Investigator Sergeant Patrick Crough, who has been in law enforcement for over thirty years, wrote his book, Seducers Among Us, to provide a much needed resource on the subject of protecting our children from sexual predators. The internet and social media have opened up a considerable breeding and hunting ground for predators, giving rise to further need for strategic knowledge.
THE WAYS OF THE SEDUCER
Based on personal contact during his nearly 20 years as a Major Crime Investigator, Patrick divides child sex offenders into three basic groups: pedophile, sex offender/child molester, and child predator. He describes the pedophile as someone who, while appearing socially normal on the outside, seeks, “to be among children for the purpose of sexual stimulation and gratification, yet many will never offend a child directly. While they typically subscribe to various forms of child pornography, they may never actually touch a child in a sexual manner.” Patrick says that a, “a single occurrence of sexually offending a child puts a perpetrator into this category forever. Some child molesters are not pedophiles but are simply opportunists who will sexually assault anyone who is vulnerable and accessible.” And lastly, there is the child predator whose, “deep-seated desires to have sex with children will eventually override their inner control mechanism,” causing them to perpetuate crimes against children.
The child predator’s method of pursuing a potential victim is very similar to that of an animal hunting in the wild. Like the wolf or cougar who studies the flock to select an easy target, the child predator seeks the one who is the most vulnerable and accessible to him… The predator will go to great lengths, expending a great deal of time, energy, and money to place himself in what he would perceive to be the best position possible to grant him unlimited access to children and their parents. Whereas some sex offenders prepare in secret to kidnap a child, most child predators lurk more openly within our midst using methods that a trained eye can spot.”
His goal is to gain the trust of child without arousing any suspicions from parents or other involved adults. Patrick outlines five important phases of the predator’s progression: The Trust Phase, The Courtship Phase, The Seduction Phase, The Offending Phase, and The Control Phase. Awareness of the strategic tactics of the predator will give parents the much needed discernment to recognize potential danger.
THE TRUST PHASE
The initial phase of the predator’s hunt is The Trust Phase.
“Once the predator chooses one or more potential victims, he seeks then to gain unsupervised access. The best way to gain access to a young child or adolescent is to first befriend their parents or guardian… He will invest an elaborate amount of time, energy, and resources into cultivation a relationship with a parent for the sole purpose of gaining his or her trust and acquiring unrestricted access to a child or to the children. He is not concerned with how much time it may take or what it may entail – he is consumed only with the hunt and the eventual reward it will bring him.”
Church camps, sports leagues, community recreation programs, child care settings, and after school programs become perfect environments for a predator on the hunt. Social media also offers a ready-made opportunity for the predator to have access to personal information about the child and his or her home life.
The child predator knows that most parents are over-extended emotionally, physically, and financially, and in great need of some free time or ‘down time’ for themselves. The child predator is all too ready to relieve them of such stress, lighten a parent’s load, all the while appearing to the unsuspecting parent as a ‘godsend’ willing to take the kids off his or her hands for a few hours so either one or both can get a much-needed break or spend more quality time together.
Twenty-five percent of teens use the internet solely on their cell phones, with little or no supervision. A 13-year old girl may think she has “friended” another girl her same age but who is, in reality, a 47-year old child predator who artfully speaks her language in an effort to gain her complete trust. Many are lured into voluntarily meeting with the predator, either believing the person they were meeting is their trusted “friend” or someone to whom their trusted “friend” has introduced. Parents need to be actively involved in their children’s internet use, including cell phones.
Obviously, every helpful soul or interested friend on Facebook isn’t a child predator, “but parents should be aware of how these deviants build inroads into their life and a child’s life. It is critical to understand that time spent together without offense builds trust by default, but that trust is not always deserved or honestly come by.” Patrick encourages parents to listen to their intuition. He believes that there is a God-given “mother’s intuition” that should not be ignored. Rather than dismiss suspicions that rise, a parent can effectively test a person’s motives by simply prohibiting further contact with the person and then watch for the response. A predator may become more aggressive in his attempts to see the child or simply move on to another target. Patrick believes,“that the more time and money the predator has invested, the more aggressive his response will be when you make yourself an obstacle.” It is better for a parent to offend a true friend by testing their motives than to run the risk that their child may become the intended victim of a child predator.
