Protecting Girls from Sexual Predators by Being Aware and Making Informed, Intelligent Decisions (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Stop Sex Offenders (Retrieved from converseprisonnews.com, February 27, 2015)

Stop Sex Offenders (Retrieved from converseprisonnews.com, February 27, 2015)

Sexual predators come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Unfortunately, the all seem to have the same thing in common – committing sexual offenses against others in efforts to show power, control, and domination, and to make themselves feel good while hurting their victims. Another very sad thing about those who commit sexual offenses against others is that they typically see no wrong in their actions. In efforts to normalize their thoughts and actions, they often appear to be in denial, externally blaming others – including their targets – rather than admitting their actions and taking responsibility for them. They often go to whatever lengths necessary to blame their victims, cover up their offenses, and manipulate others into believing their falsehoods.

In this article, I will discuss the manner in which girls can and do become sexual targets. Boys, men, and women may also be targets of sexual predators, and this article does not minimize their experience, but is to solely focus on how society often fails to protect many of its most vulnerable and innocent members.  Perhaps if parents, educators, and/or others in our society are more aware and informed about the manner in which girls are targeted, more girls will be protected from sexually traumatizing situations that they should never experience.

Research has shown that most individuals who are sexually abused or assaulted are those who are known by their targets. Often, those who target them are family members or “trusted” pillars of the community, including those in positions of great wealth, power, influence, and/or authority. Men (and women) who sexually abuse and/or assault girls are those who believe that their thoughts and actions are correct. Their perspectives and behaviors, however, are pathological, including their actions of grooming their targets throughout time, potentially gaining the trust and friendship of the target’s parents or family, and taking whatever measures possible to see that their inappropriate interactions with their targets are secret, silenced, overlooked, and/or otherwise minimized.

Sadly, many sexual offenders are never caught. Many of these highly esteemed pillars of the community are so powerful and influential – or have such strong ties with a connective network of powerful and influential people who believe and protect them – that they continue their inappropriate actions and sexual offenses throughout their lives, always getting away with them. What is to be done for girls to protect themselves from such people? Nothing? If the girls or their families went to police, they would be laughed at and humiliated out of the police station due to the infiltration into police networks by these powerful and influential people. If the girls and their families publicly identified such people, they risk being financially, socially, and professionally ruined by such people and their large network of supporters with whom they are connected.

Must victims of their sexual offenses continue to suffer in silence? No. It is up to survivors to speak out because, in so doing, the offenders are not protected. The offenders count on tactics of fear, intimidation, and ruination to silence and destroy their victims and their victims’ reputations. Being silent only protects the offenders. By speaking out about offenders, society is informed and becomes more aware of those in their communities – and perhaps, even in their own families – who are so powerful that they get away with their sexual misconduct and offenses. In these ways, at least people are informed, whether or not they believe the truth and heed the warnings about the offenders’ harmful and pathological behaviors.

One way that sexual predators groom and prey upon girls is by sizing up their parents and/or families. If those targeting girls judge that the girls’ parents are unaware, uncaring, weak, or oblivious in any way, then their daughters are prime targets for grooming by sex offenders. Parents and/or other caregivers must be loving and caring toward their daughters, having created an atmosphere in which open and honest trust is shared, in order that these girls feel safe enough to be open with them about any inappropriate actions or offenses performed against them.

Next, parents must not be too free – and should be more guarded – about with whom their daughters spend time and what activities they do. A safe environment in which everyone has passed background checks and drug tests are among the most ideal places for parents to believe their girls are safe, however people must recognize that those with enough money and power who are involved in these environments may have had their offenses undocumented. People must not always trust that the authority, stature, and appearances of those in power are necessarily honest, honorable, and respectable.

