Archive for the ‘sex predators’ Category

Who’s Got the Power?

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

child with eyes covered

You’ve probably all heard about the sexual abuse allegedly committed against young boys by a former Penn State football coach. So, I’m not going to talk about that. You probably also know about the university’s alleged cover-up of the events. So I won’t go into that, either.

There is one point that I came across in my reading about all of this, and that is what I want to bring to your attention. Red flags waved and alarm bells sounded in my mind when I came across the words of the young man currently identified as Victim 1 in the case. When his mother asked him why he didn’t tell her what was happening, why he didn’t tell the coach to stop, or even run away from him, he replied simply, “You just don’t say no to Coach Sandusky.”

That’s it. “You just don’t say no.” Not to the coach. Not to the teacher. Or the doctor, the minister, the camp counselor, or any other adult or authority figure in a child’s life. Why not? Because we teach children to be “respectful” of adults, which is often interpreted as being obedient, doing what they’re told. We teach them to have “good manners,” not to “talk back” or “act up.”

And that’s fine. I’m certainly not against teaching kids to respect their elders. But there’s something else that we need to teach them: No one has the right to hurt me. ‘Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s not. No one likes getting hurt, sure. But kids need to be taught that it’s not okay for someone to hurt them–not other kids, and definitely not adults who should be taking care of them. In fact, it’s so important that kids understand this, it’s the first thing we teach RAD Kids when they take Violence Prevention classes.

The next thing we teach them is, “If someone tries to hurt me, I can make it stop.” How? There are lots of ways, all stemming from the child’s own feeling of empowerment. And that’s the key: our children must realize that they have the power to stop violence against them. If someone is hurting them (or trying to), they don’t have to be respectful. They don’t have to use good manners, say ‘please,’ or remain quiet. And they don’t have to wait, and suffer, and hope for some other adult to come and rescue them. They can rescue themselves!

The third principle we teach is, “If someone hurts me (or tries to), it’s never my fault. So I can tell! Tell a trusted adult who can help. If that adult doesn’t help, keep telling until someone does help. Again, this is about empowering your child. You can be sure that the Bad Guy who tries to mess with your kid will tell them to keep their “special friendship” a secret, and may even give them presents and take them on fun outings to buy their silence.

Abusive relationships are all about the abuser having power over the victim. You can have polite, respectful children who, at the same time, are empowered to keep themselves safe. Teach your child that no one is allowed to hurt them, and that they have the power to make it stop.

Predators Use Games to Grab Your Kids

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Fiverr Color Image 1 Hand Out of TV Screen RESIZE

Predators are playing your Wii… in your house… to get your child.

At a Child Safety Seminar the other day, an agent from the North Carolina Department of Justice told me that the newest way child predators are finding victims is through video games. XBox… Wii… Nintendo DS…. They like smart phones and tablets, too. In fact, whatever the latest technology,the  Bad Guys have figured out how to work it to their twisted advantage.

Can’t be, you say! My child is playing in the safety of our living room; I can see him/her with my own eyes! Yes. But the game in their hands connects to the internet. Predators connect to the internet to find kids–and they know where kids gather. As the DOJ officer explained, it’s easy for an abductor or sex predator to make contact with young, innocent players by chatting and sending messages about the game they’re playing. Kids are flattered that someone they don’t even know wants to talk to them about their strategy, technique, and scores.

Once initial contact is established, luring a victim out of parents’ protective reach is simple. In fact, for these guys, the whole process is virtually as easy as reaching through the tv screen to snatch their next victim.

It’s an internet-enabled world, and kids are taught from preschool onward how to operate a computer. So, throwing the Wii out the window and forbidding our kids to touch a keyboard is not the answer. Then what can we do to keep our kids safe? Talk to them! Tell them never to put their personal information out onto the ‘net. No one needs to know their real name, age, where they live, what grade they’re in, what school they go to… even what sports they like or that their pet hamster’s name is Scooter. The Bad Guys might try to trick them into revealing important facts with questions like, “What kind of job does your mom or dad have?” Make sure kids know that any attempt by another “gamer” to make contact could be dangerous. If it happens, they should simply stop playing and go get a parent. The connection should be immediately ended, and the contact reported to police.

