“By simply learning about common traits of sexual predators, educating yourself on their typical grooming habits (the ways they seek to target and desensitize their victims), and actively seeking to educate and empower your children with this same information, you are already making a difference. Protecting your children is a daunting, scary task, but it’s not impossible.”
Unlike the super creepy head shots we tend to see on television, child predators are often a friendly, welcoming, socially adept and well-dressed presence.
“Like a chameleon, they take the shape of whatever they need in order to get close to their victim, and often that looks like a friendly, trustworthy volunteer, coach or teacher.”
Joy says that while men are statistically more likely to abuse children, both male and female predators will seek employment and volunteer opportunities in roles that allow extended time with children.
Where we’re failing as parents and church communities as a whole is that we tend to focus our concern on the “creepy” dude who seems to really like kids, or even the complete stranger, rather than the trusted brother-in-law or friend of a friend.
The key to preventing the sin that already lives within the church from harming your children is to build trusting and open communication with them.
Having those due diligence conversations about what’s appropriate is only part of the discussion that we need to be having. Child predators often don’t start with sexual abuse—they work up to it.
Talk to your kids about their relationships with the adults they are close to—teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, their best friend’s mom—everyone who your child would perceive as a person of authority in their life. Like Joy says, “stranger danger is a real threat, so are those closest to you.”
Be on the look-out for red flags, and don’t be afraid to teach them to your kids either.
Church is a safe place. It’s welcoming, it’s friendly and there ARE really wonderful people there. But we are all sinners, and Lord knows that sin doesn’t end when the church doors open.
We can’t afford to be blind to the abuse that is lurking where we least expect it. It’s there, and it’s threatening to make our children a statistic.
Knowledge is power, and the more you know about how predators will try to groom your children, the more powerful you can be in the fight to prevent it.