THE COURTSHIP PHASE
The second phase of the child predator’s process is The Courtship Phase.
The predator’s sole purpose in the courtship phase is similar to that of a young male suitor courting a young woman who has captivated his interest. He wants to ‘romance’ and impress the unsuspecting child into liking him and trusting him more than anyone else – including the child’s own parents. Most child predators are not at all repelling or frightful to look upon with regard to their physical appearance. If anything, children are drawn to them. Their survival and success depends on their ability to conceal their true motives beneath an attractive, altogether appealing exterior. The predator’s goal is to seduce in whatever manner it takes, including gifts, words of affirmation, time, attention… In other words, with every instance afforded him, the child predator will determine what the targeted child desires most and do everything in his power to make it come true for the child.
The important thing to remember about The Courtship Phase is that, “time without offense builds trust by default. The child predator depends heavily on this very important principle so he can eventually isolate the child and transition that child into the next phase of his diabolical scheme.”
THE SEDUCTION PHASE
If no one interferes, The Courtship Phase will eventually move to The Seduction Phase. The attention and conversation of the predator will begin to change slightly and may incorporate slightly inappropriate words or ideas, but nothing too offensive so as to send out any red flags, and if discovered by an adult, it could easily be dismissed as unintentional and poor judgment. If the child continues to keep, “their little secret,” than the predator will continue to stimulate the child’s sexuality. He will use flattery to seduce the child into believing that what they share together is normal and positive.
Just as Eve was seduced into believing a lie, the young child is seduced into believing that a sexual experience with the child predator will bring him or her intense pleasure or benefit.
THE OFFENDING PHASE
If everything goes as planned, no adult will have interfered with his relationship with the child and the child will have been seduced into believing he has the child’s best interest in mind. And, so the predator will feel free to move into The Offending Phase. Some victims become so enamored with the attention of the predator that they enter into the offense voluntarily, while still others may simply be unable to stop it. It is important to keep in mind that whether the child has given her permission or not, the predator is the one to blame. His goal is to manipulate to get what he wants.
Children who are sexually molested will begin to separate themselves from those who are closest to them. Patrick finds that,“a victim’s overt avoidance of communicating with his parents and other authority figures to be the most obvious and consistent attempt to hide,” the offense.
POTENTIAL SIGNS OF A SEXUALLY MOLESTED CHILD
“Frequently children who have been sexually offended will display changes in their behavior long before they verbalize what had occurred. If they never disclose the abuse, they may never free themselves of the emotional burden, and they will carry behavioral scars into adulthood. Many times parents of victims have observed one or more of the following indicators… but never suspected it was the result of being sexually abused:
Your child frequently displays unwarranted anger and hostility.
Your child appears depressed and displays a low countenance.
Your child has become uncharacteristically anti-social.
Your child has lost his appetite, even for his favorite foods.
Your child no longer enjoys normal daily routine and activities.
Your child uncharacteristically refuses to participate in extracurricular activities.
Your child verbalizes suicidal thoughts.
Your child suddenly avoids individuals with whom she was once close.
Your child suddenly avoids certain parts of the residence.
Your child wants to move away from the neighborhood.
Your child suffers from nightmares and is reluctant to describe them.
Your child starts wetting his bed for no medical cause.
Unexplained irritation to the genital and/or rectum areas.
Complaint of pain in the genitals and/or rectum.
Suspicious marks around the genital areas or rectum.
Your young child becomes fixated with his own sexual parts and/or the sexual parts of others.
Your young child begins to act out or imitate sexual behavior.
Excessive desire to control the environment.
Fear of the unknown.
