Originally published June 23, 2012 at 12:01 a.m., updated June 22, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.
What if you found the perfect crime, one that you could commit repeatedly and never get caught? This crime enables your addiction, allowing you to do exactly what you prefer most. You spend your whole life perfecting your image to ensure that others will trust you. You have a position of power where the community respects you and would never question your decision-making processes. You may be a pediatrician, a politician or a coach. People find you helpful because you are always there for them. You are a dream come true to some; to others, your victims, for example, you are more of a hindrance. Though you have been a role model in their life, you cause nothing but pain, suffering and confusion.
Pedophilia is just that crime. My best friend’s dad, a jolly, fun, dear friend of my parents, laid his hands on me when I was an innocent child and he changed my life forever. I never told a soul after it happened. I was afraid of being punished, not being believed, causing problems with the families involved, being bullied by my friends, and being called a liar. I was embarrassed and full of shame. I felt dirty and ugly. I thought I would live with this disgusting memory for the rest of my life, alone.
Why do these predators keep preying on our children and often walk away without any reporting obstacles? They get away with it by relying on the child’s fear and the shame. They use children too young to understand sex until this trusted person coerces them into this world of darkness.
Jerry Sandusky, a successful football coach from Pennsylvania State University, was arrested in 2011 on sexual abuse charges and may face life in prison. When a boy made molestation allegations against Sandusky 13 years ago, a psychologist called Sandusky a “likely pedophile.” Unfortunately, this child was not believed (a nightmare in itself) and the allegations never led to charges.
Think of all the victims he had over those years who could have been saved. Even the victims that are testifying in the Sandusky trial have communicated the guilt they live with because they did not report when they were children. With 20 percent of our population reported as probable victims to sexual child abuse, it’s not a mystery why many pedophiles die without one conviction after molesting hundreds of children. We don’t have any idea the true number of victims of this crime when many children do not report it. In the 1980s, Dr. Gene Abel conducted a study that found there was only a 3 percent chance of an offender getting caught for sexual child abuse.
How is this possible? These predators rely on secrecy and isolation. These are the key elements that keep children from telling. The predator’s protection shield derives from the children’s fear and shame. In Dr. Carla Van Dam’s book, “The Socially Skilled Child Molester,” she interviews thousands of pedophiles and shares with the reader why these offenders are successful. The stories may be different, but the behaviors and operations of these offenders are similar. The victims are isolated in their own emotions and live with this secret, alone in their pain.
The most important step for a parent is to believe your child and furthermore, report it to the authorities or to child protective services. They are the experts and they will handle the investigation appropriately.
Sexual child abuse is preventable if children are surrounded by adults who are knowledgeable and outspoken. Some red flags with the Sandusky case were the gifts he would give the children and the invitations for them to stay over at his house. More than 80 percent of sexual abuse cases occur in a one adult-one child situation. If you could lessen those odds, wouldn’t you?
Knowledge is power and this perfect crime is predictable when we are aware of what to look for in a pedophile’s behavior. There are resources on the Internet and plenty of books out there to read, including how to discuss this topic with your children.
My best advice is get well educated on the topic of sexual child abuse. What if you could be the solution? What if you had the power to save the children from being a victim like these unfortunate boys that were allegedly sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky. What if we, as a community, could stop this perfect crime and be the barrier between the pedophile and our children. We can and we will one step at a time.
Monaco Gonzales, an author and child advocate, lives in Carlsbad with her husband and two children.