Yesterday it was desktops and laptops. Today, it’s smart phones, iPads and games. Tomorrow, it will be… who knows what? Doesn’t matter. The rule is always the same: Don’t give your personal info to anyone over any form of technology. Just as legend says vampires cannot enter your home unless you invite them in, predators can’t get to your kids unless they are allowed to. By repeatedly stressing that we don’t give out any personal info over computer/phone/gaming systems, etc., you keep the Bad Guys from getting in.

Amazon Supports Pedophile Guide

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I’m one of those folks who’s all for looking at issues from a new perspective. If someone’s got a different point of view and I can learn something from them, great. Still, there are absolutes that I live my life by, and some things are just indefensible. This is one of them:

“The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure” is a how-to manual for adults who wish to engage in sexual activity with children–a practice which, by the way, is against the law. The fact that this book was written doesn’t surprise me. Working as a radKIDS Instructor for the past few years has made me very aware of the sick and twisted members of our society who prey on the innocent.

The fact that, a website I frequent for books and other online purchases, supports it and considers it worthy of selling? This I find disgraceful. And simply unacceptable.

Yes, Amazon is a private company and, therefore, can sell whatever it wants to (within the limits of the law). And yes, this piece of “work” has come under the scrutiny of police officials and been found not to cross the boundary of legality in the strictest definition of the word. That that it cannot be immediately pulled from the cyber-shelves on grounds of unlawfulness does not make it less dangerous, but more so. Its presence on Amazon lends it false credibility and undeserved legitimacy.

Those who have protested Amazon’s acceptance of the book have been attacked by proponents of “free speech!” I love my right to free speech. And I understand that, from time to time, I will come across thoughts and ideas that I may not like, but they are protected under the First Amendment. I also understand that not every word uttered by a human being meets the criteria to be covered by “free speech!” Hate speech, for one, is not protected. Nor is speech deliberate in its intent to cause harm to another. And that’s exactly what The Pedophile’s Guide is.

No one, regardless of personal problems, mental or emotional issues, or past torments, has the right to hurt a child. It’s that simple. Talking about how to do it, writing an “informational guide” or “instructional manual” on the best ways to violate, humiliate, and permanently damage those who cannot protect themselves is not something to be valued and protected. It is criminal.

Do you consider yourself open-minded? Excellent. Here’s a review of the book by someone who might babysit your kids some time:

“I can’t thank Amazon enough for keeping this great work of literature up for those of us with ‘special tastes.’ The instructions and images in the guide were extremely insightful and led to a wonderful experience for both myself and my partner. Thank you for protecting free speech, Amazon!”

Has the Almighty Dollar usurped our decency, morality, and the recognition that we must protect our children? This is not about “free speech!” or the right of this “author” to make money from his writing. This is about one of the strongest sites on the internet supporting a book about the “joy” of child rape.

“It’s So Great!”

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Upon finishing my most recent RAD Women’s Self-Defense class, I asked the participants what they thought. Had they gotten what they wanted from the class? Did they feel safer going out into the world? They responded that, yes, they had learned new ways of protecting themselves, and if they ever found themselves in a dangerous situation, they would be ready to do what they had to do.

My youngest student, a young woman of 17, said to me, “You know what’s really cool? It’s so great to find out what you can do!” During the class, she found out that she had not only the will, but the power and the ability to take down a male attacker much taller and heavier than herself, and to render him incapable of continuing his assault. She found out that, if she ever needs to, she can and defend herself successfully. She can fight for her life and win.

