Sex Offenders, like Eric Justin Toth, Have Similar Habits

May 28, 2013

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#154: I Am Mistaken for a Pedophile

Accused child pornographer Eric Justin Toth was captured in Nicaragua this month after running from authorities for five years. As luck would have it, an American tourist recognized him as one of the FBI's Most Wanted.

Mr. Toth, a former teacher at the prestigious Beauvoir school at the Washington Cathedral, has been on the run since school officials found him in possession of explicit photos on a school-owned camera.  At the time he was confronted, Toth was a third grade teacher for three years. School officials escorted him off school property after confronting him and then called the FBI.  By then, Toth was already on the run.

In a related HLNtv article "Are there pics of your kids online? Read this," the issue of monitoring kids' behavior online is discussed. Posting information and photos online enables online sex offenders to more readily pick a target. That article lists tips on how to keep your kids safer online.

In this article, we will look at the habits of pedophiles.

As a group, sex offenders are difficult to profile. They are from a variety of races and can be female or male, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, and religious or not. Toth is a well-educated man, having earned a degree in education from Purdue University.

A sex offender typically knows his victim. He will pursue a family member, a neighbor, a student, or a friend. He will operate by grooming the victim; in order words, he will take time to win a child's trust and then take advantage of that trust.  Toth was working as a third grade teacher when discovered.  Some grooming methods include paying attention, showing affection, giving of gifts, making appealing promises, and providing alcohol or pornography to lower inhibitions.  

Victims are likely to be children or teens that are neglected, loners, poor, or runaways. Some pedophiles look for single mothers for the purpose of victimizing their unattended child.

If not working directly with children, pedophiles will frequently hang out at playgrounds or other locations where kids gather or play. They will create a kid-friendly environment: toys, games, or other alluring things. The goal is to trade these fun things for sex.

For targeting teens, sex offenders will look for activities that exclude other adults or they will create situations where other adults are not present. One example is a coach or mentor that shows extra attention or gives extra assistance. 

Another example is a neighbor that entertains kids or teens and takes them on fun outings. Finally, sex offenders might have a company or business that hires teens and then requires extra time after hours or visits in the owner's home. 

Finally, many pedophiles will be employed or will volunteer in roles where they will have contact with kids and teens. Toth worked closely with children; before teaching third graders, he was a nanny, a teaching assistant, and youth counselor.

Remember Jerry Sandusky of Penn State?  He founded a non-profit charity to work with underprivileged and at-risk youth. Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse.

What can a parent do to protect their child?

First, be aware of the methodologies mentioned above that are commonly used by sex offenders. If you are aware of the practices used by pedophiles, you will more likely key in on similar behaviors evident in neighbors, coaches, or family friends.  

Look for those who show an unusual amount of personal attention and who also seek for time alone with a child or teen.  My best advice to parents: when in doubt, trust your gut.

The following is a resource for tracking sex offenders: National Sex Offender Registry of the U.S. Dept of Justice - www.nsopw.gov (has a comprehensive list by state).

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and others have changed the rules of the pornographer's game. These sites now offer powerful tools for pedophiles trading in child pornography images and videos or for perverts looking to enhance their virtual sex life.  

For parents looking for technology to help monitor kids and teens online, there are software tools to monitor social network (i.e., Facebook) posts, friends, and photos. Also, there are tools to monitor or restrict the websites that kids browse, to keep them from viewing inappropriate content. And, there are tools to manage the apps used on a teen's smartphone or tablet. To find such resources, check out Top Ten Reviews, ZDNet, or CNET.  Or, use Net Nanny Social to monitor kids' friends, pics, and posts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+.