We do everything we can to protect our children, however, there are those who are determined to cause harm onto others, regardless of sex or age. To help prevent ourselves and our children from falling victim to a predator, it is important to first understand the answer to the question: “what is a predator?”
What Is a Predator?
According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, a sexual predator is a person who has been convicted of a first-degree felony sex crime. In most cases involving a sexual predator, this person has trouble dealing with his or her feelings of intimacy. In an attempt to try to find it, the predator seeks comfort where it should not be sought. Such as with a minor.
In some cases, especially when the affection is not returned, the predator can cause harm to the child who does not return the same feelings or affection.
Who Is a Sexual Predator?
Sexual predators are not always strangers. In most reported cases they are family members, close friends and neighbors. It is generally someone the child already has an established relationship with.
Some predators can even have multiple victims of all ages. This occurs when the offenses occur over long periods of time without the predator being caught.
Predators can be teachers, field trip chaperones, physicians, computer programmers, financial advisors, police officers and well respected members of the community. Because there is no single sign or stereotype, a predator can be just about anywhere within a community.
Because of this it is important that kids know what is a predator. Kids need to be aware of who they can trust and the warning signs when someone they trust crosses the line. In most cases, it is the person you would suspect the least.
Some predators have started to use technology to help them find their victims. Making it less obvious who the predators are. Predators will use the Internet to seek out new victims focusing on those from abusive families or children who feel they are being neglected or forgotten. Other children who may be targeted are those who are unpopular, those who feel unloved, those looking for attention, those with lack of confidence, those who are often isolated and spend a lot of time alone and unsupervised.
What Are the Warning Signs?
When it comes to spotting a predator, there are many different warning signs. In most cases, one or more signs may be obvious, while in some cases, the signs are less noticeable. Knowing what to look for will help identify a predator and determine if your child is a victim, or potential victim of one.
Here are some of the warning signs a child may show that could reveal a predator’s heinous activities:
- Random outbursts of anger
- Inappropriate behavior, such as in a sexual manner with toys or objects
- Sleeping problems, including bedwetting
- Becomes clingy or withdrawn
- Is very secretive
- Experiences unexplained personality changes and mood swings
- Uncontrollable fears of people and places
- Changes in eating habits
- Uses new words for body parts
- Is receiving new gifts from friends you do not know
- Causes self harm
- Begins to talk about an unknown friend
- Physical signs, such as bruising around genitalia
- Refuses to spend time with someone
Here are some behaviors to help identify someone who may be a sexual predator:
- Continually misdirects people’s attention
- Very arrogant
- Known for using all kinds of pornography
- Is overly affectionate to children that are not his or her own
- Constantly giving gifts for no reason to children who are not his or her own
What Is Grooming?
Most sexual predators conduct their offenses using a specific process that is known as “grooming.” This process helps prepare their targets to be abused. According to Indiana University Northwest, grooming is a deliberate action taken to befriend a child with all intentions of using them for sexual exploitation.
Steps in the grooming process include:
- Showing special attention
- Giving rewards and offers special recognition
- Giving special privileges
- Gradually increasing the amounts of physical contact
- Slowly increasing the amounts of sexual comments made
- Progressive behavior in an attempt to desensitize the victim to what is happening
- Testing boundaries between the predator and the intended victim
- Acts of sexual exploitation over long periods of time
- Blaming the victim for what is happening or sharing responsibility for sexual activity
- Emphasizing the need for secrecy
How Can One Avoid a Predator?
According to Indiana University Northwest, the most important thing you can do to avoid sexual predators is to be educated yourself and to educate your kids about the dangers of a predator. Of course, it is not always as easy as it sounds. However, if you do suspect someone in your community is a sexual predator, it is important to do everything you can to stay away and keep yourself and your children out of harm’s way.
Teach kids to not allow anyone to touch them anywhere on their body. Especially on the breast area of young girls or in the crotch area on any child. If touched inappropriately, the child should run away and tell someone immediately. Explain to your children that they must know who they can trust and the warning signs of someone they cannot trust.
Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the natural charm most predators have. It is only a misdirection of their true intentions. Always be observant and know what is gong on in your home, your child‘s school and in the community. If you feel you are dealing with a predator, contact someone immediately. Predators rely on their victims keeping silent so they can repeatedly get away with it.
Avoid anyone you believe is a predator. Sometimes even telling someone does not get things taken care of. If you are uncomfortable around someone, just stay away.
Depending upon the circumstances, it may be necessary to change any contact information that was given or obtained by the predator. This includes changing your phone numbers and email addresses. If he or she obtains a physical address, make sure to keep windows and doors shut and secure at all times. Close the blinds at night and when home alone.
Consider taking self defense classes as a family. This will help ensure everyone in the family can properly defend themselves should the need arise.
Ways to Stop a Predator
Though there are many ways to avoid predators, the best course of action is to prevent it from even happening to begin with. Knowing exactly what is a predator and all of the warning signs will help prevent anything from ever happening in the first place.
Here are some ways to stop a predator from putting you and your family in an uncomfortable situation:
- Be aware of what you kids are doing at all times
- Know who your child is friends with
- Meet the parents of their friends
- Be active in the school system
- Know everyone who has contact with your child both at school and within the community
- Use parental controls on any pieces of technology in your home that has Internet access
- Set a curfew
- Talk with your child about friends and daily routines
Facts about Predators
No matter how much we prepare ourselves to identify a predator, there are still plenty of reported cases of sexual abuse among children. Plus, there are many more that go unreported every day. The following statistics and facts about predators comes from the U.S. Department of Justice:
- On average 1 out of every 3 girls are sexually abused during their childhood
- On average 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused during their childhood
- 47 percent of predators are family or part of an extended family
- In 93 percent of reported cases, the child knows the predator
- Only 30 percent of abuse cases are actually reported
- Approximately 1.8 million children in the United States have fallen victim to a predator
- 33 percent of sexual assault occurs among those ages 12 to 17
- On average reports show 1 out of 5 female high school students are being physically or sexually abused by someone they are dating
- 1 in 7 youth users of the Internet receive unwanted sexual advances
- 4 percent of Internet users receive solicitations to meet offline
Unfortunately, predators do not walk around with name tags identifying their true intentions. Because of this, we have to stay focused and aware of our surroundings. Knowing what is a sexual predator is just the beginning to stopping behavior that has already begun and preventing it from ever happening in the first place. Do what you can to protect yourself and your children from the threats of a predator. Remember to report any issues to the authorities if you feel uneasy, threatened or experience a predator’s deviant behavior first hand.