they’re in danger. More than okay, it’s important. They need to know that they’re valuable, that they’re worth fighting for, and that no one has the right to hurt them. Not a stranger, not a neighbor, family friend, babysitter, teacher. Not even a doctor.

What They Know Can Hurt You

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Blogging in the quiet of an office, or the pretend-privacy of a cubicle, we can convince ourselves that we’re alone, tucked safely away from the rest of the world. Hidden from the prying eyes of “bad guys” who enjoy hurting us “good guys.”

I’m a Children’s Safety and Self-Defense Instructor, certified through radKIDS, Inc. And I’m seeing posts more and more frequently–from adults–that I find increasingly alarming. The simple rules I teach kids to follow to protect themselves online are often ignored by their parents–and the end result can be devastating.

Recently, on a public message board, a seemingly-intelligent woman of sound judgment gave out not only her own name (first and last) and workplace, but also the names and ages of her two young daughters. She included their grades and the names and locations of the schools they attended.

If readers followed her posts, they soon learned what each girl did after school, and where they did it. Yes, this was a very proud mom, sharing a wonderful picture of a close-knit family. It gave me chills.

With just a few posts, this woman gave every child sexual predator who was interested all the information they needed to locate either or both of her daughters. They had physical descriptions, their whereabouts during and after school, and worst, their names, to casually call them over for a chat. (Kids are often taught to “be polite” to adults, especially ones who smile and say, “Remember me? I work with your mom! That’s how I know your name.”)

Convicted sexual offenders number one per every square mile in the U.S. In the past year, several news stories involving the disappearance, rape, and murder of young people have traced the source of a predator’s contact with his victim to information volunteered on a public website. Partly because of this, MySpace.com did a clean sweep of its entire member list and threw out over 39,000 convicted predators–and those were only the ones who registered under their real names. Facebook is currently planning similar action.

What does all this mean for you and me? It means that “bad guys” surf the web. They read blogs; they wait in chat rooms. They look at personal profiles. They hunt. And they find. Don’t let them find you or anyone you love. Keep your personal information private. Your friends and family already know it. No one else needs to.