If you reminisce back to your school/student days, you can probably think of a specific adult who had a profound influence on you and helped you overcome your growing-up challenges.
There are some particularly gifted and wonderful people who are able to bridge an age gap, and thereby positively engage with someone who is even many years their junior.
Such people can apply this talent to working with kids and youth in a professional context, and can become the most positively influential forces upon the minds and souls of their young charges.
The world is undoubtedly a more amazing and caring place for these special people who can bring the wisdom of age to those youngsters who can most benefit by this.
There are also other individuals, who target children & young adults for the ultimate purpose of satisfying themselves.
Some sexual abusers will devote enormous efforts to preparing a child for abuse, in such a way that the child will least resist, and the perpetrator will be most protected.
The process is called “grooming”; the grooming process can be incredibly complex, involving selection of the victim, establishment of decoys, and neutralising the possibility that the child will incriminate the perpetrator – or if he/she does, then making sure that they will not be believed by the child’s adult guardians.
Some pedophiles will target certain professions and status in society which can give them privileged access to children.
Teachers, tutors, youth club leaders, babysitters, youth-workers, the shul candy man, even rabbonim/clergy…Because the holders of many of these positions are seen as above reproach, so very few victims are willing to face the shame and scorn of openly accusing the perpetrator.
In many cases, literally dozens of kids can be abused, until the first one is willing to speak out, their parents listen and take resolute action, and begin the process of exposing the abuser.
If your kid is getting more-than-average attention from an older person (we’ll call him “Ploni”), it is appropriate to ask “Why IS Ploni Taking Such An Interest In My Child??
Some tell-tale signs of grooming are that one child, or a small group, are selected by Ploni for special attentions; these special attentions go beyond the normal boundaries of Ploni’s job description.
Ploni gives the child presents; private visits to Ploni’s home; outings; building up a special relationship with the child’s parents; physical games, such as tickling, or physical affection such as hugging; building trust with the child by sharing ‘secrets’; groomers can also be extremely manipulative, sowing doubts in the child’s mind against the integrity of other adults – potential rescuers – in the child’s life.
Adults who see this behaviour pattern often come to terms with it, by taking the position that Ploni is “wonderful with kids – and my kid in particular, B’H”; Ploni is so charismatic to the kids, that his behavior can be excused as “only” eccentric, odd, even off-the-wall, but not dangerous. Adults rationalise any doubts, by falling into the trap that regular boundaries do not apply to Ploni.
Your child, on the other hand, may be giving you signals that something is very wrong about the relationship – but a child will very rarely say outright “Ploni is abusing me”. They simply know something’s very wrong and they cannot put that in the words that an adult will grasp.
So, perhaps your child’s grades have suddenly dropped; his self-confidence has gone; regressive behaviour, such as bedwetting; references to sexuality or genitals which are not in character or age appropriate. Maybe he says he doesn’t like going places with Ploni, but won’t explain why. Or is often “ill”, and so cannot be around Ploni – but with no measurable symptoms of illness.
If you read this, and think “Heh! You’ve got me worried…what does Ploni want from my child?!”, then you might want to speak with an expert. Very few people have received training about how to handle such concerns, and what to say or not to say to your child, or to Ploni. It’s not something you can just wing-it – or, worse, ignore it.
Child sex abuse thrives on silence, and on the natural inclination we all have of avoiding turning over a stone, lest we find what lies beneath it.Most kids who are being abused say nothing, and most adults who suspect abuse, do nothing.
And that’s why, particularly in close and trusting communities, so many of our kids are at risk.If you would like to consult, even anonymously, and even if the events which concern you now happened a long time ago, then you are welcome to call Magen, the Child Protection Organization.
Magen, Beit Shemesh, Israel.
After office hours: +972 50 8489001
Note: This article is an updated version of an article published in 2010 – and which is today more relevant than ever.