The recent discovery of Amanda Berry, Nina DeJesus and Michele Knight, three young women who suffered being abducted and, according to police reports, raped over the course of the last decade by their captors draws attention to the issue of child sexual abuse in a dramatic way.
However, sexual abuse of minors is frequently less apparent, because, as specialists in the field acknowledge, there is no typical profile for child molesters, and many child abusers are relatives or friends of the family.
“These are ‘nice guys’ and ‘pillars of the community,’ said former supervisory special agent, FBI Kenneth V. Lanning, who is also the author of “Child Molesters: A Behavorial Analysis” – a project awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.
Indeed, according to one news report, at least one of the three abductors in the Berry and DeJesus case was related to a friend of the family who attended a vigil held for the girls after they disappeared 10 years ago.
Not only is there no typical profile for a child molester, it is also difficult to identify a typical reason why child molesters sexually abuse their victims. The motivation is as individual as the molesters themselves.
How then can a molester be recognized?
Child molesters follow a common strategy to approach their targets.
Dr. Achal Bhagat, chairperson of Sarthak, a Delhi-based organization, has determined that there are four stages to a child molester’s strategy:
- Stage One: Win the child’s trust. This involves discerning what the child needs and giving it to him or her. For instance, if the child is hungry, a molester would offer food. If the child wants a toy, a molester would buy it. If the child needs a father figure, a molester would provide nurturing and guidance.
- Stage Two: Create an opportunity to be with child when no one else is around.
- Stage Three: Visit the child at home or take the child out to abuse him or her.
- Stage Four: Frighten the child into staying quiet.
This cycle can repeat, Bhagat notes. After frightening the child into silence about the abuse, the molester can regain and violate the child’s trust, systematically eroding self esteem. Eventually, believing they are at fault for continually trusting the perpetrator, the child assumes responsibility for the molestation.
Molesters also act similarly in that they do not express remorse when caught. Typically, molesters either blame their victims, saying that the child initiated the sexual activity, or they claim to have been overtaken by a feeling for which they are not to blame, Dr. Bhagat said.
Another way to recognize child molesters, Lanning’s study notes, is that they can generally be categorized in one of two groups, either situational or preferential:
- Situational-The situational child molester does not usually have a compulsive preference for sex with children. Situational molesters’ behavior ranges from one violation over the course of a lifetime to a long-term pattern of offences.
- Preferential: A preferential child molester often has definite sexual inclinations toward children. These are the molesters experts refer to as “pedophiles.”
What is child sexual abuse?
The American Humane Association (AHA), which advocates on behalf of both children and animals, defines a broad spectrum of sexual abuse types. All offences that involve sexually touching a child constitute sexual abuse, as they all harm a child’s well-being; however, such offences vary in type. The AHA has categorized child sexual abuse into the following categories:
“Touching sexual offenses include:
- making a child touch an adult’s sexual organs; and
- penetrating a child’s vagina or anus no matter how slight with a penis or any object that doesn’t have a valid medical purpose.
Non-touching sexual offenses include:
- engaging in indecent exposure or exhibitionism;
- exposing children to pornographic material;
- deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse; and
- masturbating in front of a child.
Sexual exploitation can include:
- engaging a child or soliciting a child for the purposes of prostitution; and
- using a child to film, photograph or model pornography.”
Child sexual abuse has far-reaching implications for your child’s health. If your child has been a victim of sexual molestation, we can help. At Estey & Bomberger, we are experienced child sexual molestation attorneys. We are also parents. And we are as concerned as you are about children’s welfare. Please call us at: 1-800-667-1558.