The Fight For Innocence

Photo: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / lucidwaters

In 1993, I was a young risk-management professional presenting my first child sexual-abuse seminar to a youth organization in theMidwest. The content of the talk was based on the insurance industry’s examination of claims experience, combined with its interpretation of root causes and contributing factors. Little did I know at the time that the information and strategies I presented that day would have little–if any–chance of detecting or preventing abuse.

Fast forward 16 years, and the national headlines of child-abuse cases involving schools, camps, churches, leagues, and other youth organizations continued to reveal the infiltration of child molesters. As an attendee and speaker at various wilderness, camp, and outdoor-recreation conferences, I discovered that new information and tactics were simply absent from the agenda. Then, in the spring of 2009, a child molester was discovered in our own midst, exposing the gripping reality that the perpetrator was someone who was known and trusted.

Gaining Some Perspective

Statistically, as many as one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood.¹ Public-opinion surveys conducted by organizations such as Stop It Now! help to substantiate this estimate, noting that “29 percent of women and 14 percent of men surveyed reported having been sexually abused as children.”² Male abusers who target girls have an average of 52 victims prior to prosecution, and male abusers who target boys have an average of 150 victims prior to prosecution.³

Categorically, perpetrators of child sexual abuse are typically males in 85 to 90 percent of the cases, and in 90 percent of child sexual cases, is an acquaintance the child knows and trusts.⁴ The Department of Justice estimates that approximately 400,000 or more convicted pedophiles currently reside in the U.S.⁵, with indications that fewer than 10 percent of sexual offenses will ever be prosecuted. Because a large percentage of crimes never reach conviction, they are not included in national reporting databases.

For years, youth organizations have dedicated extensive resources to combat molesters who are strangers with an “outside-in” mentality, unaware that these molesters represent only 10 percent of abuse cases. Acquaintance molesters, on the other hand, represent the larger percentage–and for the sake of simplicity–fall within two categories:

  • Groomers
  • Opportunists.

A grooming child-molester is a person who follows a premeditated, methodical pattern of “grooming” a child into becoming a potential victim. The six-stage grooming process, as suggested by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, includes:

  • Targeting a victim
  • Gaining trust
  • Filling a need
  • Isolating the victim
  • Sexualizing the relationship
  • Maintaining control.

This grooming process was further evidenced in September 2010 whenOrangeCountysheriff deputies confiscated a 170-page child-molestation instruction manual circulating around centralFlorida.  Reports state that it shows, step by step, how to molest children.⁶ While “groomers” are perhaps the most devastating of all molesters in regard to the number of victims, the behavior patterns of grooming molesters can potentially be detected with proper training and monitoring strategies.

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