There isn’t a week that passes without a new story about a paedophile being unmasked, put on trial and jailed. Our detective investigators have seen a significant increase in calls from parents who are concerned about their children’s safety. We all know paedophiles are out there, but the terrifying thing is that they’re typically only caught AFTER the event. For people with young children, you want to know how to protect them from people who haven’t been caught yet and you might not think to suspect.
Depending on the age of your children, there are different methods to protect them. Protecting teenagers is a whole problem within itself, one that as Sydney/Melbourne private detectives we are very familiar with. However, this article will focus on what you can do to protect primary-school aged children from sexual predators and sexual abuse.
Let’s start by dispelling two of the most dangerous myths surrounding child sexual assault:
Fact: Sexual abuse of children is more common than you think.
According to the Bravehearts report from 2012, titled ‘Child Sexual Assault: Facts and Statistics’, one in three girls and one in six boys under 18 are sexually assaulted.
The most vulnerable ages are between 8 and 12, and if you tend to think younger children are safer from sexual predators, you are wrong: 65% of sexually assaulted children are younger than 10 at the time; and 24% of girls who are sexually abused as children were five years old or younger at the time.
In a report by CASA (Centres Against Sexual Assault), investigators found that girls aged between 10 and 14 made up the greatest body of victims of sexual assault in Australia.
Another dangerous myth is that child abuse only happens in lower socio-economic families and Neighbourhoods. Wrong.
Fact: Indecent assault on children happens everywhere – it happens in middle class, Sydney/Melbourne households as much as anywhere else.
Though it is not something we want to believe, the awful truth is that child sexual abuse happens around us every day, as the detectives and investigators who have been hired to investigate cases of child abuse and assault will tell you. It happens to our friends’ kids. It happens to our kids.
We’ll give that all a moment to sink it.
Properly appalled? Well, at least you know why you need to read on.
How to Protect Your Children
Fill the Gaps
A good first step in protecting your child starts with picking them up straight from school, or meeting them at school to walk home together. Having your child walk unaccompanied home from school, even if it’s close and you live in a safe suburb, is an ideal time for someone to follow them, learn where they live, and learn about their daily routine. This allows a determined sex offender to plan their move, or opens them to dangerous strangers. If you can’t accompany them yourself, make sure they have company, preferably a grandparent or older siblings. Though hiring a private detective to walk your children home for school is going a bit far, we cannot say it has not been done in cases where parents has suspicions about their child’s safety.
Baring the detective-nanny idea, filling the gaps is just a simple first step. It will not protect your children from the people who are statistically most likely to sexually assault them. Unfortunately, most sexual offenders are in fact known to your family – and worse, they may be family members.
Strangers Aren’t Actually the Greatest Risk
It is easier to think that it is ‘stranger danger’ your children are most at risk of, and it is true that attacks by random strangers occur. However, most assault is committed by someone known to the victim; this is shown to us time and again in the cases of paedophilia and indecent assault that have come to light in the media. They remind us that we can’t trust anyone – not a priest in church, not relatives, not a well-known icon like Rolf Harris.
Knowing this, your detective instincts may make you suspicious of your kid’s primary school teachers. Thankfully though, teachers and other professional care-givers are now subjected to very a high level of scrutiny, making it less likely that they will be sexual offenders. Though that’s not to say it cannot be the case – it only means they have done an excellent job of hiding any bad history, and haven’t raised enough suspicion for a parent or employer to call in a private detective.
The people we have to be most suspicious of are those who our children come into contact with regularly, in a trusting environment. This might be parents of their friends, family members, or leaders and others involved in out of school activities.
We know – it’s horrible to be suspicious of your friends and family. Even the most cynical detective wants to trust the people nearest them. However this is the reason that much sexual assault has occurred – because it was perpetrated by people who parents did not want to ever suspect of sexually assaulting their children.
Take for example one of Rolf Harris’ most appalling assaults – on the 8 year old best friend of his daughter, who he first met when she was three years old, when she and his daughter Bindi became best friends. After knowing her for 10 years, he first started assaulting her at age 13. By this stage, she was too afraid to say anything. By this stage, she had been thoroughly ‘groomed’. Grooming occurs when a paedophile builds a relationship with a child, getting them used to sexual abuse and making them terrified of saying anything about it. According to a report from the Daily Mail, “Harris regularly abused the youngster in her own bedroom on visits to her home, before returning downstairs to make jokes with her parents.”
The report also reveals that Rolf Harris’s youngest sexual assault victim was only seven years old.
Be aware also that adults who commit this kind of atrocity will go to great lengths to hide it – and we need look no further again than Rolf, who in 1985, 15 years after he started sexually assaulting children, made an educational video for use in schools to teach children and parents about sexual assault and how to avoid it.
If you have the stomach for it, here’s a clip from the video:
Encourage your children to tell you anything and everything. They need to feel safe to come to you about anything. It is another common myth that children will want to tell adults about any sort of sexual abuse that has happened to them. This isn’t the case, since the adult abuser will have gone to lengths to make sure the child doesn’t tell their parents. This is why it is important that your child feels they can tell you anything, because hopefully this will help them overcome the fear and threats made by the abuser to keep them quiet
Trust Your Kids
It follows on from encouraging your kids not to keep secrets from you that if they tell you something, it’s important that you believe them.
This is another dangerously common myth about sexual assault: that people, especially children, lie about what really happened. The truth is that people DO NOT normally lie about assault. What is more likely is that they say nothing at all, because they’re confused about it, or because the paedophile has groomed them to make them afraid to tell. It is vital that you trust your children, and let them know that you believe them and are on their side.
Notice Odd Behaviour and Question It
Why would your child suddenly not want to go to their friends place? Have they had a fight with their friend? No. Then is there another reason they don’t like going over there? Does their friend’s family have a big scary dog? No. Okay then, are their friend’s parents nice?
Don’t go out of your way to be suspicious, but do question any odd behaviour your child displays. This is a cardinal rule of the detective – behaviour change signals other change. Just like a cheating spouse will exhibit changes in behaviour, so will a child who is struggling with something, like problems at school, or an adult associate who is ‘touchy feely’.
Suspicious? Hire a Private Detective
If you have suspicions that someone you know may be a paedophile, but do not have evidence to take the police, then a private detective is what you need. We can investigate the individual, and if there is evidence to be found, we will discover it. If the investigation finds nothing, then that’s good news for your child’s safety and for other children.
Remember, a Sydney/Melbourne detective has the licenses, contacts and networks needed to investigate people and cases that are far beyond what a concerned parent has access to. And, needless to say, we are more than happy to help you if it means removing a paedophile or sex offender from the streets. We know that our detectives, even those who aren’t parents, would happily investigate child abuse cases full-time if they were able.