Keeping kids safe from sexual abuse is not a black and white issue. Even experts on the issue who have interviewed convicted child molesters remark on how “likable” they appear. It’s the grey area where most exist- predators that come off as “good” and charismatic “every day” kinds of people.
Keep in mind, sexual abuse is often not about sex, but about control and dominance. Sex, is often, merely an outlet that offenders are using to fill a perceived need. And it is difficult when no two abusers look, talk, or act the same.
Seeing one of these Red Flags does not mean that you are in the presence of a sexual abuser – but if your instinct is feeling something is off – listen, observe, and minimize this person’s access to children – especially in a 1:1 situation, which is the case for an estimated 80% of all child sexual abuse.
Strangers and acquaintances
You may not necessarily know these people very well, or only by name/face alone (a neighbor, a coach, a parent of another child you know). In order to gain access to your child, they usually try to establish a rapport with the parent as well as the child, but in some cases, they are less careful about hiding their intentions. Be cautious for the following behaviors/characteristics:
- Volunteers or works with children but does not have children of their own, or child friendly toys – video games, tree house, train sets/doll collections etc
- Spends more time with children than adults or peers – may even come off as immature and childish themselves
- Has a “favorite” child they seem to spend time with (which may vary from year to year)
- Gives gifts or special privileges for no apparent reason
- Overly affectionate/playful with children – hugging, tickling, wrestling, holding or having a child sit on their lap
- Disregards “no” “stop” or other efforts from a child to avoid physical contact
- Long stares or periods of watching a child