plan strategies long in advance
By John W. Kennedy
(January 19, 2003)
A generation ago
parents warned their children to beware of strangers lurking
around the playground who might harm them. In more recent years,
public cases involving priests and schoolteachers have painted
a different picture of child abusers as people who not only
know their victims but who gain their trust.
sometimes gravitate to occupations where they will be in contact
with young people, from ice cream truck driver to coach, there
is no stereotypical abuser or predictable formula to their schemes.
“They can be
wealthy and they can be homeless,” says C. LaRue Caraway,
who worked as a U.S. Army special agent for 20 years investigating
criminal child sexual abuse cases.
Experts agree on
one characteristic of a pedophile — an adult with a primary
sexual interest in children. Pedophiles primarily prey on children
who send signs that they aren’t receiving enough attention
at home. And more child predators are using the Internet as
a means of introducing themselves, usually deceitfully, to young
Caraway, 45, is now
a Church of God (Cleveland) pastor based in Mentone, Ala., and
conducts seminars detailing the warning signs of sexual abuse.
He has interviewed more than 1,200 children and 600 pedophiles
during his Army career. “Pedophiles are normally innovative
and have long-range planning techniques,” he says.
The common pattern
established by pedophiles is to develop a friendship by spending
a great deal of time sympathizing with the troubles a child
may be having at home. After gaining trust, the pedophile will
lavish excessive gifts upon the child. Then he will introduce
an activity prohibited by parents, such as smoking, drinking
or viewing pornography. Abuse then follows, at which point the
child is threatened if a parent is told.
stages of tearing down inhibitions can be as short as one week
or as long as two years,” says Caraway, himself a victim
of child abuse.
Bob Van Domelen befriended
then abused 27 students in 17 years as a band instructor, beginning
with a junior high school student when Van Domelen was 25. He
served three years in prison after a former student told police
about his sexual abuse in 1985.
were very needy individuals, much like I was as a kid,”
recounts Van Domelen, who says a relative and strangers molested
him as a boy. But Van Domelen became so adroit at his behavior
that even his wife didn’t have a clue.
it sickened me,” Van Domelen recalls. “I couldn’t
believe I had done what I did. I swore I would never do it again,
but [I did]. If the first instance of sexual abuse sickened
me, why didn’t it sicken me the 15th or 16th time? I became
a master at deceit and hiding.”
After his confession
to police, Van Domelen says he became a Christian. Since 1989,
he has operated a ministry based in Waukesha, Wis., the same
city in which he committed his crimes. Van Domelen, now 56,
says he understands why people abhor pedophiles. “At the
height of the abuse is the abuser’s ability to take away
the innocence of a person who is reaching out,” he says.
“I did that.”
Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research
Center at the University of New Hampshire, says many pedophiles
go undetected for years.
pedophiles who have good social skills and are better educated
are able to lure, seduce, cajole, befriend and manipulate children
very effectively,” says Finkelhor, 55.
While Finkelhor says
pedophile recidivism rates are about one third, Caraway says
perpetrators in extreme cases may not stop until their victim
can’t fight back. For instance, two sex offenders in East
Cambridge, Mass., killed 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley in 1997.
One of the murderers, a neighbor, repeatedly gave the boy rides
in his luxury car and took him to dinner without his parents’
Meanwhile, some Christians
are concerned that one of the last sexual taboos — adult-child
sex — is finding a voice in academic journals and books.
In 1998, three university professors published what has become
known as the Rind study in Psychological Bulletin,
contending that “the vast majority” of adults report
“no negative effects” from child sex abuse. Various
psychologists defended the report in the name of academic freedom.
Earlier this year,
University of Minnesota Press released Judith Levine’s
book, Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children
From Sex, which argues that sexual relations between an
adult and child aren’t damaging.
Peter S. Sprigg,
senior director of Culture Studies with the Family Research
Council in Washington, D.C., believes the trend toward normalization
of pedophilia is reflected in efforts to lower the age of consent,
which currently is 16 in most states. With a growing trend toward
protection laws based on sexual orientation, Sprigg foresees
a day when pedophiles could argue their attraction to children
is simply a legally protected alternative preference.
a long way from pedophilia becoming a protected class, but look
what’s happened in the last 30 years in protecting homosexuals,”
says Sprigg, 45.
According to Sprigg,
pedophiles posing as young friends to children on the Internet
are able to break down barriers easier than in person.
“The most important
thing is for parents to have a good relationship with their
kids,” Finkelhor says. “Kids need to be able to
feel as though they are able to talk about anything and get
Authorities say parents
are key to keeping a pedophile from becoming friendly with their
child. Experts advise parents to monitor their children’s
Internet use, know who their friends are, and allow them to
talk freely about problems without interrupting them and offering
a quick-fix solution.