There are many obstacles when it comes to accurately identifying child molesters, but the obstacles begin with adults. Children rely on their elders for guidance and protection. When an adult is fooled by an abuser then the child is rendered defenseless.
It is, obviously, not entirely adults who are at fault. Monsters who molest children follow no particular pattern in regards to their age, sex, and occupation, although they seem to choose lifestyles giving them access to children. It is extremely difficult to identify a child molester. However, it is the adults responsibility to be aware of emerging signs and patterns of a potential child molester.
This is all easier said than done. Take for example the case of a man who was voted “Citizen of the Year” before being convicted on a number of molestation charges. This individual was in charge of running the annual community fair and he used young students to run the booths. Despite the eventual convictions against the man, the community whose children he molested appealed to the courts for a temporarily release to run the fair again.
Bizarre, but it points mainly to confusion and denial amongst the adult population.
In another case, a Canadian teacher was accused of molesting children at numerous schools during the 1970’s-1980’s. How did this man get away with molesting for so long and at so many different places? Because the police departments involved decided to treat each case as an isolated incident. This teacher was essentially getting a glowing letter of recommendation to facilitate a move to another district. In every community, therapists working with him knew about his sexual activities, but kept quiet despite legal obligations to report their knowledge. School district personnel also failed to report what they knew to the police, as each complaint they heard was also handled separately.
To recap: Every single time someone encountered indications of sexual abuse involving the teacher, they assumed the information reflected only an isolated instance, encouraged everyone involved to keep quiet, and feared a libel suit from the teacher should they discuss his tendencies.
That is some extreme negligence.
Here is an amazing quote from a mother who had a child abused. These cases can get so twisted that at one point she thought she was being unreasonably crazy, saying:
“Maybe I’m making a big deal about it. I don’t feel that we’ve been taken seriously. In some peoples minds we’ve made a big deal about nothing. They tell us, “It was just little boys,” and “It only happened for four months.” You get the feeling, not from what is said, but from what is not said, that, one, your son did something wrong, and, two, you’re making a big deal of it. You get this not only from the school system, but when you talk to other parents, or your doctor, and you begin to believe, ” Maybe I should shut up. Maybe it’s not a big deal.” Then you think, “Damn it. My kid did not do anything to have this happen to him (van Dam).”
As a child I would not have known how to handle a situation involving molestation. Nobody ever talked about it to me growing up. Not my parents, not my teachers, not my coaches — nobody with an authority figure ever addressed this issue to me. I knew not to talk to strangers, get in their car, take candy, etc. But that was about the extent of it. I am grateful I never encountered a situation that remotely felt like molestation on any level.
Some kids are not so lucky.
Before I began advocating, I’m not sure I knew enough about molesters to say I could have, hypothetically, as a father, been able to educate my own kids on how to identify molesters and what to do if they were ever encountered a situation of molestation with another adult. That is a scary thought because I feel like there are a lot of actual parents out there who feel the exact same way. Their biggest fear is their child(ren) being taken advantage of by an adult. They fear for a number of reasons, but maybe the biggest reason is because they themselves do not know how to even begin to go about diving into the topic of molestation.
There are ways to end molestation in our communities. The education starts with the adults. They cannot be confused or in denial when it comes to the safety of so many children. They cannot accept to live like past generations. This needs to be an issue that is addressed as soon as a child is competent enough to realize the implications involved.
Remember that sexual abuse, for the abuser, is not about sex. Instead, it is an expression of the need for power and control taken out in a sexual manner. That should be our basis for identification. If we remember that, then we can more accurately begin to identify molesters.