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Coaching Your Child        < Previous        Next >


Warning Signs of a Pedophile


Q. It's too bad teachers and other school employees who are likely to abuse kids' trust with sexual and emotional exploitation don't wear big warning signs. Are there any particular traits that we all should be aware of, so that we can prevent sexual predators from gaining access to children in schools?


Unfortunately, there's nothing about the characteristics of a typical pedophile or serial child sex abuser that would set off alarms for parents or administrators. Quite often, they're among the most popular employees of the school.


But it's important to note that sexual predators who prey on children are likely to be working or volunteering in a school since that's where their "prey" are found.


Whether it's a school janitor, bus driver, teacher's aide, teacher, you name it, there really are pedophiles in our schools, both public and private, and we really do need to protect our children from them. That doesn't mean you should suspect EVERYBODY. But just keep your eyes open.


Be careful not to slander anybody. That means don't accuse them of a crime when you don't have proof. If you only have a suspicion that someone in your school might be a pedophile, or just want your principal and other school officials to be informed, share this article with them and find out what training they have had and what procedures they would follow if a parent had some real concerns.


Are you just being a busybody? No. Involved parents who seek to protect children are a huge asset to schools. It is especially important to protect children from dysfunctional homes where there may not be an adult advocate; in that case, school officials and YOU might be the protectors and intervenors who can save that child untold misery and abuse.


How much should you talk to your child about the possibility of sexual abuse? You certainly don't want to over-react, alarm your child, or make it seem as though a sex pervert might jump out at him or her from the lockers some day. Relax . . . but stay aware.


A teacher's perfectly innocent hand on your child's shoulder or back is not a sign of a sexual motive - although if your child has a "creepy" feeling when a teacher touches him or her, that's a red flag that something's wrong.


Teach your child to never, ever, be in a room with anyone in school, or on a bus alone, without the door open or a way to get out immediately.


Make it a cardinal rule that no one should ever touch the parts of your child's body that would be covered up by a swimsuit - even if that touch occurs over your child's clothing. Any touches in the "swimsuit areas" should be immediately reported to you and/or school officials.


Here's more pedophile-prevention information for parents from Dr. W. Richard Fossey, associate dean of the college of education at Louisiana State University; Craig Emanuel, investigator with the Arizona Department of Education Sources; Child Abuse and Neglect, a book by Roland C. Summit; and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette series, "Dirty Secrets," by Jane Elizabeth Zemel and Steve Twedt.


Common traits of pedophiles:


  • Usually an adult male


  • Often appears to be hard-working and family-oriented


  • Tends to be better educated and more religious (on the surface) that the average person


  • Tends to be well-liked by parents and children; a pedophile teacher is often one of the most popular teachers in school


Ways that pedophiles generally target their victims and allay suspicion:


  • They actively seek children who are quiet, needy, or have problems at home


  • They also lavish attention on children they don't abuse, to build a sense of trust by parents and other students


  • They find ways to be alone with children; for instance, music teachers or coaches often are in a position to give individual attention to students. In one case, a pedophile teacher volunteered to direct the school's computer center, because the door was always locked to prevent theft


  • They usually accomplish molestation by gradual seduction, not sudden coercion


Warning signs for parents:


        Child suddenly doesn't want to go to school


        Change in child's behavior or academic performance at school


        Abrupt mood changes, or aggressive behavior


        Withdrawal from family and friends


        Child has unexplained new toys, clothes, or money


        Exhibits age-inappropriate sexual behavior or language


        Loss of appetite


        Child has nightmares or can't sleep



Homework: The No. 1 way to ensure that your child will report any suspicious or malicious activity is to have a good relationship with your child in the first place, with constant, quality communication between the two of you. Your child should know that it is more important that you know the truth, than even your own safety; abusers frequently threaten to hurt or kill the child victim's family if the child tells. To overcome that fear, you have to prepare the child to be brave and always tell you the truth about his or her feelings and experiences. For more good information on how to coach your child to avoid, and also to report, sexual abuse, see:



By Susan Darst Williams Coaching Your Child 24 2008




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