The following material may be hard to comprehend, but it is essential that everyone (adults and children) understand how predators think and operate.
Offenders are rarely strangers to the child concerned. They are usually known to the child and/or parents. They frequently form a trusting relationship with a child and initially engage in physical play like wrestling, touching, giving a massage, etc. This is to get the child used to their touch. However, this differs from normal physical play between a loving adult and a child when an offender uses this form of play to introduce sexual touching. When the child feels uncomfortable, the offender often uses threats to keep the child from speaking up.
Here are some examples:
“If you tell, I will hurt you”
“You will get in trouble”
“No one will believe you”
“I will hurt your parents”
“I will do this to your sister or brother too”
“Your parents know, and it’s okay with them”
“Your friend likes it.”
“You are being a baby”
Most of the time the child has fear, guilt and confusion as a result.
Adult offenders often take their time to prepare the child for sexual victimization. They will target a specific child. The majority of the time it takes place in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative during daylight hours. This can happen to any child, but offenders usually target children that feel unloved, have low self-esteem or spend lots of unsupervised time.
Offenders may spend time playing games with a child, giving them special attention and even giving them gifts, thereby building emotional bonds. Through these positive interactions, they get the child to believe that they understand and care about them. They show concern for the child’s interests. These offenders start to have more frequent contact, and eventually they become their “friend” causing the child to feel safe around them.
There are also juvenile offenders that we need to worry about. Juvenile offenders typically do not take their time. They tend to just find a moment and act. Because their target is another child, the victim usually does not feel threatened when the offender approaches. Juvenile offenders themselves may not be fully conscious of what they are doing (or why). They may be modeling behavior they have seen by adults in their home.