Particularly in regard to young girls, people should be aware and informed about those with whom they have interaction and contact. Outside of a girl’s family, there are those in church, at school, and at other community events and even regular family outings, such as to the local grocery store, gas station, or other business, who may target her. People, particularly men, who have regular contact and/or interaction with a girl, long enough to speak with her in a way that gains her trust in some way are those who could be suspected of grooming a girl in order to sexually harm her. Should such interactions be overlooked and/or not perceived, then such grooming will continue and likely escalate. The grooming can escalate to sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Then, a host of excuses, cover-ups, and denials begin, as well as a discrediting of the victim.

Men who hold powerful positions, and who are looked to as trusted community members, are sometimes those who commit sexual harassment and/or misconduct against girls.  Some of these men may include priests of parishes that have churches, schools, and children’s activities, as well as millionaire or billionaire members of those parishes who lead and/or participate in church and/or community activities involving children. Those men who are so wealthy, powerful, influential, “trusted,” and “esteemed” in their communities and greater regional areas who perform sexual misconduct against girls have already duped everyone before a girl realizes what has happened, before her family can support and/or defend her (if at all), and before the girl’s healing process begins (if at all). Because these men are unwilling and/or unable to be responsible and accountable for their actions, they deny them and do whatever possible to cover them up, discredit their victims, and continue to victimize others.

The small Catholic parish in my small hometown of Gowanda in Western New York State is one such place of which I am aware that several people have had these experiences throughout a period of decades. To my knowledge, no one has ever officially reported the instances of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault that have occurred there and/or as a result of powerful people who are parishioners there. Many of those who have committed such offenses remain leaders and active members of this parish. A current priest there from Salamanca, New York threatened one former parishioner with Mafia action due to her knowledge of his sexual harassment and pedophilia toward girls. The survivors who have left the parish are aware that the shear wealth and power of those people would extremely outweigh anything they could ever say or do in any futile attempts to obtain justice. In effect, obtaining justice is impossible, and the lies, cover-ups, and misconduct will likely continue far into the future since those particular people are tied to the area.

Therefore, people must always be aware of and informed about others. Sometimes, those who dress well, have money and power, and/or be in positions that are spiritually-supportive of others are the very people who should not be trusted. This is further correct, especially if such men have free and open access to children, and even if they can pass every background check. Just because a “trusted” and “esteemed” man can pass a background check does not mean he does not have a sexualized pathology. People must be active in guarding and protecting children, even in places typically considered safe, such as churches. People must be aware that appearances are not always what they may seem, in order to be activists in adequately protecting children.

This is also not to say that all men who are involved in children’s activities are sexual predators. Certainly not. I recognize that there are many more men of honor and respectable character in our society than those who are not. Thank goodness for that! It is simply that, in a world where children have no rights and are often manipulated, controlled, objectified, abused, and/or sexualized, those vested with their care must be more vigilant and effective in our protection of them. Even those who do all they can and who have the best intentions toward protecting children may be unable to protect them. However, we must always do whatever possible to achieve that end.

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“What do People Want to Hear?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pink Flower in Garden, August 2012

Throughout my life and through my life experiences, I have generally found that people only want to hear “good” things.  That is, it seems that people only want to hear what is good, pleasant, positive, or uplifting to them in some way.  Those who have had much life experience, whether they are younger or older, can share that not all life experiences are good, though it is still important to be able to share about them with others. 

People generally seem to love the “feel good” communications, messages, and information that they receive and/or share.  I admit and agree that I enjoy such information just as much as any other.  However, in order for people to remain “real,” we must understand that in order to continue growing, developing, and improving ourselves, we must also recognize, realize, and deal with experiences, issues, or concerns that are hurtful, painful, and potentially negative.

Because there may be a tendency for people to avoid or shut out information that they do not want to hear, there may also be a tendency to “blame” or “revictimize” the individual who has experienced a painful situation.  It sometimes seems that the person who has been hurtful to another has not at all been hurt by the situation that he or she caused, but actually feels good about it and such situation may have served to boost their own ego.  Psychological research has reflected this in the case of bullies who interact negatively with their targets.  The bullies feel good and get an ego boost, while the targets feel badly and are hurt by it.  Similar research has reflected this phenomena in sexual predators.

