How Sexual Predators Groom Their Victims

Pretend that you are back in high school and pretend that you are (for lack of a better word) a nerd. You spend more time at home figuring out quantum mechanics than you do socializing. In this hypothetical story, it is nearing finals week of senior year. You have already mentally clocked out of high school and moved on to a prestigious university.

acda21f24765e2a66af2cb0b90480e13You sit in physics class touching up your scientific reading knowledge when someone taps you on the shoulder. You turn around and it is the smokeshow blonde from the back of your classroom -– and get this, she is smiling at you!

You fumble to get real words out of your mouth, but not to worry because she already knows exactly what she wants to say to you. After charming you with a sweet hi she says she wants to know if you would tutor her for the final exam. You agree and instantly begin to put a thorough lhkv7cs-iesson plan together in your head. She arrives at your house (of course she has a sweet ride!) and you let her in and offer her a soda pop. She declines and you head to your room where you are ready to teach. Only you get in your room and she does not want to learn. No, she wants to have sex with you. You are a human being, so you do not even think about motive when she begins stripping you. Before you know it she has rocked your world.

As you lay in bed happier than you have ever been, she begins to dress herself and turns back to ask if you can still tutor her for the exam. You begin to reply enthusiastically, but before you can finish she cuts you off. She does not want to actually learn anything for the exam, she only wants to do well enough so that she can graduate on time and she knows you can get her the grade that she needs to do so.

She wants you to cheat for her. At first you are hesitant. But she quickly puts to rest any of your concerns when she comes over and kisses you passionately for a minute or two. You agree to help her cheat on the exam.

You are a victim. You have been groomed. The smokeshow blonde gained your trust by manipulating you and used you for what she wanted.

To recap: grooming increases the predator’s access to their victim and decreases the likelihood of discovery.

As we have learned, child molesters do their homework. They take it slow and test the child many times before getting to the stage they ultimately want to be at. And to be clear that does not always mean rape. But technicalities for the police and investigators aside, being weird is being weird, and I think we can all agree on that.

Below are some quotes from convicted child molesters. They basically laughed their way towards molestation because of being too trusted and the negligence on the part of so many people –- specifically parents of the victims.

Be amazed:

“Parents are so naive—they’re worried about strangers and should be worried about their brother-in-law. They just don’t realize how devious we can be. I used to abuse children in the same room with their parents and they couldn’t see it or didn’t seem to know it was happening.”

“I was disabled and spent months grooming the parents, so they would tell their children to take me out and help me. No one thought that disabled people could be abusers.”

“Parents are partly to blame if they don’t tell their children about [sexual matters]—I used it to my advantage by teaching the child myself.”

“Parents shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about things like this—it’s harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you’re up to.”

I will write it a million times if I have to: grooming is a process. First, the predator chooses a target area, which could be places like schools, shopping malls, playgrounds and parks. They may work or volunteer at businesses that cater to children. Single parent families are also a target for predators.

There is no prototypical victim of child sexual abuse, which is contrary to public opinion, but predators often target children with obvious vulnerabilities. Think about it: a child who feels unloved and unpopular (think about the nerd with the smokeshow!) will soak up adult attention like a sponge. The same can be said about children with family problems, children who spend time alone and unsupervised, children who lack confidence and self-esteem, and children and who are isolated from their peers.

Predators use many different forms of charm with potential victims. They may offer to play games, give rides, or buy candy. If the children are older, the predator may offer drugs or alcohol. But no matter what the circumstance the predator almost always offer a sympathetic, understanding ear.

When the predator gives the child the candy they will then say things like: “Here’s some candy. But don’t tell your friends because they’ll be jealous, and don’t tell your mother because she won’t like you eating between meals.” Or they will threaten the child: “If you tell your mother what happened, she’ll hate you. It’ll kill her. Or I’ll kill her. Or I’ll kill you.”

Predators use the grooming process to break down a child’s defensive instincts and increase the child’s acceptance of touch. The first physical contact between predator and victim is often nonsexual touching designed to identify limits: an “accidental” touch, an arm around the shoulder, a brushing of hair. Nonsexual touching breaks down inhibitions with the child and leads to more overt sexual touching – the predator’s ultimate goal.

Successful predators will find a way to fill a void in a child’s life.

How do we stop pedophiles from getting that far with our children? The best way to recognize the grooming behavior is to pay attention the child and the people in the child’s life. Children rely on adults to protect them from strangers, most who are more often than not other adults.

