"What does a pedophile look like?"
By Jo Ann Wentzel
Note: Dan and I are not therapists and can only report our observations after decades of working with abused children. We are not giving medical opinions just showing what we learned as considered experts in fostering and parenting.

I am going to talk about a taboo topic. Can you open your hearts and minds to a horrific subject? I'm speaking of sexual abuse of our children. Please do not stick you heads in the sand. Do not turn away and pretend it does not exist. Do not put it out of your mind saying it is so rare it is nothing to worry about now. You need to listen because the problem is so widespread. It is much more common than you think.

Sexual abuse of our children is happening all over the world and all over our country in every state, city and way too many families. It takes place in the sanctity of our own homes, in our schools and sports programs, in our churches and organizations set up to help kids. It takes place everywhere.

Whenever this topic arises and when we speak of it; we ask the same question- "What does a pedophile look like?" We ask that question to get people thinking. We ask that question to remind them that pedophiles look like any one of us. Why is that- because they can be everyone one of us. That quiet, friendly dad that is neighbor could be sexually abusing his little girl. No one may ever guess he is capable of such a thing. The football coaches' assistant may like his male team members a little too much. He might trade more game play - time for sexual favors. The English teacher may seem like a caring woman but be secretly seducing her girl pupils just because or may offer, "A's for great performance of another kind. The not quite adult pervert could prey on small children. He is as real a threat as the others are but you would not suspect him easily. My point is to tell you that everyone, even members of your family could be a pedophile and they hide it so well. Usually accusations of children are met with disbelief and ridicule that makes the victim feel further abused.

Dan and I fostered and worked with kids for decades and at least half of them experienced sexual abused. People still believe it is not a serious crime. "Just a little perversion that Uncle Joe has and we need to accept it and tolerate him." They believe it is a victimless crime and no harm done. They could not be more wrong.

The biggest result of sexual abuse upon a child and I use that term for any age before adulthood is that they cannot trust again. It can be a lifetime before they will trust adults or maybe anyone. It will take time to trust even their parents since they believe they should have known and they should have protected them so it never happened. If they told a parent and were disbelieved the trust issue will be even a more severe problem.

At the time of the sexual abuse, they felt completely alone, fighting a battle, they could not win. They felt isolated with no other person on their side. They are frightened by what is happening to them and more than likely threatened if they tell. The perpetrator also may have threatened parents or family they loved. Victims of this abuse are often confused by the emotions they are experiencing and not sure, what the proper reaction is. However, most of all they are scared.

Someone, usually someone they trust and often love, is hurting them. They are violating their bodies and causing them to feel guilt and shame. They are causing them pain. Younger children have no previous knowledge of sex and do not understand what is happening to them. They want to mommy and daddy to hold them unless mommy and daddy are the perps and then they do not know who to run to for comfort and help.

Where do these kids go from here? Most of the time, they begin acting out and misbehaving in a variety of ways. New personalities seem to replace once happy children. They trust no one and are angry with everyone. They will lash out with violence to their family pets or siblings. They might resort back to bedwetting. They may set little fires or start to cut themselves. For many the self-hatred is growing and they will find ways to get rid of the person they once were.

Some signs will get worse at puberty. Girls may wear oversized, often black clothing to avoid bringing attention to themselves. They try to hide their bodies. Sometimes the suicide attempts start at this time. We have seen girls start to gain lots of weight as to make their bodies undesirable and thus safe. Sexually abused kids are often afraid to meet your eyes and look down at the ground. They look sad constantly and cannot enjoy life or fun like other children their age.

The exact opposite is possible as sexual promiscuity and wearing of very inappropriate clothing is the norm for them.Younger children often know more about sex than you expect for their age and may even mimic sex acts. They may approach adults in sexual ways that are very inappropriate.

Parents must look for signs, there are many not described here. Parents must know where children are at all times. They should be ready to protect them against anyone harming them even a spouse. Please Save the Children.