Predators Pt 2: Grooming-How Pedophiles Get Into Our Kid’s Lives

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two part series on sexual predators written by David Pittman, the founder of Together We Heal – an organization dedicated to helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).  Today’s focus is on helping parents understand how predators target, approach, groom and eventually insinuate themselves into a child’s (and even a family’s) life.  Since 90-95% of CSA occurs at the hands of someone that is known, trusted and often loved, it is essential to be educated on what signs or red flags to be looking for. The once held notion of “stranger danger” is a myth. Education is the key to learning what are the real threats to children. Our hope is that by teaching you how to recognize the signs that someone is targeting your child, together we can keep them from becoming one more CSA statistic.   (Click here to read last week’s post on How to Talk With Your Kids About Sexual Abuse).

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Together We Heal logoAfter posting my story of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) on the Together We Heal website, I was asked an important question by a concerned parent. How did this monster get into your life?

The answer is both simple and complex. The easy part is that they don’t have the appearance of a monster. They don’t look like some James Bond or Cartoon character villain, with beady eyes, horns coming out of their heads, or a big neon sign saying, “STAY AWAY, PEDOPHILE HERE!” Sadly, they almost always look like everyone one else. The gentle minister, the encouraging coach, the neighbor always willing to lend a hand or the family member who seems to be there just when you need them.

And this is where the complexity comes in. How do you distinguish genuine care from pure evil? While there are no set in stone answers, there are some clues to look for and ways to evaluate what is going on. And though nothing is fool-proof, I hope it’s at least a start for you to help figure out friend from foe.

One of the most frightening things about pedophiles/sexual predators is that they seem so “normal”. They are notoriously friendly, nice, kind, engaging and like-able. And they target their victims, often insinuating themselves into that child’s life through their family, school, house of worship, sports, and hobbies. But don’t ever forget, pedophiles are professional con-artists and are experts at getting children and families to trust them. They will smile at you, look you right in the eye and make you believe they are trustworthy.

So let’s first define exactly what grooming is and then we will go into the steps involved.

Predator-relationship-with-the-childErika Lyn Smith, of the “Missing And Exploited Children Site”, gives a thorough explanation of what we are talking about.

The act of grooming a child involves spending time, energy, and money to make a child and even the parent or parents feel comfortable with the relationship. Only after a trusting relationship is established will the child predator start to become more intrusive and to test the boundaries of the relationship by pushing limits. These violations may include hugging, kissing, tickling, wrestling, and invading a child’s privacy while showering, dressing or toileting.

Initially a pedophile will begin to violate the physical boundaries, by accidentally touching the child through his or her clothes to see what kind of reaction he or she receives. If a child or parent questions the action the predator will likely back off and regain the trust of the child or parents before proceeding.

By befriending the parent or parents, the pedophile gains the trust of everyone in the family. Children are less likely to tell when the relationship turns sexual if the adult is someone he or she knows personally or is a friend of mom or dads. In addition, mom and dad may be less likely to listen to a child when it involves a good friend of the family.

Single parents, especially mother’s will be looking for a positive male role model if there is no father involved. Single mothers are more likely to accept offers from a child’s coach or school for help when offered. All parents needs to be vigilant when it comes to allowing someone access to his or her child, and question friendships or relationships that take up a lot of a child’s free time.

Signs that a pedophile may be grooming your child include:

  • Telling a child, he or she is a “special” friend
  • Bringing a child special mementos or gifts
  • Talking to a child about adult issues like sex or marriage problems
  • Giving a child alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
  • Inviting a child to spend the night or go camping

A former F.B.I. agent named Kenneth V. Landing wrote about 5 steps he identified as the general process most sexual predators use in grooming children to be their next victims. Below you will find this listed.