The twenty first century world is fast-paced, interconnected, and diverse. The problems the world faces are at the highest peak of our civilization. There are many demands placed upon our time, and in our daily routines, but nothing is more important than the welfare of our children. When we blindly surrender responsibility for them to others without question, we invite trouble.

Parents and guardians should take the time to really get to know their child’s teachers, coaches, day care providers, youth group leaders, and other significant adults in their lives. Make unannounced visits. Ask questions. Stay involved. So what if you seem overprotective? So what if it may drive the people of authority crazy to have to answer your questions over-and-over again? At least you will know that you are protecting your child.

The simplest thing to do, to start, would be to talk to your children. Teach them to recognize grooming behaviors in adults. We can teach our children this aspect at that same early stage in their lives where we tell them repeatedly not to get in cars with strangers. Teach them to be wary of any physical contact initiated by an adult. And teach them to trust you with their problems and their pain. The safest child is a child who knows they can bring their problems and concerns to parents and not feel like they are going to be yelled at or punished in some way.

Finally, I want to say that the last quote from the barrage above really got to me and I think it is the epitome of what I am trying to do with this site. Here it is again from a convicted child molester:

“Parents shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about things like this—it’s harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you’re up to.”

Personally, I do not think it is embarrassment that stops parents from talking to their children about child abuse. I think there reason parents may choose not to talk to there children is simply due to a lack of knowledge. That is why it is my mission to try and connect with as many individuals as possible. Current parents, grandparents, future parents, children — whomever it may be. We can all learn how to better protect each other with knowledge.

Jerry Sandusky: A Profile Of One Of The World’s Most Infamous Pedophile

jerry-sandusky-mugshot
Jerry Sandusky’s booking photo after he failed to make $250,000 bail in December of 2011.

I doubt there are many people outside of State College, Pennsylvania, who knew Jerry Sandusky’s name before November 5, 2011. Yes, he helped “create” Linebacker U and was a part of both of Joe Paterno’s two National Championship football teams, but I would challenge anyone to name the current five best coordinators of any team at the college or pro football level. And I will take it to the next level: name coordinators who have been retired for more than a decade. The point is that no one gave a shit about Jerry Sandusky before November 2011 and I think that point rings even truer today.

I will spare you a long narrative on the life of Jerry Sandusky, and instead stick to nailing the “highlights” of his otherwise sad and disturbing life. Sandusky served as an assistant at Penn State from 1969-1999 where he then took an emeritus position after learning he would not be the next head coach. Paterno did not like Sandusky and the often openly argued. In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, which was a non-profit charity serving underprivileged and troubled youth in the state of Pennsylvania. After retirement from Penn State, he published an autobiography, ironically enough titled Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story. He was described by many as a “lovable goofball”, often seen horsing around, made a lot of prank phone calls, and was always talking about the mega water balloon fights he orchestrated while in college.

Yeah, Jerry was a big deal.

Anyway, before we work our way towards Sandusky’s process as a pedophile, here is a little bit of insight into The Second Mile:

  • As mentioned prior, The Second Mile was created in 1977 with the help of Sandsuky’s wife, Dottie.
  • The foundation had a budget of millions of dollars and their programs reached tens of thousands of children.
  • Vulnerable children were located by outsourcing with child-care professionals.
  • In 1990, The Second Mile received one of President H.W. Bush’s Points of Light awards, which is hilariously not even listed anymore on the PoL history website. Isn’t it great how people try to pretend like things never even happened? Negligence and ignorance is exactly what allowed Jerry Sandusky to roam free for years!

The Second Mile foundation was an extremely important aspect in the grooming arc set up by Jerry Sandusky. Grooming is defined by psychologists as the process by which child molesters ingratiate themselves into communities they wish to exploit. In this case, what better community for Sandusky to exploit than his very own? For years, Sandusky was setting up a pipeline of young troubled boys and nobody thought twice about his behavior.

However, there were warning shots fired on more than one occasion. But like I said before, Sandusky, as do many pedophiles, had a process. It is this process that fools so many of us. It is the grooming process that covers up all of those warning signs and never allows for allegations to become anything more than isolated incidents.

If you want to read the gruesome details of many of Sandusky’s interactions with his victims, here is a link to the Grand Jury testimony.

Here is one story of how Sandusky got away with it.

