Sadly, sexual predators and paedophiles exist and will continue to exist. The news headlines on Jimmy Saville from a while ago got me thinking about my own professional experience of working with paedophiles and sexual predators.
When we hear the word “paedophile” we often imagine a socially awkward adult. Someone who looks out of place and doesn’t fit in. Someone who might be easy to spot and therefore easy to keep away from our children.
This may surprise you but the paedophiles that I have worked with in the past have, on the surface, been some of the most ‘likeable’ people I have ever worked with.
One in particular, who had murdered a young child after sexually assaulting her, was incredibly affable. He had been given a budgie to care for and was extremely tender and loving towards it.
He made various arts and crafts to pass the time and always had a smile on his face, as cheerful as could be.
When I spoke to my Clinical Supervisor about this, she told me that this demeanour in sex offenders is quite common.
“How do you think they gain the trust of children?” she asked me.
It’s in their interests to be fun and likeable – it’s how they operate and how they groom children to trust them. They groom the parents into trusting them with their children too.
They have incredible patience too – I know of paedophiles that have groomed families and children for years before getting as close to the children as they would like.
Adults that are sexually attracted to children often come from abused childhoods themselves and have an immature idea of how relationships work. They have a need for intimacy and affection but are inept at finding it among people their own age. They will go out of their way to ingratiate themselves with a family, in order to fit in and feel they belong.
Always be on your guard and never let someone you don’t fully trust be alone with young children.
I remember seeing a grown man flash his private parts at me in broad daylight, when I was about 10 years old. I was surprised and quickly left the area – a communal pool. This same man ran the second-hand bookshop at the local golf club and even when I went there once with my Mother, I still didn’t tell her.
It would seem obvious that a child would tell but many don’t. There are so many reasons why children remain silent – they fear not being believed, they don’t realise just how wrong the behaviour is or they are coerced into keeping the secret.
Don’t assume that because your child doesn’t tell you anything that there is nothing going on. Be aware and be observant, look for any changes in your child’s behaviour…
Educate children about sex as soon as it is age appropriate as this also helps to combat abuse.