Predators Among Us

Some people among us are predators.

In fact, most predators who sexually abuse children come from the circle of acquaintances, family, friends, or associates the family knows.

One in three girls and one in six boys will have sexual contact with an adult and, while parents worry about the unknown sex offender their child may encounter at random, few realize that it is more likely to be a teacher, family friend, or relative preying on their child.

Women also are better off with strangers, and safer in a place somewhere other than their home. As Anna C. Salter points out in her book, “Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists & Other Sex Offenders,” 62% of all US women assaulted are attacked in their home by a friend or acquaintance.

It is important to stop burying your head in the sand and acknowledge there are people out there who are very different from you.  In some people, there really is no “good” lying beneath.

These things are true:

  1. We are less able to detect deception than we think we can.

  2. We tend to believe what we hear and read.

  3. We don’t pay attention to deception, our surroundings, and what people are really doing or saying.

  4. Women feel more shame and fear hurting another’s feelings if they were to take an offensive stance.

  5. Our belief we can control our surroundings or events leads us into complacency, such as walking from the house to the car, from the bus to the front door.

  6. We operate under the Pollyanna Principle, and selectively acknowledge the pleasant rather than the unpleasant things in our world.

  7. We deny other people’s trauma could happen to us because we believe in a just world.

  8. We know that predators will feed on our vulnerabilities, but neglect to realize they will also turn our strengths against us.

Is this a negative world view? No. It is real.

There is a vast difference between the world in which we want to live and the actual world we inhabit. “Our illusions become dangerous when they cause us to assume that specific people and situations are not dangerous, (and) when they allow us to assume the best about others without considering the worst,” writes Salter.

Salter also points out that most child molestation begins not with violence, but with deception. “Most will use conning and manipulation to lure the potential victim to an isolated setting.” Beware of the teacher or coach asking for your child’s assistance after school or practice hours.

Other things to remember:

  1. Realize you are predisposed to believing others, thus doing half the work for the predator.

  2. If that person is a friend, acquaintance, relative, or superior, then you know and like him even more and thus will be less likely to question his intentions.

  3. Assume that “every coach, every priest, every teacher is not likely to be a sexual predator, but one that could be and that you will not know if he is,” suggests Salter.

  4. Attend your child’s activities. Many predators start by befriending a child whose parent isn’t present. Don’t give him the opportunity.

  5. Don’t put your child in a situation that provides ideal conditions for a predator to draw them in. Camps, overnight activities, and special invitations count.

  6. Watch out for grooming - giving gifts to a child, showing with attention, and taking your child on trips as rewards are part of the grooming process.

  7. For women, beware of dating new acquaintances as predators can look and talk like men legitimately seeking a relationship. Meet away from your home in a public place, and tell your family or friends where you will be.

  8. Follow basic personal safety protocols. Lock your doors, even when your home. Keep your passenger door locked while driving. Don’t walk around with earbuds, talking on your phone, or texting.

  9. Look at any situation from the predator’s point of view, and realize you don’t have to know whether a man is a predator...just that you don’t give him a chance to make you or your child his victim

Perhaps you think I’m an alarmist, paranoid, or cynical. Maybe you think it won’t happen to you. It can and it might. Here’s why: it happened to me.

I had gone out to Fitzgerald’s with a girlfriend, then drove home and went to bed. I lived alone with my three dogs as I had recently divorced my husband. The next morning, I woke up and found a cut window screen at the entrance to my second floor bedroom. Strange. Next, I saw my back door was wide open. Weird. Finally, I discovered my back gate standing open to the alley. It took me a few moments to grasp the situation.

During the night a predator, whom detectives believe followed me home or at least watched me, climbed up on my deck (which didn’t have any stairs or access to the ground) and pried open an unlocked window, cut the screen, carried the screen upstairs to where I slept...and where he encountered my pack of dogs. Enough said. He hightailed it out of there as fast as he could. Yet, I was a pitbull whisker away from becoming a statistic.

Sexual assault is terrifying and traumatic enough as an adult. It is beyond life-changing, shocking, and debilitating when it occurs in childhood.

The solution to sexual violence is acceptance of reality. And one of the “starkest realities is that sexual predators are stunningly effective at gaining control over their victims.”

Check out Anna C. Salter, PhD, and her book Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists & Other Sex Offenders on Amazon.