Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Slaughter of Innocence

Pedophile Characteristics

A pedophile will usually exhibit a series of personality characteristics that are common in this type of offender. It is important to understand that these characteristics alone do not conclusively determine that a person is a pedophile. But if these indicators, combined with a pattern of behavior that arouses suspicion, are present then there may be enough probable cause to believe that the person is a pedophile.

  • He carries on what can be termed "a special relationship" with a wife. Often pedophiles have failed marriages due to their sexual interests but remain in the marriage to mask their true intentions. Sadly, the wife sometimes knows about her husband's preference, but prefers to keep quiet to avoid social stigma and disgrace.
  • He displays a fascination or unusual interest in children. If an adult has an inordinate amount of interest in pre-pubescent children, it doesn't confirm he is a pedophile, but it should at least arouse suspicion.
  • He makes frequent references to children in exalted or exaggerated terms such as "pure," "innocent," "God sent," "blissful" and other descriptive labels that seem inappropriate and excessive. Remember that a pedophile cannot help the way he behaves and therefore will inadvertently reveal aspects about himself during speech.
  • He has hobbies or interests that commonly belong in the realm of a child's world such as toy collecting, building models of cars or planes. His home or room is decorated in a child's theme. And often, that theme will reflect the age bracket of his preferred victim.
  • He is over 30 years of age, single and has few or no friends his own age. He may also have frequent and unexplained changes of residence. He may be unable or unwilling to discuss why he lost his last job. He may have a military discharge that he cannot explain and a past that he can not easily talk about.
  • He has systematic and prolonged access to children. Pedophiles, because of the wide age disparity between themselves and their victims, cannot just hang around children. The pedophile has to find a way to legitimize his contact with kids. He usually accomplishes this by obtaining employment in a field where he is forced to deal with children on a daily basis. Jobs like schoolteachers, bus drivers, camp counselors, photographers and sports coaching(14) serve their needs perfectly. They will always volunteer for activities in which they are left alone with children with no parental supervision (Lanning, p. 19).

Pedophiles are also very adept at locating troubled or withdrawn children. This is a skill they have acquired through years of trial and error. They have come to identify what usually works and what usually doesn't. The most common technique used by pedophiles to obtain sex from children is the seduction method. This process is very similar to the classic boy/girl courtship. Though the child might be under 10-years-old, the pedophile will lavish gifts upon the target, take him or her to amusement parks, museums, restaurants and other places of interest. This author recalls a case in which a pedophile attempted to seduce a child who had an interest in music. The suspect escorted the boy to expensive Broadway plays like Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon. Afterwards, they ate in fashionable Manhattan cafes and went sightseeing. The child was just 8- years-old. In another recent case, reported by the New York Times (February 2, 2000), a Bronx man lured neighborhood children to his apartment with Pokemon cards and Chinese food. He then abused a number of children after giving them marijuana and screening pornographic videos. The abused children later got together and attempted to set fire to the suspect's apartment.

If the target is a troubled child, the pedophile will comfort and sympathize with him or her. Often, over a period of time, the child will develop feelings for the offender even though he is being actively abused. The dynamics at work in this type of situation are well known to psychologists. This process of sympathizing with the offender has been called Stockholm Syndrome. It was first recognized in 1973 after a notorious bank robbery in Sweden in which the hostages taken by the suspects began to develop feelings of attachment toward their captors(15). Children who are sexually victimized can feel the same way. This is often the case when the offender happens to be a member of the clergy or another traditional figure of trust. In early 2002, an elementary school bus driver pleaded guilty in Westchester County Court, New York, to abusing 9-year-old children on his bus during the trip home each day. The abuse may have gone on for as long as 15 years with a succession of students. In cases such as this, the events will not be reported because of the emotional attachment between offender and victim. Remember that pedophiles are masters in the manipulation of children. However, as the victim matures into adulthood, these benevolent feelings toward the abuser often dissipate and the painful truth of the abuse sets in.

In February and March 2002, there were dozens of such cases involving adult men who were sexually molested as children by Catholic priests. These sexual assaults, some of which occurred decades before, are sad testimony to the compulsions of some pedophiles who will molest children for their entire lives until the day they are caught. These revelations, and the startling accusations of systematic cover-up by church officials, have shaken the Catholic Church to its core. New York's Cardinal Edward Egan received a firestorm of criticism from the public when it was revealed he treated sexual molestation charges against priests with questionable tactics toward the victims in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

 

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(14) Sports Illustrated produced a cover story on this subject in their issue of September 13, 1999 entitled "Who's Coaching Your Kid?.

(15) America's most famous victim of the Stockholm Syndrome may be Patty Hearst, the millionairess who was kidnapped by extremists in 1973 and later participated in a bank robbery with her kidnappers.

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