Profile of a Child Molester

This post is one of several promised subjects for posting during 2008. Most of this information is taken from interviews and writings by molesters themselves (from interviews others have done), and some is taken from research on child sexual predators.

Myths and Facts About Child Molesters

  • Myth: Anyone who would molest a child is seedy-looking or looks suspicious. I’d know them by looking at them.
  • Fact: Handsome, rich men molest children. Beautiful, talented women molest children. Ordinary people you laugh with every day molest children. You simply cannot tell a child sexual predator by looking. (But do pay attention to your instincts, which see deeper than a person’s surface appearance.)
  • Myth: Child molesters are unsociable and isolated. If I knew any, I’m sure I naturally wouldn’t like them.
  • Fact: Most child molesters are known and liked by others. Plus, they cultivate certain relationships in order to gain access to children, and many are genial and personable individuals with whom others enjoy socializing.
  • Myth: Married men don’t molest children–they have their wives. Besides, a married man would only molest a child if he wasn’t getting sex from his wife.
  • Fact: Marital status doesn’t correlate to whether a person is a sexual predator or not. KEY FACT: A man deprived of sex does not morph into a child sexual predator. Molesting children is about preferring the power position and avoiding vulnerability. The taste for sex with children is separate from a normal human adult sex drive oriented to adults.
  • Myth: He’s a pastor (or teacher, or elder, or highly respected businessman–fill in the blank with anyone)–he would never do that.
  • Fact: Child molesters can be anyone–anyone at all. We must not hesitate to blow the whistle on a child molester regardless of position, fame, or wealth. Our children are worth more than that.
  • Myth: He has a Ph.D., she’s president of the company–too smart to be doing something that depraved.
  • Fact: Molesting children is not a function of low income or intelligence. Geniuses can be child molesters; millionaires can be child molesters.
  • Myth: A real child molester would never talk about the subject.
  • Fact: A child molester may say contemptuous things like “Child molesters are the sickest people on the planet” or “Child molesters deserve the death penalty.” The rest of us might say things like that too, so this isn’t an indicator by itself–just a warning that predators know the right line to take.
  • Myth: He hugs and cuddles my child in healthy ways right in front of me, and my child doesn’t resist or fuss. So obviously nothing’s happening.
  • Fact: Molesters themselves say that they deliberately do this so that your child, the victim, thinks you approve of the way the molester touches them. A child assumes his parents know what’s going on, so when the molester hugs him in front of you and you’re fine with that, the child thinks you’re OK with what happens in private too.

If I Can’t Tell Who They Are, What Can I Do?

Fortunately, many things.

