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Most often, sexual abuse is instigated by a person of trust in a child’s life. This makes it confusing for a child to understand and difficult for parents to detect.
Jamie Heiner seemed to be doing well in school. She earned extra credit, opportunities to compete academically with college students, and many compliments. However, they were all given by her 9th-grade science teacher. By doing all of this, this teacher from a charter school in Kaysville, Utah groomed Jamie for an illicit relationship.
Jamie hid the relationship with the 34-year-old teacher, Stephen Niedzwiecki. By lying to her parents and friends, her situation remained unknown for two years. But now she’s speaking out.
In March, Niedzwiecki was sentenced for two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old.
However, his case is not the only situation like it in Utah courts. Niedzwiecki is just one of over 20 instructors, coaches, or other adults entrusted with occupations with children going through the state’s legal system in the last five years that has been connected with some degree of child sexual abuse.
Generally, the perpetrator blurs the boundaries by initiating a grooming pattern where sexual needs are satisfied after gaining a level of trust of the young victim.
Niedzwiecki slowly groomed Jamie during the school year. It started in October, when he gave Jamie a special project. He then casually conversed with her in his classroom about Frisbee golf, her outlook on sexual matters, and requirements she would want in a guy whom she would kiss.
“It happened slowly. I mean, I had no idea what was happening until it was too late. …He was my teacher. I never thought that he would hurt me,” said Jamie, who turned 18 in February.
Niedzwiecki kissed Jamie in April that year. He began abusing her when he was no longer her teacher.
To gain even more trust, Niedzwiecki had been hosted by Jamie’s family, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, to learn from the church’s missionaries about their faith.
Just a few months following the start of the abuse, Niedzwiecki became a member of their church. He asked Jamie’s parents for permission to date their daughter. When they declined, he replied that he would never touch her. Jamie remembers, “and at that point he had already been abusing me for months.”
Sadly, another recent case is that of Preston Jensen. His mother, Paula Jensen, thought of herself as a protective parent. She was a stay-at-home mom. She was shocked to find Preston had been abused as a child by his best friend’s stepfather, but Preston never revealed his pain until his 20’s.
The abuse began with a small touch, which appeared innocent, even accidental, from a known and trusted adult. However, it escalated to inappropriate touching and then rape. This abuse continued sporadically from when Preston was 8 to until he was 13.
“It’s something that we’ll have to live with for the rest of our lives knowing that he went through horrible things as a little kid and that we weren’t there to take that pain away,” Paula Jensen said.
The perpetrator, Kenneth Burr, now 65, threatened Preston at the time, saying he would physically harm his family if Preston were to say anything.
“It’s amazing what fear does to kids,” Preston said, remembering the terror he experienced when his mom came home late one time, thinking Burr had carried out his threat.
Burr is currently in prison, serving 10 years.
Psychologist David Dodgion, director of Associate Clinical & Counseling in Salt Lake City, suggests that most people who abuse children fit a different profile than pedophiles attracted to kids. He offers therapy to the sexual offenders.
The majority of cases Dodgion sees are “relationship-oriented.” There is “no specific profile for an abuser,” but there are shared characteristics by which to identify such cases.
Potential perpetrators manipulate others due to a feeling of entitlement. Dodgion noted these adults are “not very successful in their adult relationships, not able to get their needs met in those relationships and that’s, I think, when they’re at risk to turn to children… to meet their emotional needs.”
“And so those boundaries sort of begin to blur, you know, between professional and personal. …The individual turns to the child to begin to meet some of their emotional needs and that progresses into meeting their sexual needs,” he said.
The blurred boundaries frequently include communication through texting and Facebook messaging, unprofessional alone time in a casual setting, or special attention and gifts.
Parents need to discuss inappropriate adult relationships with their children. Like Jamie, kids may be unaware that they are being abused. Like Preston, they may have intensified fear that prevents them from reporting inappropriate activity.
Net Nanny Social can help parents identify potential perpetrators that attempt to groom a child online in social networks. Net Nanny Social monitors friends, pictures, and comments on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn. It will alert parents and notify them of inappropriate interaction on their child’s social media accounts.
For more details on the victims mentioned in this article, please visit: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865597658/Protecting-children-Identifying-signs-of-a-child-being-groomed-for-sexual-abuse.html?pg=all