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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Common traits of pedophiles:
- 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
- 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
- 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
Withdrawal from family and
Child has unexplained new
toys, clothes, or money
sexual behavior or language
Loss of appetite
Child has nightmares or can't
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: