The power to prevent
When they know the signs, parents can help protect children from sexual abuse.
Sharon Doty, shown in her Tulsa home, is the author of the 2010 book “Evil in Our Midst,” which teaches adults how to recognize potentially risky behaviors adults exhibit in interactions with children and stop those behaviors before abuse occurs.
You are a good parent. You think you already know how to stop child molesters in your environments. What if you don’t? What if you don’t know what you need to know to keep your child safe?
Over the past 10 years, research has provided us with new information about child molesters, including how they gain access to our children and work their way into the fabric of our lives. This new information helps us recognize potentially risky behavior in adults who are spending time with our children so we can interrupt the process before a child is molested.
You can learn how to prevent child sexual abuse. There are behaviors that are common among sexual predators when they are grooming children and families.
Learning how to recognize those behaviors and intervene when you see them can help empower you to stop potential abuse before it happens.
Among the common behaviors that indicate adults are risky: those who give gifts without permission and promote keeping secrets, adults who allow children to do things their parents won’t let them do and adults who always want to be alone with children in secluded environments where they can’t be monitored. Red flags should appear when an adult always seems to have his or her hands on other people’s children or talks to kids about sex or sexual matters without parents’ permission.
These are some of the behaviors risky adults exhibit. However, knowing that these behaviors are risky is not enough. We need to be able to recognize them in the people around us who interact with children and know how to interrupt them.
Most child molesters are appealing, often charismatic people who have the ability to win over everyone around them. They use their talents to gain children’s confidence and to obtain parents’ trust in order to act on their own sexual desires. They create and execute a methodical plan of seduction. We must be as good at preventing them from succeeding as they are at planning and executing their grooming approach.
It is often hard to tell the difference between a compassionate adult who genuinely cares about children and a predator. Molesters work hard to make the children feel special and to reassure caretakers. Parents also are targets of the predator, so sometimes they can see only what the molester wants them to see. They want to believe that they would instinctively know whether someone was grooming their child or them. They let down their guard and the door opens for the molester.
To protect children, parents must have a healthy suspicion about all adults who come into their child’s life. They must become proficient at recognizing these risky behaviors and take appropriate action when necessary to interrupt the process.
Stay alert! Watch adults, listen to their conversations, ask questions and listen to children. Take nothing for granted. Learn to recognize risky behaviors and put a stop to them when necessary. That’s our best defense against the child molester among us and the best protection for our children.
Empowering Adults — Protecting Children (EAPC) is a Tulsa-based nonprofit organization that aims to empower adults with the tools and knowledge to prevent sexual abuse. Founder Sharon Doty, a nationally known expert on preventing child sexual abuse, led a team of experts that developed a prevention program for the U.S. Catholic Diocese that has been implemented across the country. She has also conducted trainings worldwide. For more information, visit www.empoweringadults.org.