Know what to look for in a child abuser or pedophile. These characteristics will help you identify potential child abusers to protect your kids.
- Part 1: What Child Abusers Actually Look Like
- Part 2: How Child Abusers Gain Access and How to Safeguard Your Children
- Part 3: Signs Sexual Abuse Has Occurred in a Child and What To Do About It
I was not a victim of child abuse.
My children are not victims of child abuse.
I’m writing this series from the perspective of a mother who wants to protect her children from the unthinkable.
Unfortunately, statistics being what they are, it is no longer the unthinkable. It’s rather commonplace. I am careful not to encourage fear mongering or paranoia, but simply for us mothers to become aware, wise, and protective over our kids safety.
We don’t have to give every single male who smiles at our kids the side eye or distrust anyone who takes an interest in our children, but we do need to act with wisdom, acknowledging that abusers do not wear name tags that say
Hello, My Name is Child Abuser.
I want to talk about what abusers do look like. Warning signs and red flags that can help you make choices to protect your loved ones.
While it’s difficult to pin down exact traits of child abusers in that they look like those around us, here are some generally agreed upon norms.
Characteristics of Child Abusers
My Bachelor’s degree is in Criminology & Law so I’ve studied this subject, as well as many others, from many viewpoints. I hope this can be a balanced, sensible, and not fear mongering approach to this conversation so many parents desperately need.
I’d encourage you to establish the following characteristics on your heart so you give your intuition, spirit, and wisdom a chance to send up flares when something seems “off.”
I’m focusing this post on what sexual abusers look like since often sexual abuse occurs by someone outside the home.
It is precisely our lack of knowledge and understanding that gives predators their edge. Anna Salter
1. Sexual offenders have access to many children
One study indicated that offenders who victimize females have an average of 20 victims and those who victimize males an average of 150.
This means the sexual offender has a job, position, or habits that put him near children with frequency.
It is not someone who happens upon a girl in an alleyway, but someone who is regularly interacting with our children.
2. Pedophiles look like the average person
We give true predators an edge when we expect sexual offenders to be the creepy guy with a hood on staring at our kids. Surely that’s a dangerous situation, but offenders are more commonly average people.
Not the outcast alone at an event, but the one running around greeting everyone gaining trust. Just as you can not look at a person and know their favorite type of food, you cannot tell a sexual offender by their appearance, only by their actions.
3. Sexual abusers are usually married or in a committed relationship
Child abusers are not typically single, on the prowl for a future mate. They’re in committed adult relationships, which is what can help them to fly under the radar in their actions.
4. Child sexual abusers are known
Only 10% of sexual abuse reports happen by strangers (source). We need to stop thinking the danger is a stranger that flies in and out of our children’s lives.
Statistically speaking, it is likely to be a family member, someone in your faith community, school, or extra curricular event.
5. Sexual offenders create, foster, then maintain a relationship with your child
The relationship the offender tries to establish with a child is not fleeting. If someone in your circle is trying to gain trust, commit to regular time together, or create some type of authority relationship with your child this can be a red flag.
The goal of the sexual offender is to “groom” or (make a relationship) with your child so they are able to justify their actions by feeling it is mutual. It is not.
6. Sexual offenders are not necessarily pedophiles
A pedophile’s sexual orientation is towards children. As in, instead of heterosexual or homosexual, they consider themselves oriented towards children.
The vast majority of child sex offenders are attracted to adults as well and act out due to many factors. So, you are not looking for someone who seems inordinately attracted to small children, it’s just a normal person.
7. Sexual offenders are poor, rich, and in between
While there are many crimes committed that take place largely in certain demographics, child sexual abuse is not one of them. Being financially desperate or comfortable has little bearing on a person’s propensity to abuse.
8. Child sexual abusers have below level intelligence, high level intelligence, and in between
While many child sex offenders elude authorities and are hard to investigate and prosecute due to their high level of intelligence, this is certainly not always the case. Just as there are people at all levels of intelligence who wear blue jeans, there is no typical level of intelligence for a child sex offender (source).
9. Sexual offenders are not psychotic
There are those of us who think it would take a crazy person to abuse a child, the fact is most child sex offenders are not crazy or psychotic in a psychological sense. Many suffer from mental illness, whether anxiety, depression or other disorders (just like the general public) but the overwhelmingly majority are sane. Medically speaking.
10. Sexual offenders are not obviously creepy
Child sex offenders want to get away with it. They want to groom children, abuse them, and not go to jail. Because of this, they work hard to be normal, average, and not creepy. If someone creeps you out, that’s a huge red flag for your family. However, don’t expect that you’ll necessarily be creeped out by someone. In fact, when child sex offenders are revealed many people are absolutely shocked at the wolf among them.
11. Sexual offenders are convincing and canny
In order for a child sex offender to gain access to a child, groom them, then subsequently abuse them, they have to earn your trust (as the parent who allows them access) and convince the child to keep it a secret. They can be charming, friendly, and seemingly a stand up person. Don’t let personality or appearance shadow your opinions.
12. Sexual offenders overwhelmingly identify as religious
To say that a person is not an abuser because they are a Christian is to be deceived. First, to be deceived that just because someone goes to church means they are a Christian, and second, that there is any one place your children can be left unsupervised for long periods alone with others, particularly male adults. This is a quote from a convicted child predator.
“I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.” source
Moral of the story: Don’t base your trust in a person on how they look.
I hope these descriptions have opened your mind to a few things:
- There is no “typical” child sex offender
- A child sex offender could be anyone
- Just because they seem “stand up” does not mean they are
- You will have to be vigilant in your safeguards