Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pedophiles Are the Nicest People

Take a moment to ask yourself a question. Do you know anyone who is a pedophile or a child pornographer? Give it some thought. Chances are, you may, but you'd never know it just as the parents of six 10-11-year-old girls in a science class in an elementary school didn't know about their teacher. Highly thought of, respected, attentive to the students, you name it, this fellow had it in aces but it was all in the service of his predilection for sexually abusing young girls. We don't know if he also went after boys, but that's not the concern here. The concern is that pedophiles move among us easily and without a hint of suspicion. They are, in fact, those who are above suspicion.

The parents of a particular pediatrician in New Jersey never suspected that their wonderful, sensitive and oh, so kid-friendly doc was also a pedophile until one mother filed a complaint after her daughter related an unpleasant touching incident in the exam room while she wasn't present. Later, his office computer was found to have thousands of child pornography photos on it and, of course, he said he was "doing research" just as I've heard other pedophiles who used that explanation.

Of course, when your primary job is the supervision of young boys delivering the local newspaper, you have to wonder how qualified the guy I spoke to was in researching child pornography. In his home, however, he had at least three packed file cabinets with child pornography and then people began to question those overnight camping trips for the boys and the swimming lessons that involved diving off his shoulders.

Another case, where two young boys came forward to a relative about the fear and discomfort they had about their mother's boy friend, was ultimately dismissed by the authorities. The reason? Simple. The kids had ADHD and their stories couldn't possibly be believed even though they had, in private sessions, told more than one social worker and a child psychologist what had happened to each of them. The boys, by the way, never told each other what had happened to them. They were too ashamed and frightened that even worse things would happen to them.

The kids, for the time being, are living with a relative but there is a remote possibility that they may be returned to the abuser's household. How do you handle that scenario without causing the children to "act out" as the school authorities like to say. But the courts, in their sometimes misguided wish to reunite families, do send children back into these familial torture chambers where they are physically abused and raped by men who have cleverly selected women with small children. Too many times, the children end up dead and the family is united at a funeral.

Do you know where one of the best places to find these vulnerable women might be for a pedophile on the hunt? Why, of course, it's Parents Without Partners. That is not to say that the groups don't actively try to protect group members from becoming prey for these monsters in sheep's clothing. But the true intent is so cleverly concealed that even these groups can be hoodwinked into providing entree to women with child-victims. They also provide an unbelievable opportunity to rape vulnerable, single moms and they threaten to harm the children if the woman doesn't comply.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that there are 80K reported instances of child sexual abuse each year, but this is far below the actual number. The reasons these crimes against children are not reported may be because the child fears the perpetrator, they have been warned that their siblings or parents will be harmed, the child is ashamed and is told they are to blame for the abuse, they fear retaliation by their parents or loss of love and they are told no one will believe them.

Of course, there are too many instances of persons in the ministry who sexually abuse children and they, for years, were protected by their orders and no reports were made to the police. The trauma that ensues can result in many types of behavioral changes as well as depression and suicide. How should a person respond to any report of child sexual abuse? The Academy offers guidelines on their website.

Of one thing we can be sure, children are vulnerable. Trust is a wonderful thing, but children need to be helped to understand that not every adult is to be obeyed or to be trusted. That is not to say that children should be so frightened and intimidated that they respond with fear to everyone. It is not an easy task, but parents, guardians and persons in positions of authority need to help train children to be aware that they have rights and there are actions to be taken when someone does something that makes them uncomfortable.

When I was involved with one national organization, we talked to parents about "Good Touch, Bad Touch" and the need for a secret word to be used in emergency situations. The word was used whenever a stranger said a parent wanted them to go with them. "What's the secret word?" the child would ask. Then the child would immediately leave to seek safety in a neighbor's home, a store or a school.

Another was to train children to counter the popular ploy of a stranger asking a child to help them find their puppy. Kids don't immediately think about the peculiarity of an adult asking a child for help in finding a lost dog. Their response must not be a knee-jerk one of agreeing to help and it takes training to ingrain this skill in the children's repertoire of responses. Just as you teach a child to read or to know their numbers, you need to teach them to act in situation of doubt.

Today, an ex-archbishop was arrested by the Vatican for sex crimes against children and a science teacher in a New York City school was also arrested. Tomorrow it could be a police officer, a physician or a trusted neighbor, friend, coach, tutor or even a relative. Predators are everywhere and they don't have easily distinguished signs that you can detect.

The moral is to let children know that they need to learn certain basic rules or actions for self-protection and for you to practice with them. Answer their questions with age-appropriate responses and always offer support and understanding.