In 1998, Sandusky invited an eleven-year-old boy he met though The Second Mile to a Penn State athletic facility. The two engaged in wrestling and a workout before they showered together. Now, a successful pedophile – I cannot believe there is even such a phrase – does not find his victims by mistake. They will “test the waters” sort of speak. For Sandusky, The Second Mile was a place that gave him easy access to vulnerable children.

Sandusky started with wrestling because he wanted to make physical touch seem normal to the young child. The shower was the next test. After the boy agreed to shower next to Sandusky, he then made his next move and bear hugged as each were naked. Sandusky wanted to see how the boy would react. The boy reacted by telling Sandusky that he felt it was weird.

No worries. Sandusky backed off. This was part of his process. He gave it a week before coming back to the boys’ home. Sandusky wanted to see if the boy was ready to spend time with him again, but instead Sandusky found the boy to be too risky of a “candidate”.

Here is the reason why: The boy’s mother confronted Sandusky and asked him if anything unusual had happened the last time he and her son were together. Sandusky beat around the bush before the mother told him it’d be best if he left her son alone. Sandusky then goes on to tell her things like I’m sorry and I wish I were dead. Sandusky was cleverly setting himself up to be the victim by reacting in a way where he seemed taken aback and ashamed. He understood he had gone too far and was trying to use his old “charm” to keep the mother from asking more questions or going to the police — although little did he know that detectives were in listening to the conversation the whole time.

You might say to yourself: Well, there you have it! Sandusky admitted he was doing inappropriate things with the boy. Why didn’t the police arrest him then? Because as I have mentioned before, prosecutors must gather evidence of sexual abuse. While Sandusky made an admission of wrong-doing on some level, it was by no means evidence of sexual abuse.

Pedophiles do not go for the homerun right away. The explore their options and feel things out — literally. The problem with this specific situation is that the prosecutors got involved too early. Again, you may be asking yourself: Why is it too early? Can it ever be too early when it comes to protecting children? Well, the simple answer is yes. But, as we can see, the vetting process for prosecutors does not line up with the grooming process of the pedophile. This is where the first major hurdle comes into play and is one of many reasons why it is not easy to identify pedophiles.

That specific allegation involving Sandusky was, sadly, too vague. Things get even more complicated when the boy tells his psychologist that he felt like the luckiest kid in the world to get to sit on the sidelines at Penn State football games. The boy’s mother began to question her own sense. Was she overreacting?

The psychologist who interview the young boy, Alycia Chambers, wrote a report on the case and gave it to the [Penn State] University Police Department and Child and Youth Services. According to her notes:

“Sandusky’s behavior met the definition of a ‘likely pedophile’s pattern of building trust and gradual introduction of physical touch, within a context of a ‘loving,’ ‘special’ relationship.’”

However, Jerry Lauro, disagreed. Lauro was the caseworker assigned to the incident by the Department of Public Welfare in Harrisburg and said:

“the incident fell into a ‘gray’ area concerning ‘boundary issues.’”

A final psychologist, John Seasock, declared:

“There seems to be no incident which could be termed as sexual abuse, nor did there appear to be any sequential pattern of logic and behavior which is usually consistent with adults who have difficulty with sexual abuse of children.”

Only one out of the three psychologists thought Sandusky was grooming this young boy and recognized his behavior for what it actually was. The other two psychologists seem to give concrete conclusions that Sandusky’s actions were either (i) falling into a “gray” area or (ii) that his behavior did not indicate at all that he was sexually abusing the child.

After the investigation was over, Gary Schultz, Penn State’s Senior Vice President for Business and Finance, e-mailed Graham Spanier, the University’s President, and Tim Curley, the school’s Athletic Director, and told them that the investigators were dropping the whole matter. Sandusky, Schultz wrote, “was a little emotional and expressed concern as to how this might have adversely affected the child.”

Jerry Sandusky: One

Everyone else involved: Zero

The Story Of How One Child Molester Got Away With It

I bet that is the scariest title to a post that you have ever seen.

There is this great article from The New Yorker that was written in September of 2012, almost a full year after Jerry Sandusky was arrested. Sandusky was a former defensive coordinator at Penn State and had run The Second Mile since 1977, which was a charity that helped at-risk kids. After his arrest, America was (once again) introduced to the world of pedophiles and all the ugliness that comes with them.

Malcolm Gladwell’s depiction of the mind of a pedophile is as much interesting as it is haunting. It was after reading this post from Gladwell that I really began to question my own sense of the situation involving Sandusky. I also began to question how the situation was being displayed by the media, up to that point.

