DISCLAIMER: I KNOW MANY WONDERFUL MEN WHO GENUINELY LOVE CHILDREN AND NOT IN A CREEPY WAY. THANKS TO THE LOSERS WHO HAVE RUINED EVERYTHING FOR THESE GOOD MEN.
I recently went out with friends and when I mentioned that I used to be really shy and am still withdrawn in some situations, one friend said, “That makes sense. I’ve seen you scan the room.” I’m especially likely to do this if my kids are with me. I greet people briefly and then I watch for signs of danger.
One of the best lessons my parents taught me is how to spot a groomer and I appreciate that they were never quiet about it. If they thought someone was a creep, they said so. Our 14 year-old paperboy used to pound on the door at dinner time quite loudly and initially what I saw was a friendly kid. One day when he left after trying to chat it up with our family, my dad was rather enraged as he expressed how he couldn’t stand the kid and I don’t remember exactly what words he used, but I think what he was getting at was that he was trying in ingratiate himself and was overly friendly to the point of unbelievable.
I took note and when he came to the door one day to collect and I told him my parents weren’t home (I was 11), he asked if he could come in and I slammed the door in his face as I yelled, “NO!” Just months later he was arrested after someone let him babysit their toddler. If it hadn’t been for my dad, I cringe to think what would have happened if I let the boy in. Girls are supposed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice” and “no” is not a nice word. We learned from stories like Cinderella that the ultimate woman (the kind a prince would want) let’s people walk all over her with a smile on her face and she’s still kind to her abusers. This is why I love “Ever After”. Cinderella toughens up, tells her step-sisters “You have two hands. Make it yourself” and she sends her step-mother and step-sister to America to be laborers after she basically sold her into sexual slavery. She was still pretty nice because she could have had them beheaded.
Anyway, back to the perverts. There was a man we went to church with who always had to touch people. He had one and a half arms with a sock or something covering the half arm and he went to the extra trouble to lunge forward to touch my mom with his half arm rather than with his hand. Nothing wrong with having half an arm, but that doesn’t seem like something most people with half an arm would do. Also, don’t touch my mom. Looking back, I realize he probably did this because who would dare tell a disabled person not to touch them? That’s what allowed him to get away with it. He thought his super-friendliness was just so charming!
Every single time we went to the pool, he was there in the water with other people’s kids. You know, just being the cool guy who saves the day so the parents don’t have to get in the water if they don’t want to. The perfect place for someone who doesn’t want people to see where his hands are. He reportedly had no kids of his own, but a garage full of toys for neighbor kids to play with. Of course, they had to play with them at his house. I don’t know if he was ever accused of anything, but he made my skin crawl.
A friend sent me this article and it’s so true! Predators groom everyone around them and they pick their victims carefully so everyone who wasn’t abused by them will come to their defense. “He would never do that! He’s such a nice guy and he didn’t molest ME!” Yeah, if they molested everyone they would be caught quickly.
We want predators to look like monsters, but they don’t. They look like Matt Lauer. Well, and also like unattractive Harvey Weinstein. OK sometimes they look like monsters. When I came across an article about how Matt Lauer was seen looking miserable, I removed all news stuff from my home page because it struck a major nerve. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? What about his victims? Are they somewhere looking miserable because Matt Lauer assaulted them and created a hostile work environment? Don’t prey on people and you can keep your family and career.
I’ve had way too many friends tell me recently about various red flag situations they’ve been dealing with and in one case, I had two friends tell me separately about a man who was giving them great concern. I made a mental note of his name and face and when I crossed paths with him, I unfortunately had to make a bit of a stink and have him removed from a situation that involved many children. I warned two of my friends to keep an eye on him and one found him later showing her son YouTube videos rather than helping with clean-up. He appears to be obsessed with young boys especially and I witnessed him trying to befriend multiple little boys, including tickling one. I mentioned this to one woman and she dismissed my concerns as him being on the spectrum. Another friend then witnessed her tipping him off that parents were getting concerned, so he should start acting like x, y, and z. Wow, enable much? Just teach the man to groom more subtly.
I witnessed a mom looking uncomfortable as he zeroed in on her toddler son. In recent months, a dear friend of mine had told him to stop showing up uninvited to kids’ events to take photos. There was no release signed by parents and he was not made the official photographer. Plus he wasn’t producing any photos that he took for the parents.
It’s natural to want to think the best of others, but my hope this year is to help educate people on the signs of grooming. This is one of the greatest gifts my parents have ever given me because it kept me safe(r).
Some signs of grooming:
Singling out a child as “special”
Befriending the child’s family
Isolating the child
Pushing physical boundaries slowly (like tickling a child playfully so they get used to you touching them)
Gradually exposing the child to sexual content
I could write a novel about all of the experiences I’ve had, but I think that’s enough for now. If someone expresses concerns about an individual, listen! Don’t dismiss it as just a quirky personality trait. Compare notes. Have other people also had concerns or witnessed something? I’ve dealt with three sexual deviants in less than two years and the hardest part is when people either dismiss your concerns, excuse the behavior for one reason or another, or don’t want to help because it stresses them out, but they are very grateful you are doing something about it. It has been unbearably stressful for me at times, but I continue the disheartening chore of reporting issues and worrying about how it will be received.