That knowledge alone makes her safer as she goes about her life. Why? Because muggers, rapists, and thugs of all kinds are experts at body language. They can spot a potential target from across a parking lot, or down a busy street. The person who’s looking down at their feet, who’s thinking, “Don’t anyone look at me; I don’t want any trouble,” is going to pull their attention. The one busily chatting on her cell phone, telling herself that it will keep her safe, is going to have him shaking his head and chuckling before he slips quietly behind her and grabs her. (And what will her friend on the other end of the phone do to “help” her at that point? Tell the police that he heard her scream and drop the phone.)

Then there’s the RAD woman who strides to her destination with purpose, looking at what’s happening around her. The one who’s thinking, “What if someone came from over there? What tools do I have available to fight with right now?” He’s going to stay away from that one–too much trouble. She’d see him coming and be able to provide the police with a description. She also might be ready to counter his best take-down move. He’d lose the element of surprise. If he can’t sneak up on her so she’s paralyzed with shock and fear, she’s liable to start yelling and attract attention. And that’s definitely not what he wants. Better to find a easy victim and leave the RAD chick alone.

A Child’s First Weapon

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

In the news today, an 83-year-old man was arrested for groping an 8-year-old child. He went through mug shots, prints, jail time, the whole bit. Now he has a police record. This was his first arrest. ‘Think this was his first time molesting a kid? Not a chance. Sexual abuse of children is a serial crime; perpetrators do it over and over throughout their lives. In fact, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the typical molester abuses 30-60 kids before he’s ever arrested, and as many as 380 in his lifetime. 380 children. Groped, molested, and/or raped. It’s mind-boggling.

The good news in all of this? Parents are teaching their kids to fight back. Not necessarily to punch the sex offender in the face, which could lead to immediate and even more dangerous consequences for a child alone with an unbalanced adult. But to use the first weapon available to them–their voice. Kids are being taught to tell! And they’re doing it, and their parents are taking action!

What are they saying? To the predator, they’re saying, “Stop! Don’t touch me!”  To their parents, teachers, and counselors, they’re saying, “Mom, Mr. Owens put his hand on my chest,” or “Mr. James touched my rear,” or “Ms. Linwood was doing something weird to my arm, and I didn’t like it.”

We’ve all heard stories, maybe even know some people who were abused as kids. Some readers here were victims themselves. Maybe they told their parents. Most likely, they didn’t. Some were taught that “respecting their elders” included allowing themselves to be hurt by adults. Others were afraid, believing the predator who told them, “Your folks will be mad at you if they find out,” or “If you tell what happened, we’ll both go to jail.” Still others tried to tell, but no one believed them: “What a terrible thing to say! Shame on you!” or “Mr. Smith would never do such a thing! Are you looking for attention??”

What police, psychologists, and others who work with child predators have learned between then and now is that

  1. Kids rarely make up stories about being molested. So, if a child tells you that someone touched them in the wrong way, it’s most likely true.
  2. Abusers can be male or female, in the city, the suburbs, or the countryside, young, old, or in-between.
  3. Child molesters are charming, friendly… and manipulators of the highest order. They will seem to you to be the nicest, warmest, safest people around. They’re very good at what they do–they made their victims feel safe long enough to molest them. They are wolves who will smile at you and try to trick you into accepting the word of a criminal, and not believing your own child.

So, if your child comes to you and confides that someone has molested them, know that it’s not your child’s fault. And then, for their sake, act. Call in the pros, the police. Let them do their jobs. Continue to love and parent your child, and give them what they need. Your teaching has shown them that they’re special and valuable, and that no one has the right to hurt them. And it has shown them the importance of using their voice, their first weapon, to defend themselves and stop the Bad Guy.

She Did “Everything Right”

Monday, May 17th, 2010

A few days ago, I wrote about the attempted abduction of a woman in Chapel Hill, NC. The suspect grabbed her as she jogged along a busy street, at approximately 2 in the afternoon. Police investigators have reason to believe that the man charged in the crime may also be involved in other recent incidents, including the attempted kidnapping of two teenage girls and the severe beating of a woman still in Intensive Care.