  • Stage 1: Identifying a Possible Victim  Although pedophiles differ in their “type” regarding age, appearance and gender, all pedophiles will look for a victim who seems in some way vulnerable.
  • Stage 2: Collecting Information  The next step is for the pedophile to collect as much information on the targeted victim as possible. This is most commonly done through casual conversations with both the child and the parents or caretaker.
  • Stage 3: Filling a Need  Once the individual has the information he needs, he then becomes part of the child’s life by filling a need. If the victim is poor, for example, the pedophile will provide him/her with expensive toys. If the victim is lonely, the pedophile will act as a friend.
  • Stage 4: Lowering Inhibitions  The pedophile will then start to lower the child’s inhibitions concerning sexual matters. He may come up with games or activities that involve getting undressed, make sexual comments or show the child pornographic images or pictures.
  • Stage 5: Initiating the Abuse  At this final stage, the pedophile begins to sexually abuse the child.

Another technique used by these predators is called the 4 “F’s”:  Friendship, Fantasy, Fear and Force.

  • Friendship is built through nurturing a relationship through bonding. The adult will usually give the child gifts, take them on special outings and show them a lot of attention.
    Once a child trusts an adult, the adult can influence the child’s attitude regarding sexual behavior. Grooming may include introducing sexual content to the child as an example of what the perpetrator desires and to give the impression that the depicted acts are acceptable. If the child thinks that sex between children and adults is ok, it’s easier for the pedophile to victimize the child.
  • Then they will introduce Fantasy”. They will manipulate the child with a false sense of security. They will pay a lot of attention to the child’s problems and personal matters and offer advice and counseling. They will tell the child how much they love them and that they want to have a long term, loving relationship with them.
  • Once the child has opened up to the pedophile, they will begin to instill “Fear” by threatening to share the child’s secrets with their classmates or their parents. Sometimes they will even threaten the life or safety of the child or of their family and friends It’s all a manipulation tactic to get the child to do what the pedophile wants them to do.
  • Ultimately, the pedophile uses “Force” to sexually exploit the child.

While these are by no means the only ways sexual predators work their way into ours and our children’s lives, they are at least a beginning place for parents to be on the lookout. The more information you have and the better educated you become, the more you will be able to best protect your kids.

Knowledge truly is power and we cannot give over our power to these heinous criminals. They will use every trick in the book so you have to know what they’re doing. Even more frightening, pedophiles and sexual predators work together to help each other figure out ways to gain access to our kids. Don’t believe it, read this article about a 170 page, “How To” publication put together by and for adults who prey on innocent children. They are making a concerted effort to help each other so we have to be more vigilant, more active and tireless in our work to combat these predators.

I hope this is a good start on helping you to protect your children. God knows I wish my family had been told this when I was a child. Maybe they would have been able to stop my abuse before it began. So please take a page from our family history book, educate yourselves and talk with your kids.

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References:

  • Kenneth V. Lanning, Special Agent, F.B.I.
  • Erika Lyn Smith
  • America’s Most Wanted
  • WBTV

Why Does My Newborn Baby Need a Second Hearing Test?

If your newborn baby’s first hearing test doesn’t show a clear response from one or both ears, your baby will need a second screening test.

Baby-hearing-examThis happens with a lot of babies. It doesn’t necessarily mean your baby has hearing problems. Some common reasons for needing a second screening include:

  • your baby may have been unsettled when the first test was done
  • there may have been some background noise
  • your baby may have fluid or a temporary blockage in their ear after the birth. This is very common and passes with time

When will the second screening be done?

If you have your baby in hospital, your baby’s second hearing screening will usually be done before you leave. However, in some areas, it may be done at home or in a local clinic.

What does the second screening involve?

At the second screening, your baby may have the same test as they had in their first screening. This is called the automated otoacoustic emission (AOAE) hearing test.

At the second screening, your baby may also have another type of test, called the automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) screening test.

Read more information about how newborn hearing tests are performed.

What do the results mean?

If the second screening shows a clear response from both of your baby’s ears, your baby is unlikely to have hearing loss.

If the second screening doesn’t show a clear response from one or both of your baby’s ears, you’ll be referred to your local audiology department. This often happens at the second screening, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby has hearing problems.

An audiologist (hearing specialist) will carry out more tests to measure your baby’s hearing. The audiologist will explain the test results to you and discuss with you what is best for your child. Read more about Your baby’s visit to the audiology clinic (PDF, 307Kb).

