Photo by doglington via Flickr
Parents often try and figure out what a pedophile looks like, what they think like, what they sound like, and more. But the truth of the matter is that they don’t look any different from anyone else.
I recently talked with George Feder, a regular contributor to this blog, about his experiences with child molesters in prison. He gave me this bit of information:
I’ve met, spoken with, and gone to church with child molesters, and I didn’t know it. That happened over 20 years ago while I was in prison doing my time for burglary. These guys used to seek the secure feeling of carrying bibles, working in the prison church and staying close to the Pastor. They’re scared because they realize that almost the entire prison population would gladly cut their collective throats if they could get away with it.
George is right—child molesters, pedophiles, child predators, and other sex offenders, are highly vilified (not just by the prison community), but one could be standing right next you and you wouldn’t know it.
Definition of a pedophile
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s actually define what we mean by “pedophile.” Technically, a pedophile is an adult or older teen who is sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children, generally under the age of 12 or 13. True pedophiles are generally not sexually attracted to people their own age. This is different from someone who may have abused a child, but otherwise has age-appropriate sexual desires. In fact, not all child molesters are pedophiles. And, by extension, not all sex offenders are pedophiles.
As such, pedophiles—specifically—exhibit some characteristic behaviors that are not necessarily common to other child molesters, child abusers, or other sex offenders.
Characteristics of a pedophile
- Generally male—but not always, there are female pedophiles
- Usually single and with few close friends in his or her age group, preferring the company of children over the company of adults
- He or she will often refer to children in pure or angelic terms describing them as innocent, heavenly, divine, and pure
They have hobbies that are child-like, such as collecting popular toys, keeping reptiles, exotic pets, or building plane and car models—these hobbies may be used to groom a child into trusting the pedophile, looking up to the pedophile, and thinking he or she is “safe” when around the pedophile
The target child
Pedophiles often seek out shy, withdrawn, or handicapped children, or those children who come from troubled, abusive, or neglected homes. These children are specifically vulnerable to a pedophile’s advances because they may easily welcome the attention that a pedophile showers on them and, as such, may be hesitant to disclose abuse to other adults. A pedophile may groom these children by showering them with attention, gifts, and trips to desirable places like amusement parks, zoos, concerts, or the beach.
In some cases, children are so neglected or abused by others that they may even develop a relationship where they may seek out abuse in return for attention and may become emotionally attached to their abuser. And a pedophile can encourage this behavior through manipulation by guilt, fear, and love that will confuse the child to the point where they don’t know what to do other than what the abuser tells them.
But a pedophile’s manipulation goes far beyond the child he or she may be abusing. Many pedophiles lull a child’s parents or guardians into a false sense of security by appearing to be extremely nice or especially “sweet” with children.
Some red flags
- “John was so sweet with those children at the party last night, he was in the basement playing with the kids all night.”
- “Did you know John has a large collection of toy robots? It’s so cute that he tinkers with them all the time, and the kids just love to go over and play with them.”
- “John in the nicest man I’ve met in the long time. The other night he brought over a big cake for us—out of the blue—then offered to babysit the kids, so I could have a few hours to myself.”
These extremely nice gestures not only serve to mask abuse, but when abuse is uncovered, other adults or friends may feel bad about bringing the attention to police because “he’s such a nice man. And he promised never to do it again.”
Unfortunately, there is no cure for pedophilia. There are treatment programs that attempt to help pedophiles overcome their sexual preference for children and help them not act on those desires, but true pedophilia is not 100% curable.
Pedophiles are able to act out their fantasies on children because they have access and time. You can prevent your children from becoming victims by monitoring other adults’ behavior around your children and looking out for red flags.
(Special thanks to George Feder for providing information and the impetus for writing this article)
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