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Teaching your child about appropriate touch - Parents need to understand how pedophiles entrap their victims

June 12, 1997

Teaching your child about appropriate touch

Parents need to understand how pedophiles entrap their victims

By KAREN MASTERSON

Staff Writer

Guarding children from sexual abuse should not stop at teaching them self-protection and good and bad touch.

New research on the MOs (modis operandi) of sexual offenders bring to light a better understanding of how adolescent and adult pedophiles entrap their victims.

According to research at Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, adult offenders who know their victims are less likely to use force at first. They will coerce children with treats, secrets and favoritism. The study shows that children are subjected to mild molestation in the beginning, which eventually leads to rape.

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Adolescent offenders are more likely to force children into sexual acts with threats of torture or death, according to the study. The assault may happen quickly and only once, and parents must be aware of what to watch for early on.

Researchers believe understanding such behavior offers opportunities to intervene before the sexual assault occurs.

The study, led by Dr. Keith Kaufman, included several hundred incarcerated, male offenders. The average age of the adolescent offenders was 16, and 41 for the adults. The average age of victims of the adolescent offenders was 9, and for the adults the average age was 11.

A vast majority of adult offenders had high school degrees, associate degrees or some college education.

Kaufman said the study, funded through National Institute of Mental Health and U.S. Justice Department, was the first time researchers measured coercion as a tool for sexual cooperation.

"We now understand that preventing sexual abuse is much more complex than just saying no," Kaufman said. "(Offenders) set up their victims by bribing them or enticing them. It's a well thought out process."

Commonly used methods to coerce children included buying them clothes and alcohol, showing them pornography and familiarizing them with sex and sexual acts and giving them money, the study found.

Parents should be on the look out for certain red-flag behavior in would-be attackers, like:

- aggressive enthusiasm to play with their children;

- adolescents who have few friends of the same age and are hanging around much younger children;

- unnatural interest in "grooming" a social relationship with children;

- bearing too many gifts of clothes and toys; and

- taking sides with children when they are being scolded.

Kaufman said an immediate effect of the study is that it has shifted previously held beliefs that child sexual offenders were reclusive and strange people. The study shows that offenders are "prosocial," often familiar and seeking social situations with children through contacts with their parents and siblings.

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