Offenders do not just groom children or their victims, they also groom the families
In the article and video on the link below, you find a great information on how child predators work. The child advocate interviewed stated something that I have taught, that the predator does not only target the child, but they also target the family. The reason why is that a vulnerable child with a bad or neglectful family relationship is less likely to tell someone what is happening. Some red flags to look for are the following:
The adult spending time with the child alone at a location such as a residence or away from the place where they usually interact, ie, school or church.
Regular one to one communication with the child via text or email etc
Sudden appearance at child’s special events or family events. They will tend to show up uninvited or invite themselves.
The take away here is to make sure you have a good relationship with your child. Signs of a good relationship include open communication, access to their devices,
and the willingness of the child to answer and freely offer information about their day and interaction with adults and others. Some parents think they have this but are actually far from it. This type of relationship starts when the child is very young, and it will need to progress through the teen years. If you don’t have it, it is hard to get going, but it is possible, with patience and love.
Remember the bad guys out there will target the family, looking for those families with kids that are vulnerable. So let’s be involved parents and keep our eyes open and communication flowing with our kids. Being an involved parent and having open communication with your child is the best deterrent to the child predators.
Welty’s case is not the first sexual abuse case dealing with an offender who is in a position of authority or trust with the victims.
So in those cases, how can parents determine who to trust around their child?
KTVB went to FACES of Hope, a center in Boise for victims of abuse and violence, and asked if there was a “predator profile” – common traits or signs that someone might be a predator.
“I really wish I could tell you there were certain traits or those signs you could watch for to figure that out. Unfortunately, I don’t think that there is,” said Jean Fisher, chief operations officer at FACES of Hope. “There is no socioeconomic anything to a sex offender. It’s not somebody who’s particularly poor or rich or uneducated or on drugs.”
Fisher, who also works in the special crimes unit with the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, said predators can wear many different faces. They can be a favorite teacher, a friendly neighbor, a relative or a pastor.
“That’s truly what makes these cases so insidious is that they take the normal and turn it upside down so that things just never feel the same, look the same and they’re really difficult to distinguish,” she said.
Sexual predators look for opportunity, access and personal preference.
“Often times I talk with jurors or I talk with folks and I talk about the birds of prey that are up and down the river,” Fisher explained. “A bird of prey is very much a predator and it can’t get every fish. It can get the one that is most vulnerable. The one that is most juicy, the most attractive, the most delicious and they are very much a predator. Sex offenders are predators. They look for things that attract them.”
In sexual abuse cases, there is also a lot of manipulation happening.
“One thing I think parents need to know is that sex offenders, sex offenders of children, almost always groom children,” Fisher said.
Offenders groom children because they want to build a trusting relationship so the abuse can continue, unnoticed. But in order to achieve that, Fisher says it’s not just children that predators target.
“Offenders don’t just groom children. They groom families, they groom the parents, in order to have the relationship that they’re looking for,” she said.
That leads parents to the mindset of not perceiving that person as a potential threat to their child.
“It’s not just that you trust your child with that person,” Fisher said. “You trust that person with your child.”
Grooming can come in all forms – flattery, shame, guilt, personal relationships with family members. In Welty’s case, the alleged crime centered around religion. Fisher said sexual predators will sometimes groom their victims by manipulating their spirituality and their trust in a religious leader.
There can be many potential red flags when it comes to sexual abuse and it’s hard to pinpoint specific warning signs. However, a few examples of longer-term red flags that might appear are things like one child being treated very differently than others. That can include special treatment, favors, even the way they are punished.
While it can sometimes be hard to tell if a person you trust is actually trustworthy with your child, Fisher said the most important thing when it comes to sexual abuse cases is believing a child if they say something is happening.
“A lot of times, children will disclose to a parent and the parent will express disbelief,” she said. “‘No, it couldn’t possibly happen. Because it was my pastor, my priest, your favorite teacher, our tutor, your grandfather. It couldn’t have happened.’ And it immediately will stop a child from going any further [in talking about it.]”
Some possible signs that a child has been, or is being sexually abused, are things like isolating themselves, poor sleeping habits, suddenly doing poorly in school or not wanting to be alone with a certain person anymore.
It’s important to get victims of abuse help right away. FACES of Hope is one resource that can help with that.