Characteristics and Behavioral Indicators of a
When most people imagine a child molester, they picture some ugly,
old man in a trench coat coaxing children to come to him in exchange
for some candy. They don't picture Uncle Joe or Aunt Lorraine; the
neighbor next door or the friendly parishioner; another family member
or trusted co-worker. They don't think of mom or dad, or in the case
of single parents, their significant other. This misconception
has been effectively dispelled through information obtained in thousand
of child sexual abuse investigations over the years. Child molesters
come from all walks of life and from all socioeconomic groups.
They can be male or female, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, religious
or non-religious, highly educated or non-educated, or from any race.
Through numerous case studies, the Department of Justice has developed
characteristics and behavioral indicators of a pedophile. They are
- Is most often an adult male.
- Is usually married.
- Works in a wide range of occupations, from unskilled laborer to
- Relates better to children than adults.
- Socializes with few adults unless they are pedophiles.
- Usually prefers children in a specific age group.
- Usually prefers either males or females, but may be bi-sexual.
- May seek employment or volunteer with programs involving children
of the age of his preference.
- Pursues children for sexual purposes.
- Frequently photographs or collects photographs of his victims,
either dressed, nude, or in sexually explicit acts.
- Collects child erotica and child-adult pornography.
- May possess and furnish narcotics to his victims to lower their
- Is usually intelligent enough to recognize that he has a personal
problem and understand the severity of it.
- May go to great lengths to conceal his illegal activity.
- Often rationalizes his illicit activities, emphasizing his positive
impact upon the victim and repressing feelings about the harm that
he has done.
- Often portrays the child as the aggressor. This usually occurs
after the child realizes that by withholding "sexual favors" the child
will obtain what he or she desires, such as new toys, clothing or
- Talks about children in the same manner as one would talk about
an adult lover or spouse.
- Often was a child molestation victim and frequently seeks out children
at the age or stage of physical development at which he was molested.
- Often seeks out publications and organizations that support his
sexual beliefs and practices.
- Usually corresponds with other pedophiles and exchanges child pornography
and erotica as proof of involvement.
- Is usually non-violent and has few problems with the law (pedophiles
are frequently respected community members).
The widespread misconception that child molestation consists
solely of children being seized from the street and forcibly molested
couldn't be further from the truth. Although these incidents do occur,
the vast majority of child molesters are adults who seduce children
through subtle intimidation and persuasion and are known to the child.
The incestuous or interfamilial molester is usually an adult
male (father, stepfather, grandfather or live-in boyfriend of the mother)
who molests the child or children. Although physical abuse may occur,
the molestation is usually secretive and is accomplished through mental
duress and threats - that the child would be removed from the family
if he/she did not succumb to his wishes, that he/she would be blamed
for hurting the family if the offender is arrested, or that a sibling
would be sexually abused if the victim did not consent. The molestation
occurs over an extended period of time, occasionally into the victim's
adulthood. Through intimidation, the child is made to feel responsible
for the molestation and for keeping the acts secret. This secret is
normally kept between the offender and the victim, or within the immediate
The stranger molester will use force or fear to molest children.
As the term implies, the child does not know the molester. This type
of molestation is usually reported promptly to the police because the
trauma to the child is readily apparent.
The single-parent family is particularly vulnerable to the
pedophile; the parent usually has a full-time job and is attempting
to fulfill the role of both parents, as well as run the household.
In many cases the parent is unable to provide the psychological support
the child needs. These situations may contribute to the success of
the child molester who can and will provide the caring attention, however
superficial that may be lacking at home. Of course, domestic problems
in intact families also can make children vulnerable to the pedophile.
It should be noted as well, many pedophiles seek out mothers of single-parent
families for the purpose of victimizing their children.
The single most effective means of protecting your child is communication
with your child. They have to feel comfortable discussing sensitive
matters with you. If they don't feel they can talk with you about their
true feelings or that they will be "put down" for it, then you can't
expect they will tell you when they are put in an uncomfortable situation
by a child molester.
Teach your children that they should not be asked to touch anyone
in the bathing suit areas of their body or allow anyone to touch them
in those areas. Teach them types of situations to avoid.
It's not good enough to tell a child to avoid strangers. Most child
molestation's are committed by someone known to or related to the child.
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