  • Listen to your instincts. If you feel a deep disquiet or unease around someone, simply don’t let that person have access to your child–especially not alone time.
  • Don’t put your faith in the presence of a group. A child molester can and will single out a child while on group trips such as camping, Scout outings, etc. Child sexual predators go on trips like this because they know they can get alone time with their victim.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of healthy attention, love, and physical affection at home. This prevents your child from having the vulnerability that predators look for in potential victims. A healthy, well-loved child with good self-esteem is less likely to be targeted. In a sense, molesters are looking for victims who are already victims.
  • Make yourself a safe person for your child to talk to. If he does something wrong, don’t take out your frustration on him or blame him. I have a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old, and my natural reaction is, “Haven’t I TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES not to do that?” or “Why on EARTH would you do a thing like that?” or “Honey, why didn’t you just ASK ME FOR HELP!” It feels good to let the steam blow out my ears, but then my kids clam up and stop trusting me. This is because they’re not stupid children. Instead, try “Okay, that wasn’t good, was it? Why was it not good? What’s your plan for the future?” Say this patiently and supportively, not in anger.
  • Impose appropriate consequences without anger. This can’t be overemphasized. If you get angry whenever your child fails or misbehaves, or you get upset a lot in general, be certain she will learn never to tell you anything. And a child without a parent he trusts is a victim waiting to be victimized. Molesters know this. They watch for this type of relationship between a parent and a child so they can exploit it and gain the victim’s trust with patience and kindness.
  • Teach your child early that no one has the right to touch her private parts and that she can say a strong “NO” and you will back her up completely. She can fight or run away or tattle and you will stand by her 100 percent. Molesters make threats about what parents will or won’t do to a child if he tells, so you have to have that trust with your child.
  • Consider sending your child to an upbeat, positive, effective program like Impact Personal Safety (see Resources below).
  • Don’t consistently let any one adult go on isolated alone activities with your child.
  • Study adults, particularly men (sorry, gentlemen–it’s statistics and the “can’t tell by looking” thing again, so you get extra eyeballing even if you’re a genuinely good guy), who work with children and still want to spend more time with them outside of work. They may take children on special outings outside of work, for example. Also study those who seem way more plugged into youth culture than into age-appropriate adult culture. Whether or not a person twangs your intuition, observe the person closely and don’t let him have your child alone until you’re satisfied he’s completely safe. Talk to others about him. Find out all you can.
  • If your child spends a lot of individual time with someone, ask your child carefully phrased questions about whether the child has been exposed to any sexual material of any kind. Kids are curious. If it’s presented to them, they’ll probably watch and listen.
  • If you suspect your spouse may be molesting your child, watch closely. Do you feel like somehow, subtly, you’re being cast as the bad guy to your child, while your spouse is the good guy? Abusers gradually block communication between their child and the other parent, and damage the trust in that relationship.
  • If you’re a parent married to a stepparent, be aware that all the statistics show a significantly higher incidence of child sexual abuse among stepparents than among birth parents. Molesters target a child or children, then marry the mother in order to gain access to the children. The biggest way you can prevent this, if there’s any possibility of it happening (and you have to tell yourself frankly to look for it even if you don’t think it’s ever going to happen in your house), is to keep the lines of trust and communication open between yourself and your children. You may be thrilled with your new spouse’s interest in your children–but watch for signs that he’s giving them treats and rewards while subtly coming between you and them. Is he subtly teaching them that you’re not trustworthy and he is? Is he gaining their trust while undercutting you or your relationship with your children? While you want to back up your new spouse, you also want your children to know you’re still with them in spirit and that you trust them and support them. You can support your spouse while still letting your kids know that you believe what they say on a day-to-day basis.

How Do Child Molesters Control Victims and Keep Them From Telling?

Glad you asked. Keep in mind that these answers come from molesters themselves.

  • I’ll do anything to get to your child and to keep your child once I’ve victimized her.  I’ll do anything and say anything to keep assaulting your child and to keep your child from telling. I really don’t care if it’s harming your child–I just care about pursuing sexual gratification.
  • I threaten your child with the loss of his family. I tell him he’ll be taken away from his family if he tells, or that his parents will be taken away.
  • I threaten your child with violence to her or to her family.
  • I manipulate your child into thinking it’s his fault. Or I make him think he’s at least partly responsible and that if anybody gets punished, it will be him.
  • I tell your child this is normal parental behavior.
  • I win your child’s love and trust with treats, attention, and “love.” If she’s not getting love and attention from you, she’ll get it from me. [Note: This includes children with a full-time stay-at-home parent. If they're not getting love and attention from Dad--or Mom, as the case may be--they'll be looking for it.]

So How Can I Tell If My Child is Being Molested?

  • He becomes extremely modest and protective of showing his body. Or he goes the other direction and sexually acts out.
  • She has genital pain, itching, discharge, bleeding, stomachaches, headaches, or other physical complaints. Stomachaches and headaches that stem from sexual assault are very real physical pain.
  • He starts sleeping poorly, starts wetting his bed, has new fears, refuses to go to places he’s been before or be with certain people, starts having school problems or difficulties with peers, cries excessively, is depressed, gets clingy or aggressive, or becomes secretive.
  • She may try different methods of escapism, such as running away, drugs or alcohol, daydreaming, or isolating herself.
  • Be aware that some children being molested may not show any of these symptoms. Some child molesters groom their victims so successfully that the children love their abusers and even try to protect them.

Resources

  • The Center for Behavioral Intervention in Oregon has put out a terrific brochure called “Protecting Your Children: Advice From Child Molesters.” To get a copy, call 503.644.2772. The organization doesn’t seem to have a website right now.
  • Impact Personal Safety is a top personal safety organization nationwide. They have practical, real-world self-defense classes for adult women and men, teenagers, and children. Classes and school programs are available. For a history of the organization, see the Impact site, or read here.
  • National Hotline: 1-888-656-4673

15 Responses

  1. Great site, protecting our children is a number one priority. What the public needs to understand is what the law will give a sexual predator is far from the the amount of time, the law says predators CAN be convicted with. Being a family that has survived a sexual predator, I keep my website up to warn other parents that things like this happen to good parents and good families not stereo typical, uncaring families.
    Mother’s Against Internet Sexual Predators is for those parents wanting to know how to protect their children. If our story can save one child then the website is a success.
    Ozarkcontessa

  2. I truly believe that once a child molester always a child molester. I think they should NEVER give them a second chance because it is 99.99999% they will do it again.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this information. It is disturbing and frustrating how difficult it is to find on-line information about child predators, how to report them, and what will occur once you report them. Even logging on to the local police departments website does not garner any information!

