Women’s Center Update: Be on the lookout for sexual predators | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Women’s Center Update: Be on the lookout for sexual predators

It is hard to imagine that someone you know and trust may be a sexual abuser. Adults count on teachers, childcare workers and coaches to protect and guide their children. This article will examine the signs to watch for in an adult who may be sexually abusing a child and discuss which factors lead to abusive behaviors in these adults.

There are many reasons that an adult may sexually abuse a child; some individuals are sexually attracted to children; some may only abuse a child when they are under a lot of stress; some individuals sexually abuse children to obtain a sense of power and control that may be lacking in their adult relationships; and some abusers may have been victims of sexual abuse as a child. It is important to note that many victims of sexual abuse live their lives without ever becoming sexual perpetrators themselves. These are just a few of the reasons that an adult will sexually abuse a child. None of these reasons justify sexual interaction between an adult and a child.

There are warning signs that a concerned individual can watch for that may signal the inappropriate behavior of a suspected abuser: adult refuses to let the child set his/her own limits, insists on touching, hugging, kissing, tickling the child even when the child does not want this attention; is overly interested in the dating life or sexual activity of a young teen; makes inappropriate comments about a child’s body; buys children expensive gifts or gives them money for no reason; spends a lot of “alone time” with children. It is important to know that many people enjoy spending time with children; these include daycare workers, teachers and scout leaders. Spending this quality time with children is not only okay, it is essential to a child’s healthy development. As a responsible adult it is crucial to listen to your gut feelings. If a childcare worker or other adult exhibit any of these behaviors, it may be cause for concern and it is your job to speak up and protect the children in your life.

An abuser is often extremely manipulative. This person may be very well liked in the community, a volunteer or a good Samaritan. These wonderful qualities and shining personality can make it even more difficult for a person to report this adult as a potential child molester. You may be afraid that no one will believe you or that others will be simply shocked by your accusations. The abuser counts on you to be confused and to second guess your instincts that tell you something is wrong.

It is very important to develop a safety plan for your family. As an adult, it is your responsibility to watch for signs of abuse and speak up when you see warning sign behaviors. Teach your children how to say “No!” and tell them that their body belongs to them and no one has the right to touch it. Teach children the difference between good touches and bad touches, and that secrets about touching are never OK. Set and respect family boundaries. Do not wait to be notified that an abuser is living in your neighborhood, check out http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov to find registered sex offenders living within your zip code. Remember that 84 percent of sexual abusers are never caught or reported, so the largest threat comes from abusers who are not on this Web site.

Child sexual abuse is a crime. If you suspect abuse, regardless of proof, it is crucial that you report the abuse to law enforcement and/or to Child Protective Services as soon as possible. If you would like assistance in filing a report or simply want to learn more about this issue, feel free to call South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center crisis line at (530) 544-4444 or stop by the office to speak with an advocate at 2941 Lake Tahoe Blvd., across from the middle school. It is possible to make a report anonymously. Trust your gut feeling, it is usually right.

The South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center business office was financed through a low-cost loan from the Rural Community Assistance Corporation.

– Lisa Michele Utzig is an outreach coordinator at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.

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