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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Predators often 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.

While pedophiles 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 people.

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.

“The progressive 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.

“My victims 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.

“Physically 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.”

Sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says many pedophiles go undetected for years.

“Some higher-functioning 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’ knowledge.

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.

“We’re 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 answers.”

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.

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