The attacker had a shotgun and a baseball bat in his car, and a pack of condoms in his pocket. However, when asked by a reporter if women in the area should be worried, Lt. Kevin Gunter of the Chapel Hill Police Department said no: “This was a woman that was jogging in an area that is very well traveled with both pedestrians and vehicles, broad daylight. She absolutely did nothing wrong.”

No woman who has ever been or will be attacked does anything “wrong” to invite the attack. As a friend of mine said, “She could be sashaying naked through the woods at midnight! While not smart, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to attack her.” So, not doing anything wrong does not appear to be enough of a reassurance to women that they will stay safe.

Look at what the officer said: the victim was in a well-traveled area, with plenty of car and foot traffic. It was broad daylight. She was doing everything right. And look at what happened: she was grabbed by a man in front of several witnesses. He proceeded to drag her to his car, in which he had weapons. He is believed to have a history of violent crimes. If two bystanders hadn’t intervened in the kidnapping attempt, this jogger would likely have been raped and murdered by this man.

I think that’s more than enough grounds for women to be concerned–if not necessarily “worried”–for their safety. I know that the police see the worst of the worst when it comes to the evils that human beings can commit against one another. Perhaps Lt. Gunter believes all’s well that ends well, and with this man in custody for the time being, women need not worry about a threat to their well-being. My concern is that these women may not have paid attention to their safety before this happened–and then it happened. The very fact that things still happen, whether we’re prepared for them or not, seems reason enough to me to be prepared.

I’m not advocating living in fear, being afraid every time you go out, or burying your head in the sand when it comes to crime. I’m saying to get out there, take a self-defense class, and learn not only physical skills to use against an assault, but some new ideas on how to avoid being chosen as a target in the first place. Because, yeah, this guy is off the streets for now. But, what if someone else is waiting around the corner?

Movie Scene Scarily Accurate

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Talented screen actor Stanley Tucci received an Academy Award nomination for his frighteningly accurate portrayal of neighbor George Harvey in the movie The Lovely Bones, about the murder of a young girl, and its effects on her family. If you haven’t seen the film, consider watching it. It’s well-made, suspenseful, and moving. And if you do decide to rent it, pay close attention to the scene in which Harvey lures his victim to her death. It may not be what you’d expect–and it could have been transcribed from real-life.

Scene opens: Susie Salmon walks home from school by herself. Chasing a windblown slip of paper across a cornfield, she encounters a neighbor who pretends to try to catch the paper for her.

“Ohh! I hope that wasn’t your homework!”

This is a red flag–a stranger trying to help her. Called “false teaming,” it’s a common way for rapists to gain the trust of their victims. The predator spots his target, then waits for an opportunity to “help” her in some way. He might offer to carry grocery bags or heavy packages, unlock a car door, or, as in this case, try to recover something that was dropped. He knows that girls and women have been trained to be “nice,” to respond with gratitude rather than with caution.

Harvey, meeting no resistance from Susie, continues with his plan:

“Oh, hey, you’re the Salmon girl, right? Remember me? I live right down the street in the green house–Mr. Harvey.”

He’s letting her know that he’s not a “stranger,” therefore not dangerous. He doesn’t mind telling her his name and where he lives; he knows she’ll never have the chance to tell anyone what he did to her.

“How are your folks doin’? Tell ’em I said hi.”

He even knows her parents–further evidence that he’s not a stranger. And everyone knows it’s strangers you have to watch out for, not neighbors who live “right down the street.”

Susie responds politely, looking wary but offering no resistance to his somehow-inappropriate chattiness and eagerness. His excitement increases as he sees that, even though she thinks something isn’t right, she would rather be polite than trust her gut.

“You’re the perfect person for me to run into!”

Moving ahead with his lure, he implies that he needs her help–she’s just the right person he needs! When she gives a half-hearted excuse for not wanting to go with him, he feigns disappointment:

“I just worked so hard on it… and I just got excited for someone to see it….”

He knows that her need to be polite and not hurt anyone’s feelings will work for him. Against her better judgment, she follows him. He coaxes her down the ladder and into his secret chamber.

