Most parents would readily agree that protecting their children from sexual abuse would be a lot easier if they only knew how to identify offenders before they struck. Sadly, child predators look a lot like everyone else; they’re not unkempt or sporting any special markers. On the contrary, they’re often accomplished and well-respected members of their communities. You can find them in all neighborhoods and communities. And their prevalence is not limited by educational, religious, racial or socio-economic backgrounds. At present, the most effective way parents can protect their children from predators is by arming themselves and their kids with relevant knowledge on child sexual abuse. Equally important for abuse prevention is for parents and child care workers to know the signs of a child predator or child molester.

Who can molest a child?

Studies from reported cases and convicted offenders show that about 90% of children were sexually abused by someone they know; someone who’s a member of their immediate family, a relative or someone close to their family. When one considers this, it becomes easy to understand how difficult it can get for parents to accept that their kids are being abused. The fact that their children are being violated by people they trust can make it difficult to see or acknowledge the signs of child sexual abuse.

Children abuse too

When the topic of child predators or molesters come up, people are quick to picture the offender as an adult male. However, research conducted by childluresprevention.com, shows that that has only been the case 88% of the time. According to that report, 9% of child sex offenders were female (3% of the offenders’ sex was unknown). Moreover, the US Department of Justice also found that 23% of child molesters were children themselves i.e. they were below 18 years of age. It’s important to note that most of these children have also been victims of sexual abuse at some point in their young lives.

So you see, anyone – adult males and females, boys and girls – can be a child molester. Hopefully, this information will help you understand the need to avoid limiting your scrutiny for signs of a child predator to a particular gender or age group. To further deepen your understanding of the child predator, we’ll take a look at their types.

Types of child predators or child molesters

There are basically two types of child molesters:

  • The situational child molesters
  • The preferential child molesters

The situational child molester isn’t primarily attracted to children. Rather, they’ll engage in some type of sexual activity, both touching and non-touching, with children when the opportunity presents itself. This makes them different from preferential child molesters who are primarily sexually attracted to children. They’ll go out of their way to attract children, groom them and create opportunities to engage in sexual activity with them. Statistics from the FBI, show that a preferential child molester can abuse an average of 282 times in their lifetime. They’ll also have an average of 150 different victims.

Characteristics of child predators/child molesters

What we have here isn’t an exhaustive list as child predator patterns is fraught with a lot of variations. However, we’ve gathered the more common signs of a child predator or molester. Hopefully, it can help you determine if your children are safe with a particular person or not. Now, in addition to frequently invading a child’s personal space and touching them, child molesters:

  • Usually have a history of sexual problems such sexual abuse as a child or over-exposure to sexually stimulating environments. They may also have had sex-related problems as adults.
  • Often do not marry. When they do marry, it may to cover their sexual preference for children or for access to their partner’s children.
  • May exhibit a low sex-drive in marriages or relationships.
  • Would rather spend their time with children than adults; they show an excessive interest in children and can come off as childish themselves.
  • Often have a stash of toys and treats with which they lure their victims and bribe them into silence. Their houses may be full of toys even when they don’t have any children of their own.
  • Show interest in a particular child; often praising them or giving them extra privileges or gifts. The pet or favorite child varies from year to year. When the child gets older, the molester turns their attention to a younger child.
  • Stare at or watch a child for long periods of time.
  • Make sexually inappropriate comments about a child’s physical appearance or body
  • Appear to be very helpful and considerate; offering to babysit, to drive the kids to places and do things with and for your child.
  • Encourage the child to keep secrets from parents and other people. For instance, they may ask the child hide gifts from his or her parents. Another example is sharing of inside jokes that you or anyone else don’t understand.

Child abuser personality types

Perpetrators of child abuse can also be classified into seducers, introverted and sadistic. The seducer has a likeable personality and can be quite the charmer. This makes it easy for them to befriend and win the trust of the children and adults. The introverted molester isn’t quite as outgoing; they’re often lacking in interpersonal skill and target the least resistant or most vulnerable children. The sadists abduct, abuse and kill their victims.

Knowing what signs to look out for in a child predator is important because it’ll help concerned adults identify people who are at risk of harming children sexually. When you’re able to identify a potential molester, make sure that he or she doesn’t get the chance to offend. You can the national child abuse hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD or 800.656.HOPE). This way, both the child and the abuser can get the help they need. When parents are proactive in this way, they greatly increase the odds that their children will live abuse-free lives.