My friend posted an article today on Facebook entitled “A Child Molester in My Circle.” I was more than a little unnerved by the article, but to be fair, I think Janet Lansbury makes a good recovery at the end. Your children do need you to talk about good boundaries, abuse, and what to do if they are being abused.
I cannot detract from her article. When you find out someone you know is a child molester, it is shocking. It is appalling. It is heart-breaking. And it is really, truly, completely a real possibility.
Since I lived with a child molester from birth until I was 13, I would like to give you a profile to examine so you know what a child molester looks like. Here goes.
A child molester is either a male or a female. She or he can be poor, middle class, rich, or crazy ridiculous rich. He or she can be Caucasian, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Indian, African, or a member of any other nationality. She or he can be straight, gay, bisexual or transgender. He or she can be short or tall, medium build, heavy set, thin, or average. He or she can have a beard, a mustache, be bald, have curly hair, straight hair, long, short, red, black, brown, purple, yellow, gray, white, orange, or blue.
The career path of a child molest is key. It is an easy and helpful way to identify a child molester. A child molester can be a doctor, dentist, chiropractor, architect, nurse, child care provider, mechanic, airplane pilot, minister, lawyer, judge, bus driver, police officer, grocery store clerk, teacher, counselor, principal, farmer, lumberjack, veterinarian, or magazine editor. She or he can also be retired, unemployed, or a student. He or she can also be another child or young adult.
Religion is also a telling aspect of a child molester’s personality. He or she can be Catholic, Protestant, Quaker, Amish, Mennonite, Moravian, Lutheran, Muslim, Hindi, Jewish, an atheist, or an agnostic.
Do you have a good picture? Can you look at people who pass you on the street and pull your child closer and whisper in his ear, “Don’t go near her. She does bad things to kids.”
And if we take a step back from people we see outside of our homes, wouldn’t it be nice if we could all put in a specific matrix when searching for our partners of what to avoid when choosing a parent for our children. I would like to design a computer program that would send a danger signal to our cell phones so we KNOW we should quickly leave in the middle of the first date. (I have no talent in things technological, but if anyone uses that, I’d love to split the million dollars.)
My mother used to tell me about stranger danger. I was warned about people that might try to pick me up on the way home and if I was to ever be kidnapped, I had to memorize the exit number off the interstate where I lived so I could tell people how to get me home. (Forget knowing my address or what interstate said numbered exit was off of.)
She did not warn me about the monster living in the next room. In this case, because he has been convicted, I can show you the picture of a child molester. I will just post the link so you can choose whether or not to look at his picture. He is a mechanic, with red hair in case you are interested. And to the people who live in the area or rent property from him, keep an eye on your kids. Yes, really, really keep an eye on them.
I apologize for the somewhat understated portrait I’ve painted. I wish I could give you an exact definition and a specific way to recognize child molesters. You may not even be able to imagine how much I wish I could give you a picture.
My best advice to keep yourself, your children, nieces, nephews, students, or anyone you care about safe from child molesters is to pay attention. Listen to what your kids say. Watch interactions between kids and child care workers, relatives, teachers, doctors, whomever. If a person seems to be wanting to spend time alone with a child, or treat them in a special manner, be aware of that. Ask questions, of the child and the adult. The uncle who seems to hold on in the hug just too long, then wants to take your child to a movie alone – probably not the best idea.
If you are bathing your child and he or she has a rash or bruising around his or her genitals, a trip to the doctor is probably in order. If, as in the article, your child tells you that someone is touching them in their private area, ask more about that. Try to stay calm and ask exploratory, not leading questions. Even if the child then says, just kidding, more likely than not, they are not kidding.
The people that act suspiciously may not be doing anything wrong. They may be perfectly innocent people who just care about kids. But since child molesters aren’t visibly distinguishable from everyone else, it is your job to do your very best not to terrify your children, but realistically watch out for them and encourage them to tell you if something doesn’t feel right.
It is hard to trust yourself, especially if you are a survivor of abuse, but please try. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
We would love to hear ways you actively encourage your children to talk to you and how you actively listen to them. And if you have suggestions, how have you taught yourself and your kids to be aware of what and who is around them.