Is it possible to profile a "child sex predator"?
At Stop It Now! we think it is important for people to realize that there is no such thing as a “typical” person who sexually abuses children. We also choose not to use words like “predator”, not because we excuse or condone their behavior but because we believe words like this make it harder for people to recognize and act when someone they know and like is behaving inappropriately towards a child. Our research shows that adults know that children are most at risk to be sexually abused by someone they, and often their family, knows. But there is a disconnect between this awareness and the ability to take action to keep children safe.
So, what do we know about people who sexually abuse children? We know there is no typical profile of someone who sexually abuses children. From our interviews with adults who have sexually abused we know that there are warning signs to watch out for when adults are with children. We also know a little bit about why someone sexually abuses children.
In our guidebook, Prevent Child Sexual Abuse: Facts about sexual abuse and how to prevent it, we say: “We can’t tell who they are by the way they look. What they have in common is that they think about sexual interactions with children and then they act on those thoughts by sexually abusing a child.” In our trainings, we stress the importance of paying attention to behaviors, and even gut feelings, when you see adults or youth interacting with children.
We’re not going to be able to prevent child sexual abuse until we’re able to consider the possibility and take action at the first sign someone’s behavior around children concerns us. Our tip sheet, "Don’t Wait: Everyday actions to keep kids safe," suggests other actions that all adults can take to keep kids safe.
Stop It Now! supports more research about those who sexually abuse for use in preventing the sexual abuse of children before they are harmed. We will continue to post the latest research and knowledge on our website, as it becomes available.
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