POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 101 Most of us are sickened at the thought of an adult having sexual relations with a child, but to be able to protect our children, we must get into the mind of the predator. First of all, predators often don’t see themselves as predators. They see themselves as loving partners with the children they molest. To them this isn’t rape, it’s a seduction. And, as with any seduction, it’s a slow and painstaking process. (Predators have been known to wait more than two years, collecting data on a particular child, before striking.) That’s what makes them hard to detect. They don’t appear to your child to be dangerous. An FBI agent who shared a panel with me recently said it best: “Before the Internet, these people had to get physically close to your children. They had to lurk near schoolyards, or playgrounds. Kids would see them. Adults would see them. It was a dangerous situation to be in for them, because everyone would notice an adult male lurking around children. They often had to take jobs and volunteer positions that allowed them to work with children in a position of trust in order to reach their victims. Now, however, the personal risks the pedophiles had to expose themselves to in order to be around children are gone. Now they can be ‘one of the kids’ and hang out with your kids online without exposing themselves. As long as they don’t say or do something in the public room that makes them stand out, they can stay there forever, taking notes.” And, many of them do. They have been known to create large databases on children. They track the children’s likes and dislikes. They track information such as whose parents are divorced, who doesn’t like their father’s new girlfriend or their mother’s boyfriend, or who likes computer games or a particular rock group. Kids often share personal information about their lives in chatrooms or on profiles. This is one reason why they shouldn’t. The more the predator knows about your child, the more easily they can “groom” them or appear to be their soulmate. Some cyberpredators (known as “travelers” to law enforcement) seek out the good kids, the smart ones, the ones who are not street-smart and are from sheltered suburban or rural families. Many of our children match that profile perfectly. Others, however, target (or are targeted by) popular, super achiever, risk preferring teens. It took the death of a young teen from the US, Christina Long, before we realized that many of the incidents involved teens who did not fit the loner profile. What we learned was that these kids never report any attacks or exploitation. The only time we hear of these cases is when the teen is kidnapped or killed. So who is a typical victim of an Internet sexual predator? Anyone between 11-1/2 and 16. All are vulnerable. It Doesn’t Take Torture for Them to Spill Their Guts Here’s a mock chatroom discussion that my law-enforcement friends and I agree is pretty realistic. Imagine a predatorial pedophile sitting and taking notes on this child, and using this information to lure them later. Would your child fall for this? Most, unfortunately, would. This one is more typical of a boy victim and predator communication than a girl victim communication. Child: I hate my mom! I know it’s her fault that my parents are getting divorced. Predator: I know. My parents are getting divorced, too. Child: We never have any money anymore, either. Every time I need something, she says the same thing: “We can’t afford it.” When my parents were together, I could buy things. Now I can’t. Predator: Me too. I hate that! Child: I waited for six months for the new computer game to come out. My mom promised to buy it for me when it came out. She promised! Now it’s out. Can I buy it? Nope. “We don’t have enough money!” I hate my mom! Predator: Oh! I’m so sorry! I got it! I have this really kewl uncle who buys me things all the time. He’s really rich. Child: You’re sooooo lucky. I wish I had a rich and kewl uncle. Predator: Hey! I got an idea! I’ll ask my uncle if he’ll buy you one too....I told you he’s really kewl. I bet he’d say yes. Child: Really!? Thanks!! Predator: BRB [cybertalk for “be right back”]... I’ll go and call him. _ _ _ Predator: Guess what? He said okay. He’s gonna buy you the game! Child: Wow, really? Thanks. I can’t believe it!!! Predator: Where do you live? Child: I live in Nova Scotia. What about you? Predator: I live in New Brunswick. So does my uncle. Nova Scotia isn’t far. Child: Great! Predator: Is there a mall near you? We can meet there. Child: Okay. I live near the Maritime Mall. Predator: I’ve heard of that. No prob. What about Saturday? Child: Kewl. Predator: We can go to McDonald’s too if you want. We’ll meet you there at noon. (...cont’d) (cont’d...)