There are no obvious tell-tale signs that an adult is using their relationship with a child to commit abuse. It is believed that the majority of sexual offenders are family members or are known to the child.
Men perpetrate most instances of sexual abuse but despite a common myth, homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men.
Some warning signs are:
– Refusing to allow a child sufficient privacy or to make their own decisions on personal matters.
– Insisting on physical affection such as kissing, hugging or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it.
– Being overly interested in the sexual development of a child or teenager.
– Insisting on time alone with a child with no interruptions.
– Spending most of their spare time with children and have little interest in spending time with people their own age.
– Regularly offering to baby-sit children for free or to take children on overnight outings alone.
– Buying children expensive gifts or give them money for no apparent reason.
– Frequently walking in on children/teenagers in the bathroom.
– Treating a particular child as a favourite, making them feel ‘special’ compared with others in the family.
– Picking on a particular child.
If you can identify risky behaviour in adults then abuse can potentially be prevented. For example, be wary of those who want to be alone with children or who break parents rules, letting them do things that you don’t allow them to do. Such acts can lead to the creation of special relationships which can in some cases lead to abuse.
Unfortunately, no one should be regarded as above suspicion as the signs of an abuser can sometimes also be those of a very caring person who simply loves children.
It is important to trust your instincts, educate children as much as possible and report all suspicions to the police. There are no ‘real’ tell-tale signs of an abuser and it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting children.