I very quickly realized that there was plenty I did not know.

As I began reading Gladwell’s article I was immediately taken aback by the caution used by many of the people involved in the story of a young Canadian physical education teacher. The quick of the story: Three boys confessed to their parents that the man addressed as Jeffery Clay had touched them under their pants. What came next? Not much, except extreme caution from everyone, including a mother of one of the boys who said:

“We were all still trying to protect Mr. Clay’s reputation, and the possibility this was all blown up out of proportion and there was a mistake.”

Later, after learning of a previous complaint made against Clay, the families then took to the superintendent of their school district. Amazingly, he, too, advised caution, saying:

“If allegations do not clearly indicate sexual abuse, a gray area exists,”

As I was reading along I kept asking myself the same question: Why? I fully understood the initial intent of many people to be cautious when it came to declaring Clay to be a pedophile of some sort, but I couldn’t understand why, after multiple complaints from different children, he seemed to be treated with the same caution as he was whenever that first complaint came to light.

Furthermore, I was trying to understand why it mattered that the stories were all vague? Or that there was indiscretion? After all, these were young children who had somehow mustered up the courage to tell their parents that a man much older than them was touching them — at the very least — in inappropriate places.

Come on now! Think back to when you were a child. How hard was it to admit anything to your parents when you thought would get you in to some sort of trouble? The window you broke? The homework assignment you forgot to do and you had to have a parent signature the next day at school? The time you let your little brother get lost at the park? That same window you broke, again?! It was terrifying to tell our parents some of these things, which in comparison to molestation make them seem extremely silly.

Then I read the line that talked about protecting the image and “professional integrity” of the other teachers in Clay’s school district. I was enraged! But, I was hooked. Much like the more recent Jerry Sandusky saga has shown us, there really are two sides to a story — even the ones as disgusting and heartbreaking as these.

You could probably guess yourself that Clay kept his job after initial investigating was completed. It is at that point where the story gets really interesting.

After a new complaint surfaced, Clay, himself, resigned from his position and began to seek therapy for his behavior. I literally shook my head after writing that last line because the story should have ended right there. That is how ridiculous this story is about to get.

In a bizarre plot twist, after himself resigning and admitting he needed to seek professional help for his behavior, Clay somehow ends up getting the upper hand. The community was outraged when Clay resigned, and their feelings were only made stronger after prosecutors deemed the information they had on Clay was not enough to convict. Many teachers thought Clay was innocent. Clay’s glowing reputation alone was beginning to win him the hearts of an entire community and he then threatened to sue the parents of the three young children.

The case was completely dropped.

Clay was set free to roam and continue his behavior at the expense of countless young children, and later he even got his teaching certificate reactivated.

It is this specific story that brings light to the assumption that people of authority should be able to identify and catch predators. Clay reminds us that a pedophile:

“is someone adept not just at preying on children but at confusing, deceiving, and charming the adults responsible for those children.”

small-kids-play-vector-illustration_gj4cogd__lThat quote from Clay is exactly why I believe it is so important to educate ourselves when it comes to identifying predators and protecting children. Pedophiles make things so much more than only black-and-white. They are the very definition of why there is a “gray area” because, according to the law, simply touching children does not mean an individual is a pedophile. For that specific reason it is extremely difficult to gather evidence of sexual abuse.

Pedophiles, in short, seem harmless. They endear themselves to countless individuals. If it was so easy to identify a pedophile, don’t you think somebody would have let us all in on the secret by now?

The sad truth is that there is no secret, and it is extremely difficult to identify these monsters. But it is possible, although Gladwell reminds us that:

“The pedophile is often imagined as the disheveled old man baldly offering candy to preschoolers. But the truth is that most of the time we have no clue what we are dealing with.”

Gladwell’s post cites numerous pedophiles and their processes, proving that this is more of a deranged epidemic than it is controlled with a few random instances.  When it comes to identifying pedophiles we need to be more aware of warning signs, and less accepting of protecting ourselves at the expense of children. We do need to continue to use caution when declaring a person of being a pedophile because livelihoods are at stake, but we must use less caution when we get multiple complaints. If we use that approach we may begin to really zero in on a terrible situation that is staring us right in the face.

No matter how hard this is to do. No matter how hard this is to talk about. No matter how long it takes to get it right. We need to come up with a better and more effective system for identifying child molesters.

That is why we are here. To become better educated and because we care about protecting children.