Most babies show clear responses to sound at the second screening and at the audiologist’s tests. However, it’s possible that your baby may have hearing loss.

Nationally (in the UK), about one in 25 babies whose second screening does not show clear responses may have hearing loss in one or both ears. Finding out early that your baby has hearing loss means that you and your baby can get advice and support.

Getting help

If you’re concerned about your child’s hearing, contact your health visitor or GP. A child’s hearing can be assessed at any age.

Read the answers to more questions about children’s health

Further information:

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 09-08-2014 to 09-14-2014

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Unidentified Respiratory Virus (human entovirus 68) Likely to Hit Kids Across Country.
> 1,000 kids in 10 states already affected. Parents, watch for wheezing!
http://t.co/M2cDXhrZRq

Avoid Tooth Decay Risks in Your Child’s Lunchbox

Happy Child With School LunchAs a parent, you work hard to keep your child’s meals wholesome and healthy. However, we all know that it can be difficult to plan out well-balanced meals all the time. With the school year in full swing, you’re as busy as ever, and it’s easy to just throw a Snack Pack and bag of potato chips in your kid’s lunchbox. While these are okay in moderation, too many sweets and junk food can start to take a toll on your child’s health, including the health of their teeth.

A diet which is high in sugar can lead to a mouth full of cavities. Bad bacteria called streptococcus mutans can easily invade your child’s mouth, and these bacteria feed off of sugar. The combination of the bacteria and sugar produces acid that eats away at the tooth’s enamel. After time, the depletion of calcium can eventually cause the surface of the tooth to collapse, and the result is a cavity.

The easiest way to help your child avoid cavities is by limiting the amount of sugary foods they consume throughout the day. Things like gummy candy, lollipops, chips, soda and juice are some of the most damaging foods. Not only are they high in sugar and carbohydrates, but they also tend to stay in the mouth longer when consumed. If teeth are constantly being coated with sugar, this promotes decay even faster.

There are plenty of foods that are not only good for your child’s teeth and gums, but are easy to prepare and pack in your kid’s lunchbox. Some of these include:

  • Crisp fruits and vegetables – Apples, carrots and celery are high in fiber and help produce saliva, which is the mouth’s natural defense against decay.
  • Cheese and yogurt – Dairy products contain calcium and other minerals that are important for the health of your teeth. Cheese cubes or sticks and yogurt cups are great for school lunches.
  • Water with fluoride – Many stores carry small, “kid-sized” bottles of water with fluoride added. Choose these instead of juice boxes.

While sugary foods are not the only cause of cavities, they are one of the biggest causes. They’re also one of the easiest things to moderate.  Be proactive about the health of your child’s mouth by establishing healthy eating habits at an early age. A sugary treat is perfectly okay every once in awhile, just make sure it’s given in moderation.

Predators Pt 1: How to Talk With Your Kids About Sexual Abuse

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two part series on sexual predators written by David Pittman, the founder of Together We Heal – an organization dedicated to helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). We are running “How to Talk with Your Kids About Sexual Abuse” now, right in the middle of back-to-school, because now is when many of us may need a reminder the most.  As we hand our children over to teachers and coaches and after-school caregivers and tell them to “listen to the teacher” and “do what the coach tells you”, we NEED to make sure we have first taught them when it’s ok to say NO. That secrets are not ok…that their bodies are their own and noone can touch them without their permission. We need to remember that 90-95% of CSA occurs at the hands of someone that is known, trusted and often loved. Hopefully by sharing this now, we will keep one more child safe.  

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Together We Heal logo

I was once given some advice from a person much older and wiser than myself: “If a child is old enough to ask the question, they are old enough to get the truth.” There is, however, a way to present truth in a way that neither scares the child nor impedes their ability to openly communicate with the adult about “delicate” subject matter.

The following is a combined list of different suggestions on ways to talk to your children about sexual abuse. The sources for this information are Together We Heal, The Joyful Heart Foundation, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, FamilyWatchDog.com, The Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Oregon, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s: Convicted Sex Offender Web Site, as well as my own personal recommendations based on personal experience.