If your child exhibits one or more of the above symptoms without explanation, Patrick suggests that you “seek a pediatric therapist to explore the source of the problem. Hopefully, it will be something unrelated to sexual abuse. But if your child ends up disclosing abuse to the therapist, you have saved your child from years of agony and provided law enforcement the opportunity to hold the perpetrator accountable and to protect your child and others from further abuse.”
THE CONTROL PHASE
Lastly, once the predator has offended the child, he will begin The Control Phase.
He will begin to control the victim in any way possible, forcing him or her to comply with his sexual demands. He will have a plan already well in place to control the child to maintain his or her cooperation with him… How he controls the child will depend entirely on the circumstances of their relationship. The predator may threaten to harm family members, or in the case of a coach or teacher, perhaps the predator will threaten to remove them from the favored position on the team or in the class. If the predator maintains a high profile, he could threaten to use his own status in an it’s your word against mine argument. “Sometimes even the victim’s parents will be openly unsupportive and disbelieving of their own child because of the skillful manipulation of the predator during the courtship phase.
Patrick offers an extensive safety check list in his book Seducers Among Us. Some important things to remember to safeguard your children from predators include:
Offers of Assistance: Be suspicious of people who manipulate their way into your lives under the ruse of assisting you through a difficult time. Do they continue to offer assistance when it is no longer needed?
Seeking constant contact: Be leery of the person who is constantly seeking contact with your child because he ‘loves children. This remains true, even if the person is teacher, coach, or tutor.
Teenage boys providing childcare: Stay away from allowing teenage boys to care for your children unattended, even if they are younger siblings. Teen boys are not in control of their raging hormones and are influenced by today’s sensual world via the Internet and other forms of media. If they are left alone with defenseless small children, they might decide to experiment on them.
Interest in pornography: If the child’s father is a chronic voyeur of pornography, then do not allow him to be alone with the child… Not every man who looks at pornography is going to molest children; however, a man who is addicted to pornography is at more risk than one who isn’t.
Computer and cell phone use: Your child’s activity on computers and cell phones must be constantly monitored. Nothing good comes from easy access and overuse of these devices.
Most parents would consider it unthinkable that they would allow danger to come voluntarily into their homes, but many unsuspecting parents have done just that by allowing an insidious, devious predator access to their children. Technology makes it harder than ever to keep an eye on all the potential threats, but not impossible. The key is relationship. The stronger our relationship with our children, the less the lures of the predator are attractive. And the more involved we are in the lives of our children, the less opportunity they have to infiltrate unnoticed.
“Be aware the enemy wants parents to place other priorities ahead of their children, thereby placing them in a position where they must rely on other people and resources to care for them. As you have learned, the more time your children are not under your supervision, the more likely they are to cross paths with a child predator. Daily communication with your children and constant parental supervision are two important components to keeping your children safe. Don’t forget to pray for your children daily, and pray with your children as soon as they are able to carry on a conversation with you.
Parents who consistently practice these suggestions will significantly reduce the chances of their children being seduced and molested. If you are vulnerable in one of these areas, then do whatever it takes to close the gap. The safety of your children is at stake.”
Retired Investigator Sergeant Patrick Crough has thirty years of law enforcement experience, including twenty years as a Major Crimes Investigator and Hostage Negotiator with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Rochester, New York.
Investigator Sergeant Crough and his colleagues in the Major Crimes Unit investigated murders and other reported homicides, suspicious deaths, physical injury, sexual assaults, crimes against children, police-involved shootings, and conduct covert special investigations.
He is also the author of Chronicles of a Rochester Major Crimes Detective: Confronting Evil and Pursuing Truth. He is married with three grown children and two grandchildren.
Today, Patrick is in full-time ministry with Millstone Justice, a non-profit, child advocacy group. The purpose of Millstone Justice is to educate parents, family members, teachers, day care employees, and caregivers about the threats that are posed everyday by child predators. You may visit Patrick’s website at: www.millstonejustice.org.
*Quotes taken from Seducers Among our Children: How to Protect Your Child From Sexual Predators, A Police Inspector’s Perspective were used by permission.