Child abusers often gain family’s trust |

Child abusers often gain family’s trust

Amy Stacy

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a four-part series that will explore child sexual abuse, including information on who perpetrates these crimes, helping children stay safe and obtaining information on local sex offenders.

Our close friends, family members, relatives or next-door neighbors – the people we would least suspect to be child molesters – are those most likely to abuse our children. Approximately 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser prior to the onset of the abuse.

Child sexual abusers gain the trust of the child and the family before they gradually begin to exploit the child for their own sexual gratification. This process is often called grooming. A molester starts by giving the child presents, playing games with the child, and expressing his/her love to the child. Once the molester has the love and trust of the child, he/she may expose the child to pornography, “brush” against the child’s private parts and bathe or shower with the child. The sexual behavior slowly grows more intrusive.

People sexually abuse children for a variety of reasons. For many, it is an opportunity to increase their sense of power, while others do it to achieve sexual arousal. They may seek out children to sexually abuse or take advantage of an opportunity to hurt a child in their care. Not all child molesters were sexually abused themselves as children.

Do you know an adult or older child who does not allow children to set their own limits, insisting on hugging, touching, kissing and tickling them even when the children resist the attention; spends spare time with children and has little interest in spending time with people his/her own age; buys children expensive gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason; regularly offers to babysit many different children for free or takes children on overnight outings alone?

Other potential indicators of a child molester are: frequently talking about children or teens in a sexual way, encouraging secrets in a child, looking at child pornography, making fun of a child’s body parts, or calling a child sexual names. Child molesters can be men or women, young or older. They are usually “good” with kids and put themselves in positions where they have access to children, for example working at a daycare, an after-school program or a youth group.

Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility. For the safety of our children we have to learn to judge people by their actions, not their appearances. If you suspect someone may be abusing a child, please call the Women’s Center 24-hour crisis line at (530) 544-4444 for information, support and resources or report your suspicions directly to law enforcement.

Child sexual abuse is seldom reported, offenders rarely seek treatment voluntarily for their behavior and there are few places for offenders to get treatment. However, Stop It Now is an international nonprofit organization offering services for perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Visit their Web site at for more information.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse, contact the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center at (530) 544-2118 or visit the office at 2941 Lake Tahoe Blvd., to speak with a counselor today.

The South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center building is financed by a low-cost loan through the Rural Community Assistance Corp.

-Amy Stacy is an outreach coordinator at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.

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