Recognizing Child Sexual Offenders

Recognizing Child Sexual Offenders

Different types of sexual offenders:

  • A stranger who abducts children for sexual reasons – less than 5% of perpetrators
  • An acquaintance, trusted member of society, or family friend – majority of abusers -most are men but 15-20% are females – stepfathers are the largest percentage of offenders to children –
  • A teenager – 40 % of offenders are adolescents ( usually included in above group)
  • An older child – usually one who has been sexually abused (reactive behavior)
  • A child who is in same age group as victim – usually mutual play but needs to be examined

Two of these types of perpetrators commit the majority of offenses:

  • The sex offender who “grooms” the victim – makes friends with child and sometimes with the family (to check out dynamics of relationship between parent and child, to gain trust, establish a pattern of spending time with child)
  • The opportunistic offender who takes advantage of a situation in which there is a vulnerable child

       The perpetrator who befriends the child, and his or her family, is highly manipulative. They build trust, develop emotional ties, and engage in “normal” forms of pleasant touching before molesting the child. Sexual abuse may take the form of a game or other everyday type of activity so the child is not alerted.
The opportunistic abuser works or plays in places where he or she has access to children, and often is in a place of authority over them.
It is important to recognize most people who work with children are not sex offenders, but parents need to be aware of the possibility and teach children how to protect themselves. There is no foolproof way to protect a child, but they can be taught to be much less vulnerable to perpetrators.

Inoculating Children Against Manipulative Sex Offenders

Children are most vulnerable to perpetrators when:

  • They don’t know about natural, healthy touch
  • Are very young
  • They don’t have any practice understanding how they feel and think
  • They don’t know how to express themselves
  • They don’t understand their physical boundaries and their right to limits

Children who have these characteristics are much less vulnerable:

  • They have secure relationships with one or more adults
  • Live in stable environment
  • Needs for comfort and caring are being met
  • They know parents will listen to and believe them
  • They know their rights in regard to physical and emotional boundaries and respect their own and others
  • Their parents are comfortable talking about difficult subjects with the child

Specific Ways for Parents to Inoculate Children Against Sexual Offenders:

  • Be aware of new people – adults or adolescents – who want to develop a relationship with the child. Be cautious of a significant age difference.
  • If you are a single parent, be especially careful about people in your child’s life
  • Don’t let someone stop in or fix things in your home when the child is alone
  • When your child is with anyone new or someone you have concerns about, let them know you will drop in from time to time, and do so. This applies to new friendships, activities, neighbors, school, and daycare.
  • Watch and listen to your child’s reaction to caretakers when you leave them. Look for excessive enthusiasm, hesitation, fear, or a feeling of secretiveness
  • Check in with your child about these types of reactions to the other person. There can be many reasons other than sexual abuse for these behaviors.
  • Teach the child to be aware of touches and behaviors that don’t fit in a friendly relationship. (i.e. Someone you know can take pictures of you but not of your private parts) Help them learn to question strange behavior and tell you
  • Casually ask your child from time to time if something different is going on or if they have a problem and need to talk
  • Listen carefully to their outside activities. Keep ears open for hints
  • Make sure child knows all the people they can tell if they are away from home
  • A child should always know how to contact their parent at home or work, and know what else to do if they need help.


(Understanding Your Child’s Sexual Behavior by Toni C. Johnson, Ph.D.)
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