Could you spot a paedophile? Here are the warning signs
The full adjudication can be read here.
SOME child molesters jump out of bushes and molest your child on the way home from school.
But more likely, he is your friendly neighbour or attentive shopkeeper.
He could be a charming relative or the son of a friend who is all too willing to babysit your children.
The paedophile in your midst may be the schoolteacher, the bus driver, the youth worker or the lay preacher at your church.
The Australian Royal Commission into institutionalised child sex crimes, running since April, has entered a new round of hearings and a concurrent inquiry is continuing into child sex offences in the Catholic Church’s NSW Hunter Valley diocese.
But Australian parents should not comfort themselves with the notion child sex offences were more common decades ago, or they are confined to likely suspects such as Boy Scout leaders or Catholic priests.
Or just because the 21st century has brought child sex offenders registers and “Working with Children” checks for child-related workers in the youth, sport, education, health, welfare, disability, religion and justice fields in all states.
1. The everyman
When looking out for a child sex offender, don’t be fooled by a person’s appearance, outward respectability or importance in the community.
Paedophiles are almost always men, more often married adult males and they work in a very wide range of occupations, from unskilled work up to corporate executives.
What to look out for is someone who relates better to children than to adults, and has either very few adult friends or whose friends might also be sex offenders.
Signs to watch for: paedophiles usually prefer children in one specific age group, such as infants and toddlers, children between six and ten years old, or “tweens” and young teenagers up to the age of 16.
Paedophiles can be bisexual but more commonly will prefer children or the one gender, males or females.
2. Child-related workers
While paedophiles can work anywhere, they do find ways to be around children as often as possible.
It may not be their principal profession, such as a teacher or priest, but a voluntary or weekend position as a sports coach, camp counsellor, school bus driver, daycare worker, Boy Scout leader, church or secular youth worker can provide the contact with children they need.
Some well-known paedophiles have placed themselves as teachers or leaders of artistic bodies such as dance schools, where they have surrounded themselves with adoring and aspiring performers.
Andrew Manners was a convicted paedophile who had committed offences against minors in Queensland in 1998. He was on parole and prohibited from working with children when he surfaced in 2002.
Manners turned up as a fill-in teacher at his mother’s Scottish dance school, where he was spotted by an observant parole officer.
Former performing arts schoolteacher, Peter Gerard Boys, was also a band leader of the musical troupe the Marching Koalas in the NSW Hunter Valley region when, aged in his 40s, he began having a sexual relationship with four of his students.
He was convicted and sentenced to eight child sex offences against girls aged 10-16 years, and on his release from prison is believed to have subsequently married one of the girls who had come of age during his incarceration.
Watch out for teacher adoration beyond the bounds of a normal crush, accompanied by “secret” phone calls and special individual attention.
3. Happy snappers
Paedophiles are enthusiastic collectors of photographs or videos of children, even children who are fully dressed, but preferably, and behind a parent’s back, of children half or fully nude or engaged in sexually suggestive or explicit acts. They will have vast image collections, and hidden away a collection of child erotica and child-adult pornography.
4. Close relatives and partners
The incestuous or family molester is usually an adult male such as the father, stepfather, uncle, grandfather or live-in boyfriend of the mother, who then molests the child or children.
Single mothers are easy prey for sexual predators whose real intention is to hit on the child, while continuing a sexual relationship with the mother.
The sexual relationship with the child is a secret, and don’t expect a usually open child to reveal it.
Children are silent for a number of reasons – they may feel “special” with all the attention being paid them, and they may love the abusive adult.
Or their silence may be achieved by the abuser threatening the child with splitting up or somehow damaging the family if he or she reveals the relationship, or by making the victim feel they are dirty, naughty and to blame for what has occurred.
A person concerned about child molestation going on in a relative’s home may be surprised to know that the mother of the child is aware, and complicit, for similar reasons of feeling intimidated by the molester and not wanting the “family” to split up should the situation be revealed.
5. The gift giver
Beware of toys or gifts from an unknown source turning up in your child’s possession. Paedophiles often like to “buy” your child with presents and often can, in a twisted manner, portray the child as the sexual aggressor after the victim realises he or she can bargain for toys, clothes, outings or games by withholding sexual “favours”.
6. The always available babysitter
Often a single male with no friends, this sort of paedophile will place himself in a situation where he becomes the trusted babysitter, often for the children of several, usually single parent families.
The mothers regard him as a godsend, who will safely mind their children while they go to work, or go out with their friends.
In many cases the single parent is unable to provide the support the children need, leaving the scene wide open for the child molester to play “uncle” and provide care, attention and “fun”.
Many paedophiles seek out mothers of single-parent families for the purpose of victimising their children, which may have been the case with loner Michael Guider, who regularly babysat a group of children and while their mothers were absent, drugged the girls and photographed them naked.
He was most fond of Samantha Knight, the pretty Bondi nine-year-old who went missing in 1986.
Guider eventually pleaded guilty to her manslaughter, claiming he had accidentally overdosed her. Samantha’s body has never been found.
7. The internet groomer
While children can be critical of a person’s appearance and likely to suspect an ugly misfit, the internet has paved the way for weirdos to connect.
Paedophiles can still be outcasts and loners, but the internet is their ideal social tool.
They exchange information with other like-minded people via chatrooms and message boards about which children to target, how to groom a child and how to set up a meeting to seduce the child with the least risk of getting caught.
8. The damaged
Paedophiles are often the victims of child molestation themselves.
Paedophiles who were child molestation victims frequently seek out children at the age or stage of physical development at which they were molested, and are able to more easily justify their repetition of history.
They may network with others like them whose beliefs and practices are that sex with children is acceptable.
9. The good-looking charmer
People tend to judges others by their superficial appearances, and paedophiles can be charming, attractive men with social graces and an easy manner.
They may be respected community members.
They know how to play upon a child’s need for attention and affection and come across as being helpful and trustworthy.
What they are doing is grooming the child or children – they often target groups of young people, particularly neighbourhood kids.
They will invite the children over to watch movies, eat and offers to take them out on trips to “fun” locations, such as the zoo, the park, the amusement arcade.
They spend as much time as possible making the children like them and even craving their attention as an after school treat.
They will touch the children in playful ways, playing special “games” eventually meant to culminate in sexual contact.
This is particularly easy if there is no father figure in the children’s lives.
Make sure your kids tell you exactly what the neighbour has been doing with them.
Particularly watch for adults who “love talk” children, speaking to them in a manner they would a lover or spouse.
Candace Sutton has spent decades working as a crime reporter covering cases of sex offenders, murderers and child sex offenders. She also worked in the NSW prison system for six years, studying the cases of serious sex offenders and paedophiles, interviewing psychologists and other experts involved in sex offender programs, as well as staff involved in the supervision of paedophiles in the community and in special offender program centres.
READERS NOTE – A RESPONSE TO CANDACE SUTTON’S OPINION ARTICLE
This opinion article by Candace Sutton did spark controversy and Dr Cathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, has written a response, which news.com.au has published in full. Dr Kezelman, in her response, said the opinion piece lacked tact and sensitivity and stated the challenge for those reporting or speaking about child abuse in the public arena was how to increase community awareness while minimising the risks of re-traumatisation for those affected and secondary traumatisation for members of the community. You can read Dr Kezelman’s response her