Chapter One: Who are Sexual Predators?

To most people, especially children, sexual predators are thought of as scary-looking and creepy. However, most of the time, they look like regular people. It is for this reason that it is extremely important for both children and parents to understand that anyone can be a sexual predator, no matter how "normal" or trustworthy they may seem.

There are many types of abuse and dangers that should be discussed with your child, but it is also very important to consider your child’s age when discussing these sensitive topics. Younger children may not understand the consequences of sexual predators’ actions and therefore may overlook your warnings as rash or insignificant. On the other side of the spectrum, children may also take the warnings to an extreme; they may become upset or traumatized and end up leading an excessively restrictive and guarded lifestyle, which can then affect their emotional and physical well-being. When speaking to adolescents and teenagers, you may find that they consider themselves invincible and may not take the dangers and warnings seriously. It is difficult, but necessary, to find the delicate balance between under-sharing the dangers of child predators and over-sharing them to your children. You must consider the different types of sexual abuse, and this chapter will discuss the most prevalent types. In addition, this chapter will include statistics and safety tips on how to keep your children and families safe from any and all threats.

Sexual Assault

Strictly speaking, sexual assault is defined as any form of forced sexual contact, whether it is physical or emotional, from one person to another. Though it is most often the case that sexual violence are committed by men and the victims are women, it is also possible for a man to sexually assault another man, a woman to assault a woman, or a woman to assault a man. Sexual assaults also vary by the age of the offender, with most cases being adult on adult. However, there are significant numbers of cases that deal with adult on a child, a child on a child, and even a child on an adult. While most sexual assaults are associated with rape and non-consensual sexual contact, sexual assault can also be in the forms of threat, intimidation, pressure and/or coercion.

Sexual assault on a child includes (but is not limited to) asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, indecent exposing of genitals to a child, or displaying pornography; sexual contact or physical contact with or viewing of the child’s genitals; or using a child to produce child pornography. It is extremely important to know that different states and jurisdictions have different definitions of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and rape. Many documents use these terms interchangeably, which can be confusing. It is essential that you check your state’s sexual assault laws and definitions to know what constitutes chargeable offenses. In addition, acquainting yourself with federal laws will help you and your child stay safe.

Types of Sexual Assault and Sexual Disorders

Rape

Rape is a type of sexual assault initiated by one or more persons against another that usually involves sexual intercourse against the victim’s consent. Unfortunately, according to the American Medical Association, rape is the most underreported violent crime. Women and girls are statistically the most victimized individuals. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (1999) estimates that 91% of rape victims are female and 9% are male, with 99% of the offenders being male. 44% of children under the age of 18 are victims of rape, and girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.

Most surprisingly, a staggering 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their perpetrators on some level. Only 7% of the perpetrators are strangers. This statistic is extremely vital, because with proper education and knowledge, you can significantly reduce your child’s chances of being victimized by someone you and/or they know. Rape prosecutions and convictions vary from state to state and amongst jurisdictions because of different definitions and technical understanding of the term. Because of this, it is important to consult your state and local jurisdictions handbook and familiarize yourself with the laws to gain more information on how to protect your child from a serious crime such as rape.

Pedophilia

In order to properly define pedophilia, we must first understand the term "paraphilia." Paraphilia is a marked sexual attraction for people or objects that are considered "out of the norm." Paraphiliacs’ sexual arousal depends exclusively on fantasizing and/or engaging in abnormal sexual behavior around children, animals, or even inanimate objects that remain specific and unchanging. Pedophilia is the most common type of paraphilia.

Pedophilia is defined as an "abnormal or unnatural attraction" of sexual activity with prepubescent children. Pedophiles are most often, but not always, men, and can be attracted to one or both sexes. Pedophilic acts may include looking at a child in an abnormal way for a significant amount of time or undressing and touching a child. Less commonly, pedophilic acts may involve oral sex or touching of the genitals of the child or the pedophile. These perpetrators convince themselves and their victims that they are contributing to the child’s development, and that it is actually good for them to engage in such acts. Most of the time pedophiles make sure to tell their victims not to tell their parents.

Since most pedophiles know their victim before they engage in such acts, the children already have a pre-conditioned sense of trust with them. This makes it more difficult to catch the abuser because the victims may believe that what they are doing is "fine" since the perpetrator has told them so. It is for this reason that it is important for your children to understand the warning signs of these acts and what constitutes harm to them so they know how to protect themselves. Informing your child and helping them understand their risks can significantly reduce their chances of being victimized by someone they already know and trust.

Exhibitionism

Another prevalent sexual paraphilia disorder, exhibitionism, involves exposing one’s genitals or sexual organs to a stranger or child. Exhibitionism, unlike the previously discussed disorders, most often involves a complete stranger who attempts to arouse themselves or engage in sexual activity with an unsuspecting victim. Most often male, the exhibitionist might masturbate or fantasize about masturbating while exposing himself to a child, but make no further sexual attempt with the hopes of arousing said child. Exhibitionism is a serious threat as children may become frightened or traumatized by any stranger that may approach them, causing serious emotional complications.

Voyeurism

Another common paraphilia that indirectly involves children is voyeurism. By definition, voyeurism is a "disorder in which a person derives sexual pleasure and gratification from looking at the naked bodies and genital organs of others, observing the sexual acts of others or any other activity that is usually considered to be of private nature." The voyeur is usually hidden from the sight of others. In popular culture, a voyeur is oftentimes called a "Peeping Tom." The voyeur is most often a stranger who derives sexual excitement or gratification from "peeping" on others.

Children are often victimized by voyeurs without their knowledge in schools, playgrounds, home, or extracurricular activities. While a voyeur does not necessarily engage in physical contact with the victim, it is always important to educate your child on warning signs and what to do if they feel someone is watching them. A voyeur may also approach your child for physical gratification if they feel their needs are not met.