Notice, parents and guardians of children:

  • He was someone she knew. He was not a “stranger.”
  • He never touched her to get her there. He didn’t jump out of the bushes and grab her, or tackle her from behind a parked car. He never even got close to her.
  • He was not dressed in a scary costume, complete with a dark mask and black clothes that signal “Bad Guy here!”
  • He did not speak roughly or meanly to her. He called her by name in a friendly manner, and asked about her family.
  • He asked for her help, making her feel important. Adults in need of assistance of any kind should seek help from other adults, never from children.
  • He played on her emotions, making her believe she hurt his feelings, and knowing she would try to “make it up to him.”

Yes, there are child abductions/murders perpetrated by strangers. But more often, they involve someone the child has seen before–a neighbor, a friend of mom’s or dad’s, the guy who works at the store you frequent. And the reason they happen is because these people aren’t strangers. Children tend to trust adults they’ve seen before because they don’t fit their idea of a scary, black-cloaked “stranger.” When an adult has a child’s trust, luring them is easy.

New App is False Security

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Have you seen the commercial Verizon is currently running? It’s for a new app they’re selling, called Family Locator. Verizon claims it’s “peace of mind at your fingertips.”

The ad shows a mom at the mall with her teen daughter. The mom appears concerned for the young girl’s safety as she turns, armed with her cell phone, and heads down the escalator with her friends. But, not to worry! Mom has peace of mind at her fingertips with the new Family Locator app. Just by touching a few buttons, GPS technology lets her dial into the precise location of the cell phone in her daughter’s hand. Mom can pinpoint the locations of other family members as well–and if any of them should need help, she can instantly call up driving directions to the exact spot highlighted on their phone.

Of course, issues can arise that won’t be serious enough to require the Family Locator: “Hello, Mom? Jenny isn’t feeling well. Can you come and get us?” Still, it can give you turn-by-turn directions to the food court if you really want them.

What’s deceptive about this ad–and this app–is that it’s not a family locator; it’s a phone locator. For an actual emergency of the kind the ad hints at, the odds of the daughter keeping her phone in her possession are low. In an abduction or assault, one of the first things her attacker will do is cut off her ability to call for help. He’s going to get rid of that phone quickly, whether it’s in her hand, her purse, or hanging from her belt. He’ll likely break it, or just throw it into a garbage can or across the parking lot. So, Mom is pinging her cell and thinking things are fine: “Ah, she’s still in the department store.” She doesn’t realize her daughter is in danger, because the cell phone is reporting its location, not the girl’s. Meanwhile, the daughter is trapped with a predator, and valuable search time is being lost.

Now, I’m not trying to “rat out” Verizon. I think they’re excellent cell phone providers. But my first concern is for keeping kids safe. And this app, while it has definite uses, cannot keep kids safe. That’s fine, except that it’s being advertised as if it can.

If you want greater peace of mind when your kids are out on their own, my best suggestion is to sign them up for a self-defense class that will teach them

  1. how to recognize tricks that predators use to lure kids every day
  2. how to get help quickly in a public place and
  3. how to physically defend themselves if they need to

This knowledge will serve them much better than a cell phone app.

Unprotected Through a Mine Field

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Last fall, on her short walk home from school, Somer Thompson was abducted by a child molester. Police found her body 2 days later, tossed into a garbage heap. Parents, friends, and neighbors were shocked that such violence could happen where they lived. They had chosen a safe place, a “good place” to raise their children. There were lots of families. Adults drove slowly because kids were always running around and playing outside. People knew their neighbors or, at least, recognized their faces. There was a feeling of trust. So, what makes a seemingly good, safe neighborhood dangerous?

