Myth: You can usually can spot a child sexual abuser immediately.
Fact: Many people visualize a child molester as a sickening individual who would cause a child to instinctively run. Those types certainly do exist but the average person cannot easily identify pedophiles or child molesters by appearance. Their behaviors are not always recognizable either. A pedophile can be a friend, neighbor, coworker, teacher, preacher, coach, doctor, lawyer, judge, dance instructor or just about anyone. They are living within our communities and often are the people we trust most.
Myth: Children always fear pedophiles.
Fact: This is rarely if ever true. The average pedophile is a very patient and persistent individual who will literally interview the potential victim and inquire about what the victim views as his or her most essential needs, wants or desires. The child’s deep-seated necessity may be an emotional need such as acceptance, friendship, unconditional love, socialization or attention. The need may be physical such as the need for money, food, medical needs or clothes. The need or want can also be for material things such as games, event tickets, videos, music or a wide variety of other things. Armed with as much knowledge as possible about the child’s needs or wants, the pedophile then plans his approach by meeting as many of those needs as possible. Although the situation is uncomfortable, the child often views the perpetrator as a friend and does not understand the complexity of the damage it is causing him or her.
Myth: To protect your children from sexual abuse, you should teach them to beware of strangers.
Fact: Strangers can and do pose a threat to children in many cases but it is more common for the sexual abuser to be someone that the child knows and trusts. The abuser may be a a family friend, a relative, a babysitter, neighbor or anyone the child is in contact with. In 80% of the incidents of child sexual assault, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts. The Internet provides an opportunity for the offender to learn a great deal of information about the child and then uses those details to become the child’s best friend.
Myth: A child molester is usually a “dirty old man.”
Fact: In 90% of the cases, the abuser is under 50 years of age.
Myth: All pedophiles are men.
Fact: Most of the time it is a man that molests children or has pedophile type behaviors but there is a growing number of female offenders.
Myth: Pedophiles and child molesters are spontaneous and pick victims on a whim.
Fact: The average pedophile or child molester carefully plans out all of the details that lead up to the commission of the crime. While there may not be a specific victim in his mind, the events of how he plans to meet a child are very clear in his mind. The abuser rarely makes a spur-of-the-moment decision before acting on his fantasy to molest a child. He or she will spend days, weeks or months preparing a strategy for a sexual assault. The victim is carefully groomed over a period of time.
Myth: Pedophiles only have sex with children.
Fact: The professional definition of a pedophile is a person at least 16 years old and has intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving prepubescent children. The children are at least four years younger than the abuser. These fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors have been occurring for more than six months and have caused significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of the offender’s life. Some of these individuals prefer both boys and girls, some prefer only girls and others prefer only boys. While these individuals prefer children, it is not uncommon for them to be married or be in another type of adult relationship where they are sexually active with a spouse or other adults.
Myth: All sex offenders must register with the local authorities where they reside.
Fact: Each state has their own requirements for what specific crimes qualify as serious enough to require sex offender registration. Not all of the persons who commit rape, incest, or sexual assault are required to register.
Myth: Most convicted sex offenders are in jail or prison.
Fact: About 60% of convicted sex offenders are under conditional supervision in their local community and are serving sentences on parole or probation. (Greenfiled, 1997)
Myth: Most people convicted of a sex related offense get long prison sentences including life in prison.
Fact: For offenders sentenced to prison for rape, the average term imposed was just under 14 years.
Only 2% of convicted rapists received life sentences. About half of all defendants charged with rape are released on bond prior to trial. The median bond amount was $23,500. (Greenfiled, 1997)
Myth: Most sexual abuse is committed by strangers with the use of physical force.
Fact: A firearm was involved in just 1% of the sexual assaults of victims age 12 through 17. The child is more likely to be coerced with promises of gifts, pets, money, or even attention.
Myth: Child pornography is really a victimless crime.
Fact: For these crime scene photos to exist, there must first be a victim and a perpetrator.
In 2006, about 3,672 arrested offenders possessed child porn. About 70% of these cases began with investigations of child porn possession. (30% began with suspicions of child molestation.) In both 2000 and 2006, 1 in 6 cases that began with investigations of child porn possession caught offenders who had molested children. (Wolak, Finkelhor, Mitchell 2009)
Myth: It is not a crime if the underage victim consents.
Fact: Each state has laws regarding the age of consent. If the young person is under the age of consent, they cannot legally consent or agree to any sexual activity. I’ve seen many sex offenders attempt to blame their crimes on the victims by claiming that the child between 4-8 seduced them. Sorry, that didn’t happen.
One of the things that nearly all child molesters have in common is they want to be discreet. This characteristic works real well on the Internet. He or she can hide behind a text message, email, or other method of contact until enough trust is built between him or her and the potential victim. Once he is reasonably sure that the child he is conversing with is able to keep a secret, he will slowly start to reveal personal information to the child.