Originally posted on Associated Content/Yahoo Voices/Yahoo Contributor Network December 3, 2009
Pedophilia is a subject that causes blood to boil. But it also causes - in some people - an excitement unmatched by anything else.
What is pedophilia?
Considered a mental disorder by some medical professionals, pedophilia is a societally condemned abnormality wherein the pedophile becomes sexually aroused by his or her own fantasies involving children.
Unlike fantasies engaged in by "normal" people who keep their fantasies in the fantasy stage, however, the pedophile's fantasies mutate into actions - unacceptable and harmful actions - perpetrated on innocent victims and their loved ones.
What is a pedophile?
The pedophile is a master manipulator. He learns very quickly how to draw children and teenagers into his deceptive web. He entices his victims in ways those victims would never recognize as anything but sincere. At most, children feel only slightly uneasy or uncomfortable, initially without any obvious validation for why they feel the way they do.
How do pedophiles operate?
Pedophiles ease their way into unsuspecting lives and often try to befriend the parents first - in an attempt to build trust. The hope is that eventually parents will allow their children unsupervised visits with them. The pedophile, once he targets his victim, feigns interest in the child by engaging the child in ways that cause the child to believe the pedophile truly cares about him or her.
Children who are under a tremendous amount of stress and who are filled with self-doubt are particularly good targets for a pedophile. The pedophile zeroes in on the stress and alleviates it by pretending to be more interested in the child than the parents appear to be (at least according to the child's perceptions, which have been masterfully manipulated by the perpetrator).
Once the child trusts the pedophile, the pedophile, taking advantage of the opportunity to abuse the trust, confuses the child by taking the child off-guard with something as simple as an arm around the shoulder. Thus begins the courting stage where the pedophile convinces himself that he loves the child and therefore anything he does to show that love is justified.
The pedophile, in his own warped mind, decides his purely sexual attraction to children is actually a form of love.
Why does it seem that pedophilia has proliferated?
Sexual attraction to children is not new. It has been going on for centuries, but with the introduction of computers and web images, pornography has become a profitable venture for opportunists who find pleasure in abusing children.
How do pedophiles entice their victims?
The pedophile puts himself into a position where he can access children in socially acceptable settings. Nowhere is this ability to attract children more obvious or more insidious than in the workplace, where the employer can choose his victims through a careful screening process, weeding them out until "the one" shows up.
Though we often think of pedophiles as being attracted to young children, some are more attracted to teenagers. And by offering employment through business opportunities, the pedophile can attract exactly the type of victim he prefers.
How does the boss give himself permission to abuse his employer?
Say he owns a small shop and pays minimum wage. Who, other than a teenager, would apply for such a position? He is the "boss" and the teenager depends on him for income. After a couple of weeks, when the teenager becomes somewhat comfortable with the job, the boss introduces small gestures of sexual interest. It may be only a hand on the shoulder or the back of the neck. It may be a nudge with a hip, but it soon becomes a hand placed on other body parts.
Or it starts with suggestive comments, like a subtle request to take a picture. The request sounds innocent until the boss asks the child to open his shirt a little or pull down his pants. The teenager panics, but unless he is equipped with enough self assurance to run out of the store and immediately call the police, the teenager may reason that he has to keep his job and, though upset, grants the pervert's request.
A teenager may at first brush off inappropriate suggestions. But by showing up at work again the next day, her boss now has the impression that she merely has to be convinced to adhere to his wishes. She will probably be too embarrassed to mention to her parents that her boss asked her to engage in sexually explicit pornography.
The teenager becomes more and more uncomfortable, but feels helpless to change anything. He is afraid he will disappoint his parents who are depending on him to keep his job. He is also afraid to stand up to his boss. The boss is an authority figure and if the teenager's parents drove into him that he had to respect his elders, he won't be capable of standing up for himself.
Why do children and teenagers cooperate with the pedophile?
Fear drives the victim to engage in activities she otherwise might never allow. Taking "just one picture" might seem innocent to her, but one picture leads to more and now the boss has an entire hard drive filled with photos of your daughter or your son ready to share with other perverts on the web. And once your daughter (or son) feels degraded and humiliated, she will never admit her involvement and she will blame herself for her behavior.
What signs can parents look for when their children have been abused by a pedophile?
How can parents know if their children are experiencing abuse in the workplace? By paying attention to their child's behavior. Don't always assume that behavior changes are related to age. Sudden consistent moodiness needs to be investigated. If the child becomes withdrawn, if he or she starts making excuses for not wanting to go to work, don't ignore her silent pleas for your help.
Open a dialogue about your teenager's feelings. When your teenager feels even slightly uneasy about another person, teach him or her not only how to recognize and pay attention to those feelings, but also how to act on them by reporting them. Uneasy feelings are trying to relate to your child a warning that needs heeding.
Discuss people who are put into abusive situations. How do they deal with blame, humiliation, and degradation? Let your child know that actions perpetrated by pedophiles are NOT the fault of the victim. Children whose parents discover pornographic photos on web sites are NOT at fault, even if they allowed somebody to photograph them.
Teach children never to send suggestive photos of themselves to people they think are their friends. Friends don't ask for naked pictures. Friends don't put their friends into precarious situations.
Empower your teenagers by asking them how they would handle the situations discussed above if they were put into similar situations. By opening a dialog you may be able to prevent future abuse or learn about past abuse.
Let your teenagers know that the abuse is never their fault, and that you will help them through this emotional turmoil if they are involved in an abusive situation (resources are listed below). Assure them that no matter what - you are there to support them.
What do you do when you discover your child has been a victim of abuse?
If you discover that your teenager has been a victim of sexual misconduct, no matter how minor the infraction seems to be, report the perpetrator to the police. We need to protect our children from these perverts.
Other resources are also available. To report incidents of child sexual (including pornography) exploitation and abuse, fill out an online form at the CyberTipline. The CyberTipline is operated through The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The NCMEC also maintains a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST and a website at www.missingkids.com.
And to see a list of registered sex offenders (listed by state) go to the National Sex Offender Public Website. Keep in mind that though sex offenders are required by law to register, not all of them do. Many of them move frequently. Just because they don't show up on the registry does not mean they are not offenders.