Let’s take a closer look. Near Somer’s house, in between the mowed lawns and flower beds, stood an empty house that the kids walked past on their way to and from school. It was being renovated and prepped for sale. Are their any empty buildings in your neighborhood? As mobile a society as we’ve become, it’s easy to find vacant houses in just about any neighborhood. People need to move for their jobs, and sometimes, their house stays on the market longer than they expect. It’s simply a fact of life today. Even with a realtor’s lock on the front door, their are ways to get inside. Just ask any kid looking for adventure–or ask a bad guy. A building that stands empty for any length of time is an open invitation to criminals: “Here’s a hiding place. Just be quick about it; no one will see what goes on in here.” It’s a crime scene waiting to happen.

Who travels through the neighborhood every day? There are probably some at-home moms and maybe a few at-home dads, part-time and shift workers. There are the package delivery trucks driving in and out all day… letter carriers…. What about construction crews? A social worker friend shared this bit of info with me: the easiest way for a predator to move through an area unquestioned is simply to put on a hard hat. That’s it–a hard hat (easily purchased at home improvement stores or online), topping off a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, allows practically anyone to enter a neighborhood and look like he has a good reason for being there. Have you seen any new construction in your area lately? Have your kids?

Do you know your neighbors? Of course you do. But to find out some facts that may not come up at a block party or over coffee with a moms’ group, check out This site discloses the locations of registered sex offenders throughout the United States. It can be a real eye-opener.

I typed my address in and clicked Search. It showed me, on a map, the locations of the homes of 38 registered sex offenders in my area. When Somer Thompson’s neighbors did the same, the search brought up the names and locations of 162 registered offenders. 162 within a 5-mile-radius of her home. What they thought was a friendly, safe community turned out to be a veritable mine field, where innocent children walked daily among dangerous predators.

The point of all this is not to scare parents, not to declare that “no place is safe!” It’s to advise you to be aware. Dangers exist everywhere. You don’t have to raise your kids in a bubble; you can let them out of your sight for periods of time. Just teach them how to navigate safely through the world. The outdated warning, “Don’t talk to strangers” not only scares kids needlessly; it can prevent them from asking for help when they’re in danger. Instead, walk their route to school with them and point out places along the way that they can go to for help if they need it: “There’s Mrs. Green’s house; pound on her door if someone is following you,” or “Run into that coffee shop and tell the cashier if anyone makes you uncomfortable.”

Teach them about grown-ups who ask them for help: “Can you help me find my puppy?” and “Can you tell me how to get to the park,” for example. This is a common trick used by predators to get kids to go somewhere with them. Make sure your children understand that it is not their job to help a grown-up; that’s for other grown-ups to do.

Another way molesters lure children is by offering the chance to watch tv and videos, or play with toys and electronic games. Again, let your kids know that if anyone tells them this, it’s a trick. They need to run for help to one of the safe places you’ve pointed out to them.

Don’t let your kids walk unprotected through a mine field. If something happens, it can destroy their life and yours. Empower them with the knowledge that they’re important and that nobody is allowed to hurt them. They’ll wear this knowledge like armor, and it will help keep them safe.

No Such Thing as Date Rape

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A student at American University in Washington, DC has written in his school newspaper that in his opinion, women who have been victims of date rape “asked for it.” Twenty years old and generously sharing his insight on the subjects of women in society, sexuality, and interpersonal communication, Alex Knepper writes:

“Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?”

This presents an interesting interpretation of events. While on-campus socializing may be fine, he seems to think that going to a party at a frat house is engaging in foreplay. And drinking alcohol–a perfectly legal activity for anyone in this country over the age of 21–further “lubricates” the process, shall we say?

Then there’s the clincher: walking back to a boy’s room. This signals a woman’s desire for sex… how? Has the boy (we would hope for a man, but Knepper must know of what he speaks) become a mind-reader during the stroll through campus? Can he tell by looking that she is thinking, “I want to have sex with this guy as soon as we get to his room” ? Is there no other reason why she choose to spend time with him? I imagine that, if Knepper had asked some women what reasons they’ve had for going to a man’s room, he would have learned several.

If the confused young man in the above example wants to know what the enigmatic female is thinking, he should ask her. If he wants to know how the rest of the evening will proceed, he should ask her about that, too. He needs to hear her speak the words, “Yes, I want to have sex with you,” or “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” Trying to guess her thoughts or interpret her actions leaves him open to gross misunderstanding–and to jail time. Rape is a crime, no matter how horny he may be.

As Katherine Hull, spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) explains, the issue at the center of rape is consent: “Even if you drink and wear short skirts — that is not consent. Even if a woman gave consent previously, it does not mean consent for right now.” Further, she clarifies that consent can be compromised due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption. What this means for those who adhere to Mr. Knepper’s reasoning is, “If someone doesn’t have the capacity to consent, they can’t.” Therefore, the inability to say “no” should not be taken as “yes.” Rape is not excused when it is a crime of opportunity.

Knepper disagrees. He writes that women give “implied consent” by putting themselves in the “sexual arena” at a party where there are expectations of drinking and sex. He states, “In that situation, men can only know the information that is given to them.” My question is, why do these men have an expectation of sex? A party is just that–a party, a social event. It’s taking place in a frat house, not a brothel. If the entire evening is a set-up for having sex, why not just skip the small talk and the accoutrements, and cut right to the chase? Stand on the front porch and call out to all who pass by, “Hey! Wanna get laid? Come on in!” That way, the intent is clear, and no one can accuse anyone else of misunderstanding. Or, maybe the problem is with the expectations of these men who equate a woman’s presence at their little soiree as desire on her part to mate with them.

During training to be a RAD Women’s Self-Defense Instructor, my fellow candidates and I were presented with two scenarios. In the first, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he rapes her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date rape?

In the second scenario, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he murders her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date murder?? No. Murder is murder, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. The same holds true for rape. “Sexual intercourse without clear consent” is rape–regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Tacking on the word “date” does not lessen the violation, shock, fear, and betrayal of trust that a woman suffers at the hands of the rapist. Whether he jumped out at her from a dark alley or forced her onto the mattress in his dorm room, there is no such thing as “date” rape; there is only rape.

How the Predator “Grooms” a Child via Computer

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

We know it happens; we hear about it in the news way too often. But what exactly does it mean that a sexual predator “groomed” a child over a period of months? How do they do that? What about the kid–were they just naive? Gullible? Stupid?? Can’t they tell when someone’s trying to pull one over on them? What are the child’s parents doing all this time? Aren’t they paying attention? Maybe they’re too busy. You want to protect your kids and need to know the scoop. So, let’s get real here, okay? Okay, this is real:

Sara, now 17, opened up an account on a popular social networking site when she was 12. All the kids in middle school had one, but even so, her mom was taking no chances. She made sure Sara used the computer in the family room, rather than have a laptop in her bedroom. She installed filtering systems and used the parental controls to block access to “unsavory” websites. She employed a tracking program so she would know every step Sara took online. And she warned Sara not to trust anyone she didn’t know personally, because there were dangerous people on the internet who preyed on the innocent. She did everything right to protect her child.

Sara recalls, “For the first few months, I only talked to my friends online because Mom had asked me to stay safe,’ she says. ‘But then, I accepted the request from a guy I didn’t know to become his ‘friend’ online because I could see we had mutual friends on the website.” (What she didn’t realize was that none of her friends knew him either. They just “friended” him because he asked.)

She continues: “They hadn’t mentioned anything bad about him, so I thought it would be all right to talk to him, and we started chatting online every evening. Whenever I was on the internet he would be there, asking about my day and what I’d done at school.”

Right there. That’s how it happened. Sexual predators are some of the sneakiest, cleverest, most manipulative criminals out there. And this one smoothly convinced a 12-year-old girl to let him into her home and into her life. Sara explains, “I really believed that he was my friend and that I could trust him – he made me feel so secure.”

After a few months of benignly chatting about school, he began to ask her more personal questions–sexual questions. Then, questions turned to requests for her to perform sex acts in front of her webcam technology. She says,”He started pressuring me. I was so naive that I felt I had to do these things for him because he’d been such a support to me. I didn’t want to, but whenever I said no, he’d say: ‘Nobody has to know.'”

