I’ve just finished reading “Predators, paedophiles, rapists, and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ouraelves and our children” by Anna Salter, PhD.. This is not a book to read lightly, as it has quotes from abusers that can be pretty disturbing.
However, I wanted to understand my family a bit better and it certainly helped. I took the author’s suggestion and didn’t read the chapter on sadists, but the rest I read.
[This post might be triggering for survivors. I’m going to quote some stuff from the book that talks about why child molesters do what they do. I found the book validating and only manageably triggering, but your mileage may vary. So I’m going to put a picture here, and if you don’t want to read on, here is your warning. ]
Wierdly, I found myself even laughing occasionally, mostly at some of the things author Anna Salter says. She has a matter of fact, no-nonsense way about her that survivors will find refreshing and familiar. She interviews these assholes and backs up what she says with a lot of research studies and analysis. I found myself really liking her.
The parts I found personally useful were these:
She explains really well why people blame the victims, why we aren’t believed, and how these shitheads get away with it again and again.
It apparently is really common for abusers to abuse children while other adults are in the house, without the other adults finding out. It is so common for a father or stepfather to abuse his kids while mom sleeps or in another room that my situation, where my mom claimed not to know, is more the rule than the exception. Child molesters rely on people’s unwillingness to believe someone charming and likable could be a monster an awful lot, because it works for them.
She has the same analysis I do about how people don’t want to believe that bad things happen to good people for reasons that are not their fault. She explains why they persist in the face of overwhelming evidence to not believe that abuse is perpetrated by people who seem harmless or good to them. It’s because abusers are so intent on appearing normal, and put such energy into grooming people into seeing them as good guys.
She talks about why even experts can’t tell reliably when paedophiles and abusers are lying (polygraphs are the only halfway reliable method). After reading her book, I think we should use polygraphs routinely whenever there is any suspicion of child abuse, since in the absence of physical evidence there is no way to tell. Even if you watch a child and her abuser together, the body language might not be a give away, because of all the grooming that goes on.
She analyses the whole manipulativeness thing in depth, how even prison guards who know these guys are guilty get sucked in all the time. This part is definitely worth reading.
She talks about the strategies that child abusers and rapists use to get access to us and our kids and how to deflect them.
Mostly, so far I’m not too freaked out. Okay, a little bit, but the validation around my dad was worth it. He’s utterly normal for a sociopath. One freaky thing was how many victims more paedophiles have. My father almost certainly did not abuse just me. There could be a hundred other victims out there, if he’s typical. Knowing that if a man has molested one child (and particularly raped one) he’s almost certainly abuses tens or hundreds of others, do I have a moral obligation to do something? Festoon his neighbourhood with ‘danger child molester lives here’ posters? Hire a private investigator to follow him around? [hmmm… that’s not half bad. ]
When studies were done that were structured to eliminate any rewards to claiming to being abuse survivors, and interviews were backed up with a polygraph, only 30% of convicted violent sex offenders reported having been abused themselves as children. This is only a little bit higher than the general populations. So what creates abusers? Nobody knows. However, we do know that paedophiles abuse children for some of these reasons:
“There is a subgroup of child molesters who molest children simply because they are sexually attracted to them. There are others who molest because they are antisocial or even psychopathic and simply feel entitled [I think this is my dad here]. There are still others who use children for the intimacy they are too timid or impaired to obtain from adults. And there are others who molest for reasons we don’t understand at all. But make no mistake, whether men molest because of sexual preference or other reasons, their compulsiveness can be extraordinary.” (page 75)
“Whatever the reasons people develop such a fixation, it tends to be chronic and resistant to change. The people who have such patterns are not a small number, more like an invisible army that cannot be recognized on the street. Certainly, some of them are unemployed, take drugs, and fulfill the stereotype of the street criminal. But there are others considerably more successful in life, and they may be equally goal-oriented and driven in pursuit of children…These men — and they are usually men for reasons we also don’t understand — are part of our communities, part of our network of friends, worse yet, sometimes part of our families. …. No one has all the answers on how to stop them, nor even why all of them do what they do. But at least we should have the decency as a people to stop making excuses for them.” page 76 [ See why I like her?]
The bulk of child molesters are straight men, and she writes about the various types of paedophiles and the various types of women who abuse children as well.
Abusers will iether not care about the moral implications of what they’ve done, or have rationalizations.
Even the best treatment programs for abusers only reduce the reoffense rate slightly. There is no cure. At present, the only effective thing to do is lock them up for life or kill them.
She had some practical recommendations:
- All predators can and do pass reliably and frequently for nice, harmless men, so take precautions anyway. Most will take pains to establish themselves as nice, harmless upstanding citizens and will be indistinguishable from those who really are.
- Don’t open your door to strangers, no matter how harmless they appear, when you’re home alone.
- If you date a stranger you met on the internet or through a dating service for example, make sure you know things about him that are verifiable and verify them. Find out where he works and find a reason to call him at work to verify. Meet him in a public place and have a friend there for the first while minute or two – perhaps you were meeting her for coffee first? Tell your friend(s) everything you know about him and find a way to slip it into conversation that you’ve done so. [This is where being a lesbian is pretty convenient. Since only 3-5% of sexual offenders are women, it makes blind dating a lot simpler and safer.]
- Psychopaths tend to collect in cities, rather than small towns since it’s easier to not get caught in a lie there. They also tend to prey on religious communities and other environments where people assume they’re good just because they appear to be.
- The best way to catch a child molester lying is not by talking to them as they are usually excellent and practiced liars, but by verifying the information they give you. They will normally mix some truth in with their lies. Always check references and do criminal records checks if you are hiring someone in a job they’ll be interacting with children in.
- If you get into a fender bender and are alone, don’t leave your car. Rapists use this as a way to get you out of your car. Lock the doors and window and call on your cell for help.
- Put a deadbolt on some doors inside your house so you have a safer room with a window to retreat to and escape from if you need to.
- Keep your cell phone by your bed so if the phone lines are cut you can call for help. That combined with the deadbolt gives you a safer place to go, a way to call for help and some time for help to come.
- Assume that all workers in child-centric professions are high risk to be child molesters – these professions attract them and they work hard to look trustworthy. They’re not all or even mainly child molesters, but you won’t be able to tell which ones are. Of particular concern are persons without adult sexual relationships or who spend a lot of their time with children of a particular age and sex. Be involved in your child’s life. Go to their team sports practices and games, chaperone their field trips. Involved parents make for children that are less desirable targets. If you are a single mom, don’t let guilt about lack of male role models make you give some guy lots of access to your kids. Don’t permit people overnight or unsupervised access to your children.
- Most women who get raped as adults are young – 16-30 yrs.
- Houses with dogs are apparently way safer – houses with dogs don’t as a rule get targeted. It doesn’t have to be a big dog, just a watchful one. If your dog barks at night, pay attention.