The child abuser’s profile: Who would do such a thing?

A perpetrators preference

As much as I would like to be able to say: “All abusers look like ugly trolls with buck teeth and a terrible smell”, the truth is, they are ordinary men and women who might be your neighbors, uncles and aunts, even your husband or wife. Some sobering statistics:

  • 57 % of the abusers are family, often fathers or stepfathers
  • another 40 % of the abusers are known and trusted adults
  • 40 % of the abusers are themselves children at the time it happens
  • less than 3 % of the abusers are strangers
  • Between 4 and 7 % of abusers are female

Simply warning children to never talk to strangers, clearly doesn’t cut it in the face of these numbers. Not to mention that the concept of “a stranger”, because of all the fear surrounding the communication about strangers by concerned parents, to the child often is limited to dark cloaked, ugly monsters, not the kind gentleman or woman who offers them a ride home.

For most victims of childhood sexual abuse, the monster is their father, mother, uncle or brother. Going with a stranger might actually put them in a better situation. I once counselled a young woman who was prostituted out by her mother. She ran away at age 8 and fell into the hands of a young drug-addict who only used her for his own personal satisfaction. Years later, she still thought of him as her savior, pretty much because he did save her from a fate worse than what she suffered.

Most perpetrators are good with children. Surprised? You shouldn’t be, it’s their stock in trade. It doesn’t take a lot to impress a child and most perpetrators have long since figured out that they have easy access to children in professions where there is an abundance of them. Teachers, little league coaches, child care workers, clowns and day care workers. Surely most of those have a clean slate as far as childhood sexual abuse is concerned and far be it from me to start a witch hunt, but abusers are not generally stupid and they know children well. They know how to groom them, prepare them for their sexual activity, how to separate them emotionally from their primary caregivers, they know how to use them.