When Sara realized that something wasn’t right about her “friend,” she attempted to escape the relationship. “I tried to avoid talking to him but… he followed me to other websites. Whenever I set up a profile on a different social network, he’d find me there. He was really persistent.” Worse, now that she’d angered him, she feared for her own safety. In their early days of getting to know one another, she’d told him where she lived–in spite of her mother’s warnings not to reveal any personal information on the internet. She worried that he would find her and harm her.

Sara’s mother watched as her child deteriorated. She couldn’t sleep and refused to eat; she became irritable and withdrawn.  Finally, in despair, she revealed to her mom what had been happening, and they immediately went to the police. The predator was arrested, tried, and imprisoned. But Sara still suffers the consequences of his actions. Due to falling victim to a sexual abuser, she has a strong distrust of strangers, she is unable to make eye contact when speaking, and most of all, experiences a pervasive fear and sense of loss of control. And this is a girl whose mom did everything right.

So what can you do? Ban your kids from using a computer? That’s going to be tough, since schools have students doing internet research for homework as early as 1st grade, and even preschools are bringing computers into their classrooms for 3-year-olds to become familiar with. Just keep checking in with your kids, standing over their shoulder when they’re at the keyboard (they love that!) and asking, “Who’s that? How do you know him/her?” Find out who they’re talking to. Go over everyone on their “friends” list; if there’s someone who you think doesn’t belong there, delete them–and check to make sure they don’t come back. If someone is communicating with your child and you think they shouldn’t be, or that the communication is inappropriate, don’t take chances with your child’s well-being. Contact the police. Nothing matters more than keeping your child safe from some of the sneakiest, cleverest, most manipulative criminals out there.



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Could You Fight for Your Life?

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Police have found evidence that California teenager Chelsea King was raped and murdered along her favorite jogging trail by a known sex offender. We don’t know if Ms. King fought against her killer, was rendered unable to fight, or froze in terror. Whatever the case, she should never have needed to defend herself in the first place.

A  few weeks prior to Ms. King’s attack, another young woman was assaulted on the same path, apparently by the same man. How did Candice Moncayo survive and escape? She fought until she could get away.

Moncayo was running along the trail when, without warning, she was tackled from the side and thrown to the ground. She said later, “I thought he was going to rape me, so I told him he’d have to kill me first.”

Whether these words had any effect on her attacker, I don’t know. But I do know that they reflected Moncayo’s willingness to fight for her life. And the very act of voicing them helped her survive. How? Because speaking or, even better, yelling, during extremely stressful situations keeps us breathing. Rather than gasping for shallow breaths, when we vocalize, we automatically take air in more deeply. This allows oxygen to reach our brains, so we can think clearly and make split-second decisions necessary for survival. It also ensures we get enough oxygen into our arms and legs, so we can run when an opportunity opens up.

The attacker grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard, for what seemed an eternity. Still trapped in his arms but unwilling to give up, she executed an elbow strike–and hit pay dirt. She landed the blow right smack into his nose, smashing it.

Stunned by the sudden pain, he stopped shaking her and loosened his grip momentarily. Seeing her chance to escape, she ran for her life and made it to safety.

I don’t know how Moncayo learned to use the elbow strike to defend herself. But I know how you can. Find a good Women’s Self-Defense class and take it. In RAD classes, we go over (and over again) how to yell and not scream… what to yell… and how to deliver effective elbow strikes–as well as many other techniques. We also cover ground-fighting and rape-reversals, so important for women to know. I realize you’re busy; I understand that the last thing you have the time and money for right now is a self-defense course. But this is your life we’re talking about here. Make your safety a priority.

An added bonus to Moncayo’s use of the elbow strike–it left a sample of the perpetrator’s DNA on her arm that police were able to swab for identification and evidence. Knowing how to fight for yourself–it’s empowering.