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CEO of ContentWatch - makers of Net Nanny
May 14, 2013
Ariel Castro of Cleveland made headlines this week for allegedly kidnapping, imprisoning, and raping three women inside his house for the past ten years. Evidence indicates the women were kidnapped as teens and have remained bound to prevent escape. He also fathered one living child.
If true, Castro's crimes are deplorable and inexcusable. Sadly, some of his actions are common among sex offenders.
It's important for parents to be aware of such behaviors in order to protect kids. Parents need to be aware that anyone could be a sex offender, not just people who fit a pre-conceived stereotype.
Sex Offender Profile?
Sex offenders prove difficult to profile. There is no specific race, gender, education level, income level, or religion that indicate sex offender behavior.
But, a sex offender typically knows his victim. He targets family members, friends, neighbors, or students. Each of the women abducted by Castro lived in Cleveland, with their abductions sited only miles within where they were discovered. One of the victims was a friend of Castro's own daughter.
A sex offender may take time to gain a victim's trust or will groom a victim. Some grooming methods include showing affection, paying attention, making appealing promises, gift giving, and providing alcohol or pornography to lower inhibitions.
All three women say Castro lured them into his van and detained them in his house. One disappeared at the age of 16 in 2003 after calling her sister saying she was getting a ride home from her job at Burger King. Another disappeared when 14 years old, about a year later from this first girl, on her way home from school.
If not working with children directly, pedophiles will create opportunities to be near parks, playgrounds, or other places where kids gather and play.
Sex offenders may create a kid-friendly environment to attract kids. They hope to use games, toys, or other alluring items as trade for sex.
When targeting teens, sex offenders look for roles that exclude other adults from being present. An example is a mentor that gives extra assistance or shows extra attention.
Victims tend to be those children and teens that are lonely, neglected, runaway, or poor.
Often sex offenders may have been victims themselves. During the investigation of Castro's house, the FBI discovered a note written by Castro in 2004. In the note, Castro contemplates suicide and discusses his sexual abuse as a child by an uncle.
Sex offenders usually search for work that involves children. They will even volunteer for positions where they will have direct contact with kids. Castro was a school bus driver since 1991 before he was fired last November.
Although it is still unclear whether she knew Castro through his employment, one victim who disappeared at age 20, attended one of the schools Castro's bus route covered.
How can parents protect kids?
First, familiarize yourself with the habits mentioned above that are commonly practiced by sex offenders. By becoming familiar of the methods used by pedophiles, you will more likely identify similar traits in family friends, neighbors, or coaches.
Second, notice those who give an unusual amount of extra attention or seek alone time with a child or teen.
Third, my best advice to parents: trust your gut. When in doubt, it is better to go with your intuition.
The federal government has created a resource to track sex offenders with the National Sex Offender Registry of the U.S. Dept of Justice - www.nsopw.gov (it has a comprehensive list by state).
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social networks have changed the way sex offenders operate. These sites provide powerful tools for pedophiles seeking ways to contact and meet children.
To protect your child from possible dangers linked with social networking sites, parental control software tools are available to monitor posts, friends, and photos. These tools can also monitor or restrict the websites that children browse, preventing them from viewing inappropriate content. These tools extend to tablets and smartphones as they manage apps as well. To find resources, check out websites such as Top Ten Reviews, ZDNet, or CNET.