1) Start Young

Talk openly and often with your children about sexual development, behavior and abuse. Keep in mind that if you discuss sexual development with your children appropriately from a very young age, they will not be embarrassed by the subject matter and will be less vulnerable to the grooming tactics of many child molesters.

Children who do not have their curiosity satisfied do not stop asking, they simply start looking elsewhere for their answers. After all, who do you want educating your children about sex and sexuality…you or their friends and Madison Avenue?!? Starting young is not damaging. Parents believe that somehow it is inappropriate for them to be discussing such things with young children.

If a child has a curiosity about something, it does not damage them to know the truth. Truth is never wrong! Truth is never damaging!

While they are young is a healthy time for children to know the answers. It is the best time. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is waiting until the teenage years to address issues of sexuality.

Rather than waiting until the time in their lives when you are beginning to lose their time and focus to sports, school, friends, etc…confront the issues now. Make sure you spend the first 12 years of your child’s life laying out a stable framework for your children to build their ideals and morals from. Don’t wait until they are 13 and riddled with urges to start addressing the issue of healthy sexual relationships.

The key to this is what my friend and colleague, Rachel Grant, calls “normalizing” the conversation. What we mean by that is, for example, a “normal” talk with your child would be, “how was practice today, or do you need any help with your homework?” So just as normally as you bring up those topics, so also ask them, “has anyone made you feel uncomfortable at school or church today?” “Has anyone approached you or touched you in a way that made you feel upset?” The more normal you make the conversation, the more likely they are to open up to you and talk about it.

Instill concepts when they are young. Confronting the tough issues and morals you would like your children to be instilled with begins at birth, and that includes sexuality.

2) Use Proper Terminology

Use proper names or semi-proper names for body parts (penis and vagina), and phrases like: private parts are “private and special”. Research shows that children who know the proper words for their body parts are less likely to be sexually abused than children who are not. Teaching a child that body parts are so embarrassing and shameful to talk about that they need silly nicknames makes it much more likely that a child will not tell you if someone touches them inappropriately. When a child knows the proper names, it puts a predator on notice that there is an atmosphere of openness and dialogue in a home and that if they harm your child, it is more likely to be discovered and disclosed.

3) Practice

Mother and daughter talkTake the time to rehearse with your spouse/partner or any adult that will give you a truthful critique and be patient. This is not the time to rush through or skim over the parts that make you feel uncomfortable. Just imagine that if you have a difficult time talking with the adult, what will it be like when you talk with your child? Gather resources from organizations such as Together We Heal, SNAP, Stop It Now, RAINN, Stop Abuse Campaign, Survivors Chat, @Beyond_Survivor, @Dylansmoosie, etc., and make notes or an outline. Do whatever makes it easiest for you to remember the topics and keep yourself on point. Throughout the talk, your child will be asking questions that will take you in various directions so it is essential that once you answer the question you get back on track. Also consider that you may not be able to address all questions at once. Be honest with your child if they ask you a question that you do not have the answer. Tell them the truth. Let them know that you need to find the answer and let them know later.

4) No Secrets and No Private time with Adults/Children

Teach your child not to keep secrets and that no one should ask your child to keep a secret from you. Teach your child that there are happy surprises which we are going to tell people about soon (like birthday presents or the ending to a story your brother is reading), but that we don’t have secrets that we’re not allowed to tell and we don’t keep secrets that make us feel sad or worried.

Avoid one child‐one adult situations. 90% of all child sexual abuse occurs in situations where there is only one adult and one child present. When a child is going to have one on one time with an adult, attempt to schedule that time in observable places (like parks and restaurants). Ask your child about how things went when they were alone with an adult, child or relative. Listen for specific details and watch your child’s mood.

5) Create a “Safety Team” or “Safety Network”

Help your child create a list of their trusted adults. Give your child a copy of their list. Make sure their support “network” peoples’ phone numbers are by the telephone with and in a place that your child has easy access to. Once you and your child have made a list, let all the people on your child’s list know that they are part of this emergency network. Let them know your child has your permission to contact them and ask them if they are comfortable with this responsibility.