So, what do people want to hear?  I think the answer is that people generally want to hear about good and wonderful things, and may not have the training necessary to be equipped to cope with things they don’t want to hear.  As a result of some of my own life experiences and those of others that have been painful, in sharing about them, I have found that there are a very few who are successfully able to hear, listen to, and cope with the knowledge of and information about them.   

This, therefore, creates a very small number of people with whom one can relate about deep and serious issues.  Sometimes, then, it is necessary to seek professionals with whom to communicate with such issues when others do not understand them or may make them worse.  When people do not present an understanding about the issues, they may also unnecessarily misjudge the person who is simply the messenger, the one who is simply providing the information.  Then, they may inaccurately associate the messenger with the issue that was presented and about which they do not want to hear.

Red Flower in Garden, August 2012

There is alot of information out there.  Some of it is good, and some, not so good.  Within it all, however, I believe there is some good that can be made out of it or that can come from it.  Yes, people generally feel good about positive, pleasant, and happy situations.  However, we can also come together in genuinely caring community and loving fellowship when we recognize and deal effectively, positively, and successfully with issues that have a negative or painful impact.  Since we are all different and unique, but also similar, each individual may have his or her own views on what constitutes successfully and positively coping with something.

When we mobilize to help survivors of natural disasters, that is a reflection of something good coming from a painful situation.  When we listen to others and guide them in ways of helping themselves rather than denying them or shutting them out, those are ways of bringing something positive to a situation or experience.  When we use our gifts and talents to help others who are in need, who are impoverished, who are in pain, and who are suffering in some way, we are showing the genuine care and love to others that God intended us to use.  These are the good things that people want to hear that can come from situations and/or experiences that have potentially been hurtful or painful.

When people blame, punish, misjudge, or revictimize others because of hearing what they don’t want to hear, they are not using their natural gifts and talents to help, assist, and support others in finding a better way to help themselves.  It is in these situations when people potentially try to “fix” a situation without adequate care or understanding that the situation may potentially be made worse. 

Sometimes, when people hear what they don’t want to hear, and react negatively to it, an opportunity for growth, development, and knowledge for something more positive may be lost.  This also reflects that people hear what they want to hear, even though they may not understand the true message.  It also reflects that people may react negatively to a situation simply because it is something that they don’t want to hear.

Pink Flower in Garden, August 2012

Life is full of things that we want to hear and that we don’t want to hear.  How we cope with and communicate with others about such information can make all the difference in either helping or hurting another.  We must first take a close look at ourselves and analyze how we process and cope with information – that which we may view as positive, negative, or neutral.  And, we must realize that life and all of what we experience in it are learning experiences.  We can make it good or bad. 

We can take painful experiences, and work to make similar, future situations better for others.  We can take happy experiences and work to share the joy in them with others.  We can decide only to be open to and “hear” the good about situations and experiences.  We can filter out what we don’t want to hear.  Or, we can “hear” what we don’t want to hear and work to make future, similar experiences better for ourselves and others.  What do you want to hear?

Comments on Child Sexual Abuse; and Book Review of “Fred the Fox Shouts ‘NO!'” By Tatiana Matthews (Commentary and Review By Michele Babcock-Nice)

“Fred the Fox Shouts ‘NO!'” By Tatiana Y. Kisil Matthews

Child sexual abuse is sadly and tragically much too prevalent and common in our society.  Infants, toddlers, children, youth, and teens – minors of all ages and backgrounds – may experience sexual abuse and/or sexual assault before they turn 18. 

In statistics provided by the website titled, “Parents for Megan’s Law and The Crime Victim’s Center,” we know that one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused or assaulted while they are minors; the average age of those children experiencing sexual abuse or assault is between 9 to 10 years old; and less than 10% of sexual abuse or assault involving children is reported to police.

Additionally, statistics from the website state that child sexual abuse or assault usually occurs in a long-term interation between the offender and the child, with four years being the average length of time of the interaction.  Also, only about 1% of child sexual abuse and assault cases are considered to be false reports.  So, that means that 99% of the reports are true and genuine!

Readers must also be aware that much of this information is based on reported child sexual abuse and assault cases.  Therefore, child sexual abuse and assault is likely much more common and occurs more often than the statistics show since so many cases go unreported. 

In a conversation that I had with a metro Atlanta county special victims unit police investigator many years ago about child sexual abuse, he stated to me that offenders can be anyone – yes, anyone!  He shared with me that the professions of some of those whom he arrested included police officers, clergy, scout leaders, teachers, marines, and others. 

In a conversation that I had with a pediatrician, also many years ago in the same metro Atlanta county in Georgia, she shared with me that child sexual abuse and assault in day care centers and preschools is common!  If it is so common, why is there not more being done to educate the public about it and to eliminate it from occurring?

From my own research on the issue, it appears that the younger the victim or survivor is, the more vulnerable they are, and the more difficult it is to gain evidence against and prosecute the offender.

Knowing this information, understanding the statistics, realizing that offenders can be anyone, and that child sexual abuse and assault are common in day cares and preschools, as well as perpetrated by those who are known to the child, we, as a society, must do more. 

We must do more to educate and protect our children, and be sure that our children are safe where ever they are and in whatever they’re doing.  We must also do whatever we can to eliminate the stigma that often surrounds victims and survivors of sex crimes, and instead, place responsibility and seek justice for these crimes rightly on the offenders.

One way of educating toddlers and children about the privacy of their bodies, their right and need to say, “No” to others who exploit or who attempt to exploit them, and the necessity of reporting the situation to trusted adult(s) is by teaching them about acceptable and unacceptable touch (by anyone) and how to react should they experience unacceptable touch.

Tatiana Matthews’ book, Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!” is one such excellent example of a book by which parents of children – or other trusted adults – can teach children through the books’ character, Fred the Fox, about their bodily privacy, their private parts, what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable touch, as well as instruct them – and have them practice – yelling, “NO!” to the offender.  Children must also be taught to get away from the offender if possible, and to inform a trusted adult about the situation. 

Mrs. Matthews also presents through her book with Fred’s character that children must be taught not to keep the secrets of the offender.  It is good for children to learn not to keep secrets, especially since doing so may be designed by the offender to protect the perpetrator and harm the child. 

Mrs. Matthew’s further shares in her book through Fred that simply because someone may be older or bigger than a child, does not mean they have the right to say or do whatever they want to the child.  Those who are most vulnerable must be the most protected and kept the most safe.

As a licensed professional counselor who works with adolescents and adults, Mrs. Matthews has 15 years of experience in providing therapy to victims and survivors of sexual abuse and assault.  Mrs. Matthews’ book, Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!”, is written in easy-to-understand language that is helpful to youngsters about this issue.  Her book is also beautifully and creatively-illustrated with drawings provided by Mrs. Allison Fears, showing Fred the Fox and his family discussing what Fred should do and how he should protect himself from unacceptable touch.

Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!” is a must-read, and an important and useful tool by which to teach children about their right to bodily privacy, what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable touch, and ways in which children can respond and react to those who exploit or attempt to exploit them.  This is a book that should definitely be read in every day care center, every preschool, and every elementary school. 

All children and youth should be educated about how to protect themselves from child sexual assault and abuse.  And, every one of us should be interested in keeping our children and youth safe from sexual predators.  Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!” is an excellent tool by which to achieve this endeavor.

References

Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!”.  June 5, 2012.  www.fredthefox.com.

Matthews, T.Y.K. (2010).  Fred the Fox Shouts “NO!”.  Tatiana Y. Kisil Matthews: Charleston, South Carolina.

Parents for Megan’s Law and The Crime Victim’s Center.  June 5, 2012.  http://www.parentsformeganslaw.org/public/statistics_childSexualAbuse.html.