  4. Monique your right, it is hard to find out what happens after the arrest and conviction. In our case all the people that convicted him, seemingly have disappeared, but yet even from prison he has been reaching out… It is sites like this one that really give help, that is one reason why I started my website
    Mother’s Against Internet Sexual Predators… if even one child is saved and a family spared the pain ours went through, then telling our story is worth it.
    God bless and remain vigilant… by the way… I agree with Mandy… NEVER give them a second chance… even the judge who sentenced Brock Purviance said he had no doubt he would do it again…. but yet even saying that they did not give him the 30 years the conviction could have given.
    Ozark

  5. Hello, thanks for your comment. I’ve done a moderately thorough Internet search for “Mothers Against Internet Sexual Predators” (and “Mothers Against Sexual Internet Predators”) and have not come up with anything. Do you have a web page for your organization/initiative? If so, I will check it out and may possibly be able to list it in my blogroll. I like to give other organizations a boost whenever I can. Thanks.

  6. Lara, thank you for asking about my website… here is the link. http://ozarkcontessa.wordpress.com/
    I was recently contacted by the FBI agent who worked so hard to help our family and he promised to check into how an internet sexual predator has access to the internet from Prison.
    I think your website is awesome and does a great service for parents or anyone wanting to protect children from predators.
    God bless you!
    Ozarkcontessa

  7. Lara,
    A quick update… Feb 20th (two years and one month after his sentencing and conviction) my husband and I sat in court ALL day watching Brock and his lawyer try and convince a new judge that his sentence was invalid and that his last lawyer did not represent him in the manner in which he wanted and did not appeal his case although in his own words, Brock did call his lawyers office many times, but NEVER left a message, He NEVER wrote her and requested an appeal, although he did write her about many other issues, he NEVER asked his parents (who were in contact with the lawyer) to appeal his case. So two years after his sentence date we sat in court once again waiting on a decision which would have an impact on our family and child.
    Because his lawyer wanted to do a written summation on the hearing the decision on whether Brock has a case to appeal will have to now wait until June 2009: until then we wait… It seems the predator has way to many rights! All at tax payer dollars.
    People need to be aware, even when the predator is caught, convicted and sentenced… they never seem to just go away.
    Thank you for allowing me to post an update.

  8. Thank you to the origional Prosecutor and the FBI Agent who handled our case, two years later they are still working to protect our child and our family. The prosecutor did an excellent job with this hearing and the FBI agent sat through the entire day. My frustration showed in my earlier statement. What I didn’t know: Both were still working on all the legal documents and preparing for this hearing, long before I knew about it.
    There are no words to express all the good things about these people.
    God bless them!!

  9. it is very difficult. i lived with my children’s father who i suspected of being a molester. his actions were questionable. he always wanted to wipe(clean) our 2 year old when she used the bathroom. she had been toilet trained. he would do it when i was in another room. it was like he was watching her when she went to the bathroom. i would repeatedly see him coming from the bathroom, with a strange look on his face, and smelling his hands (vile-but i have to say it for other mothers) i started to keep his movements in the back of my mind, to be proactive and intervene. then when he wasn’t able to do that anymore, he always wanted to go on a walk only with the girls. the younger one he always wanted to put her on his shoulders. that’s when i decided this is too too much, something wasn’t quite right. i was getting sick to my stomach. i couldn’t keep up watching him. i thought sooner he would get more serious. i had to do something NOW.
    he problem was getting him out of the home. he seemed to be getting irritated because i was always intersecting his “moves.” i was in such a dilemma because i didn’t know how to get him out and/or keep my kids away from him. i panicked. i even called the battered women hotline to ask for help. it was a sad situation. if it were to get to a legal situation, and he would get to court and the courts would say i am making false claims. it would have been awful for my girls. i finally just put his things out in the driveway. the police came….one big mess. he didn’t want to leave, even when the police was negotiating with him, even after i said i would pay for his hotel for a week. but i managed to keep him from the house.
    what the courts do not understand is that more than often this type of thing happens, and how is the mother to protect the children from this type of person. i kept saying to myself, who would believe me. they would say i am making this up. it was sad. but i would do anything for my girls. i managed to outsmart him.
    women keep an eye on your children. be intuned to your spouse, boyfriend and where he is with your girls.