Let your child know that you will not be upset if they go to anyone on this list when they are scared or confused. It is very common for children to feel that they cannot speak to their parents in spite of a parent’s attempt to ease this fear. The majority of children who report sexual abuse do not report it to their parents. Sexual predators often tell their victims that what is happening is the victims’ fault; that they will get in trouble, that they will be taken away or that their parents will stop loving them and will hate them. Molesters who are related to the child also scare them into silence by telling them that no one else will take care of them if they go to jail. It is very important to talk with your children and reassure them of your unconditional love and remind them of all the people who care about them. When you take away an offender’s ability to keep his victim silent, you take away his/her power.

6) Explain How Your Child is Helping

Avoid scary details. Use language that is honest and age appropriate. Explain that no one should touch a child on the parts of their body that are covered by their bathing suit. Also let your child know that there are exceptions to this situation such as mommy or daddy helping a young child bathe, diaper changes or a doctor examining a child with their parent present.

When discussing sexual abuse with younger children, refer to sexual predators as adults with “touching problems.”

These people can make “secret touching” look accidental (such as tickling or wrestling) and they should still tell you even if they think (or were told) it was an accident.

This is a way for a young child to understand that an adult has an inappropriate behavior without giving your child nightmares or age-inappropriate details about what the “touching” might entail.

Tell your children that people who have touching problems need special help so they don’t continue to have problems or get into trouble. Don’t describe it as a sickness and don’t say that “bad” people do this, as most of the time the “bad” person is someone who seems good or is known to the child. Do not use words like pedophile, predator or pervert; but rather, refer to “touching problems” instead as this gives the child the ability to judge and tell you about the behavior without the understandable confusion that arises when the perpetrator is someone they love or care about.

Finally – And this step might be the most important…

7) Create a form letter that explains how you have discussed with your child/children about the issue of childhood sexual abuse and list the people in their safety network. Give a copy to each adult in your child’s life and on the list.

By notifying all of the adults in your child’s life (family, friends, teachers, coaches, and parents of your child’s friends), you have in effect warned most potential predators in your child’s life that they will be caught should they target your child for abuse or inappropriate behavior. Sex offenders generally target children where the risk of getting caught is sufficiently low. By doing this, you are telling any would-be offender that your child is prepared and as parents you are involved. If you find it challenging to create your own form letter, we have provided two templates here on the website. Please feel free to print them out to use.

My hope is that you will take these tips and begin the dialogue with your child/children. Remember to do this also…talk WITH your child, not AT your child. Together we can work to give your children the BEST possibility of NOT being a statistic.

1 in 6 boys and 1 in 3 girls are molested and/or sexually abused/raped by the age of 18.

If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us.  

dpittman@together-we-heal.org

How Much Salt Do Babies and Children Need?

kids and saltBabies and children only need a very small amount of salt in their diet. However, because salt is added to a lot of the food you buy, such as bread, baked beans, and even biscuits, it is easy to have too much.

The maximum recommended amount of salt for babies and children is:

  • up to 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium)
  • 1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)
  • 4 to 6 years – 3g of salt a day (1.2g sodium)
  • 7 to 10 years – 5g of salt a day (2g sodium)
  • 11 years and over – 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium)

Babies who are breastfed get the right amount of salt through breast milk. Infant formula contains a similar amount of salt to breast milk.

When you start introducing solid foods, remember not to add salt to the foods you give to your baby because their kidneys cannot cope with it. You should also avoid giving your baby ready-made foods that are not made specifically for babies, such as breakfast cereals, because they can also be high in salt.

Lots of foods produced for children can be quite high in salt, so it’s important to check the nutritional information before you buy. The salt content is usually given as figures for sodium. As a rough guide, food containing more than 0.6g of sodium per 100g is considered to be high in salt. You can work out the amount of salt in foods by multiplying the amount of sodium by 2.5. For example, 1g of sodium per 100g is the same as 2.5g salt per 100g.

You can reduce the amount of salt your child has by avoiding salty snacks, such as crisps and biscuits, and swap them for low-salt snacks instead. Try healthy options such as dried fruit, raw vegetable sticks and chopped fruit to keep things varied.

Further information: