Pedophilia in Youth Organizations: What You Need to Know

Sexual Abuse in Youth OrganizationsPedophilia: it’s a topic that most people find unpalatable. Nevertheless, understanding more about it is the key to uncovering potential risks and preventing more children from suffering sexual abuse.

The horrific fact is that most pedophiles who are caught offend over 200 times before being stopped. Most are never caught: the FBI reports that one out of ten cases of child sexual abuse are reported to law enforcement.

Our society is clearly not well set up to identify the signs and we could and should be doing more.

What does a pedophile look like?

Pedophiles live amongst us undetected. 

The problem is that many innocent adult-child interactions that look and feel normal to the average observer are similar to actions that a pedophile takes to prey on a victim.

A good example is hosting sleepovers. To a parent, hosting sleepovers of their child’s friends is a perfectly normal activity. Even to a sports coach, a child sleeping over with the permission of the parents might seem innocent enough if there is a valid reason. 

To a pedophile, however, this may represent a golden opportunity.

So how do we recognize when normal adult-child interactions become something else?

We need to understand more about pedophiles and what they “look like”. A lot of information has been compiled over the years by interviewing convicted pedophiles and building up profiles. We can use this to help identify red flags.

Most pedophiles are males who have been abused as children. Their undesirable behavior often begins in the teen years. For individuals caught early, rehabilitation has often been successful. 

Many perpetrators are charming and friendly, which gives them easy access to “prey”, building trust with their victims over time. Young children are taught to trust the word of adults so it is often impossible for them to distinguish between a lie and the truth.

Many pedophiles start to gain positions of power and authority where they are in charge of organizations that provide assistance or services for youth, such as nonprofit organizations, sports or religious groups, and so on.

Pedophiles often use the position of perceived power to create opportunities for time alone with their victims, manipulating and lying to gain these opportunities. In return, the child victim receives gifts, special “privileges”, recognition, attention, and affection which may or may not be absent from the family home.

This preys on the child’s vulnerability and gullibility – two qualities that pedophiles often seek in their victims. Perpetrators may build up the self-esteem of vulnerable individuals and appeal to their need to be understood and valued. This highly manipulative behavior is a way to win the affection and trust of the child.

Many pedophiles are practiced at this and extremely skillful in exploiting situations to get what they want. They effectively “control” their victims, who trust their word and are naturally curious, making them incapable of sensing the danger they may be placed in.

The grooming process is generally slow and gradual, which makes it even more difficult for the child or their family to spot. Pedophiles are often patient and build relationships that engender the trust they need for everything else to follow. 

They are aware that any sudden moves might raise red flags and tend to “test” their victims with progressively more suggestive behavior. They will often make moves “accidentally on purpose” to give themselves an excuse if challenged. 

Pedophiles in youth organizations

Pedophilia is such a problem in the U.S. and worldwide that even many of the organizations that warn against it are victims of it.

Youth organizations like Big Brother Big Sister have even been afflicted by cases of pedophilia.

This organization started in 1904 with the noble intention of serving youth and developing youngsters by partnering them with adult mentors. 

In recent times, allegations of sexual abuse from inside the organization going back to the 1980s have forced the leaders to take evasive action by introducing more thorough screening processes and making other procedural changes.

Who’s most at risk?

In the simplest terms – every child.

It’s not just deprived orphans with a poor upbringing who are in danger of falling into the hands of a pedophile, though they are a high-risk group.

Any shy, vulnerable, or naive child (with or without a disability) and any child who has been neglected emotionally is at risk.

However, even children from “normal” families can be seduced if they are vulnerable and have not been taught what the warning signs are and how to deal with sexual abusers.

If an adult from outside of the family is granted significant time alone with a child, the guard should instantly go up. Families and leaders of organizations need to be on the lookout for undesirable behavior, policy violations by their staff and volunteers, and unexplained behavioral changes in children. 

This is the very least that needs to be done. There is considerably more that should be done.

What can parents do?

The first responsibility lies with parents to be observant and to carefully educate their children about the reality of pedophilia:

  • Teach your child about personal body safety and personal boundaries according to their age – as they grow the education needs to be updated: a five-year-old needs different advice to a 10 or 15-year-old.
  • Observe your child closely for unexplained behavioral changes or negativity towards a particular individual – especially male neighbors, friends, or other community members.
  • Be wary and ask questions of any special gifts or privileges that your child has received from any of these individuals.
  • Be cognizant of the risks posed if there are frequent one-on-one closed-door meetings between your child and a teacher, coach, youth group leader, babysitter, or other person placed in a position of responsibility with your child.
  • If your child makes statements that suggest he or she may have suffered abuse, call 911 immediately and have the complaint investigated. 

If you require legal assistance with a pedophilia complaint, contact the sexual abuse lawyers at Andreozzi & Foote. Start with a free and confidential consultation.