  10. Hi Maria, I have to start with the standard disclaimer: I’m not a psychologist of any stripe and can offer you no professional advice. What I can tell you is based on research, my experience as a childhood molestation victim, and my being a mother of two little boys. I would do two things at the same time: First, I would go with my own instincts. And second — at the same time — I would keep close watch over my son’s relationship with my new husband. Perhaps your ex has no evidence and is just off the rails where your son is concerned; but even that doesn’t rule out molestation. If you watch, you will be able to spot anything that’s going on. Sounds like there’s probably nothing going on, and perhaps nothing ever will.

    My only concern is that studies of this topic are consistent: Incest is by far the most common type of child abuse in the home. According to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 11% of all rape victims were raped by a father or stepfather. On the positive side, stepfather-stepson incest is one of the smallest occurrences of incest in the home. (Most occurrences of incest are, in order, (1) stepfather/stepdaughter followed by (2) stepmother and stepson/daughter.)

    It sounds like your new husband is loving, attentive, and ready to be a real father to your son. Most stepfathers — many hundreds of thousands of stepfathers — are good fathers to their stepchildren. I don’t know your husband at all — I can only say Trust your instincts, and Watch your child’s relationship with his stepfather. Your instincts can help protect your child if he’s ever abused by anyone, and they can also help protect your husband if all is well. Err on the side of protecting your child.

    Things are fine right now, and if you’ve married a great guy who’s looking to be a good father, they will always be fine. You can monitor their relationship without hurting your husband or impairing the father/son relationship in any way. But if, by some chance, anything ever turns “hinky” between your husband and son, don’t dismiss it on the basis that their relationship has been good in the past. Always take in the signs and quality of their relationship in the present.

    I have no personal knowledge of your situation, your husband, your ex, or your son. So I can only give the general advice above on watching the stepfather/stepson relationship and trusting your own instincts as an observant mother. I’d refer you back to the post on this blog entitled “Profile of a Child Molester,” which includes a list of signs and symptoms that can show in children who are being (or have been) victimized. It sounds like you’ve already read it. You might also check the blogroll for some resources on incest and child molesting, and do an Internet search for stepfather + incest if you want to know more. In the meantime, based on the current available evidence you’ve presented to me, it’s positive now to support your husband and encourage his relationship with his new little son. It sounds like it’s good for both of them.

  11. Do you have a preference on whether or not your question is posted here on the blog? I would like to post your question and my answer if you are willing. It may be helpful to others.

  12. its true a father can molest his own child.I was a victim at the age of 5 by my step father.My daughter was a victim of her father at the age of 7.Wish we could wipe these people off the planet.My daughter would not tell me everything thing he did now i will always wonder.The courts only charged him with sexual abuse.

  13. Here is the last chapter of the Sex Offender Brock Purviance – seems he is allowed to choose where he serves his 25 years of supervised probation. If your a survivor of a sexual assault you might want to sit down. The sex offender who assaulted my daughter has chosen to move to Anchorage, AK… to our community. Not sure where this part of the law is considered fair. However, our family will do whatever it takes to keep our child safe from this predator.
    So please go to my website, google Brock Purviance look at his picture and if you know anyone with a daughter between the age of 13-16 please send his picture to everyone. He will have to sign up on the National Sex Offender website.
    We keep our hearts open the Lords guidance, and will continue to tell the world about Sex Offenders who stalk our children, steal their innocents, and then tell the world they have to follow society laws.
    Parents be Vigilant, Be blessed and hold your children in safety.

  14. [...] family friend, neighbor, teacher, or religious leader. It may be a man, woman, or another child. It can be anyone. No one unfortunately is on the safe list. In fact, children are most vulnerable with the family [...]

  15. […] family friend, neighbor, teacher, or religious leader. It may be a man, woman, or another child. It can be anyone. No one unfortunately is on the safe list. In fact, children are most vulnerable with the family […]

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