You are newly single. Enough time has passed and you are contemplating dating. But it isn’t as easy as it once was. You have children and they are a major factor in how, when, and most importantly, who you date. Children may be seen as an obstacle for a potential suitor who is not interested in taking on that responsibility, but for others, with malicious intent, your child may be the very object of his or her attraction to you.
The statistics on child abuse are alarming; one out of four children is exposed to some form of sexual abuse, and sexual abuse is in the rise in very young children, because of the limitations in their ability to verbalize what has happened to them. To make matters worse for divorced parents, children in stepfamilies are seven times more likely to be victims of physical or sexual abuse.
Sexual predators scout their prey well before they attack and the child of an unsuspecting single parent is too often a vulnerable target. It is said that if you know how to interpret what someone says and does, you can get most of the necessary information from a dating partner in a relatively short time, before he or she has any contact with your child. However, sexual predators are a different breed, they are cunning, often intelligent, and so chameleon-like, they can present themselves in whatever manner they feel is appealing to their partner. Therefore, it is imperative that you understand the warning signs, behaviors, and personality characteristics of these individuals before they ever have a chance to meet your child.
To begin, we will review the ten most common characteristics of a sexual predator. Remember that an individual can display some or all of these traits and still not prey on children, but is important to be able to identify the warning signs in order to make a sound judgment on whether your dating partner should meet your child.
- Refusal to take responsibility for their actions and blames others or circumstances for their failures
- A sense of entitlement
- Low self-esteem
- A need for power and control
- A lack of empathy
- Difficulty forming intimate relationships with adults
- A childhood history of sexual or physical abuse
- A history of antisocial behaviors; trouble with the law, prior arrests
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Deviant sexual behaviors and attitudes
Even though sexual predators are cunning, if you listen to what they say, it is not difficult to determine if your dating partner displays one or more of the above traits.
Another important aspect of child sex abuse is the way in which a predator detects gains access, and grooms a child before the actual abuse occurs. Unsuspecting parents may fooled into believing that a dating partner has the potential to be a wonderful step parent because the grooming behaviors of a sexual predator mimic loving and caring behaviors. But it is in the timing, intensity, and progression of the relationship with your child that will reveal your dating partner’s true intentions.
Relationships take time. If you feel rushed by the man or woman you are dating and he or she appears too eager to meet your child way before you two have had the opportunity to know one another, be wary. Your child may love you new friend and want to spend time with him or her, but a child-adult relationship should develop gradually and under your supervision.
Sexual predators groom children by developing a special close relationship with them. They ensure the trust of the child, and then begin to prime the child for secrecy. Does it appear that your new friend wants special alone time with your child, or time away from the home? Does your new friend buy your child gifts, bring candy, and other special treats whenever he or she visits? Does he or she have special secrets between the two of them; things that they can’t tell mommy or daddy? If any of these behaviors are occurring, it is time to take charge and quickly change the nature of the relationship. Nothing, absolutely nothing should be kept secret between you and your child.
Statistics show us that the average sexual predator is a Caucasian male in his mid 30’s, therefore, the stereotype of the sinister predator lurking in the alleyways and park benches is not accurate. Predators come in as many shapes and forms as there are people. However, if you study the characteristics and behaviors of these individuals, over time they tend to cluster into four main categories; the antisocial, the narcissist, the inadequate, and the pedophile sexual predator. Through an understanding of these four profiles, you can assess whether the person you are dating fits into any one of these categories.
Let’s start with the antisocial person. These individuals often have a history of breaking the law, although they may not be convicted felons, usually have some form of drug and or alcohol problem, believe that they are exempt from the rules that govern everyday life, and have had a rocky employment history. This individual may have a history of cheating on taxes, avoiding child support payments, and using law suits as a way of resolving conflict. This person will use any one to get what her or she desires and has very little remorse for the actions that cause others pain. Thus they choose children as a means for sexual gratification merely because they are easy targets.
The narcissist is often found in high positions and in positions of trust. They can be charming, sociable and well-liked for they feed on the adoration of others. They believe that the world is theirs for the taking. They tend to use people for their own gratification and like the antisocial have little empathy for others. The big difference here is that they can suffer guilt when they are caught doing something wrong, however, their inflated sense of self propels them to take advantage of other’s weaknesses. Children adore them and give them tremendous gratification, and this unfortunately renders them prey for the narcissist’s self gratification. You may enjoy the benefits of being with a narcissist because initially he or she will present as the knight in white shining armor, but warning: there may be a dangerous predator inside the armor waiting to use your child for his or her own pleasure.
Let’s move on to inadequate predators. They may captivate your heart because they are sweet and loveable, but have had the poor misfortune of luck turned from bad to worse.
They have had a horrible and neglectful childhood, are always being fired from jobs, and are full of potential but have never really made it in the big world. You believe that your love can save this person. But beware! An individual who has not grown up and remains forever locked in a helpless, child-like state, may be a danger to your child. At first, your child may love this person because who wouldn’t love someone who got down to a child’s level and played all day? But the danger lies in the fact that because this person hasn’t matured, he or she may view your child as a potential sex partner. Because these individuals feel more comfortable around children, he or she will have difficulty forming and sustaining a healthy sexual relationship with you.
Last but not least is the pedophile, the most notorious of all the sexual predators and the most dangerous. These individuals amass the greatest number of victims and they are often habitual offenders. While the other three may not have a distinct sexual preference for children, pedophiles do have a sexual preference for children. They use positions of trust to have easy access to children. These individuals may be able to have some form of relationship with you, but it is your child they are after. If there is any history of allegations of child sex abuse against this person, beware. You can always check the sex offender registries in your state, but understand that a convicted pedophile may move and not register. Many pedophiles use the Internet to explore child pornography and if you suspect the person you are dating is viewing any type of child pornography, you have ample reason to move on.
Remember that getting to know someone takes time. Take the time to fully get to know the person you are dating before exposing him or her to your child. And remember, sometimes when things appear too good, they really are too good, and like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a predator may have entered you home without you suspecting. However, using the above information you will certainly be more equipped to stop a potential predator from having access to your child.