In the beginning of 2017, I happened to read news articles about the infamous paedophile, Sunil Rastogi, then locked in Tihar Jail after he had confessed to having sexually abused over 500 children.
In his confessions to the police, Sunil Rastogi talked about why children were easy targets, and his favourite safe spots for abusing them. The ease with which this child predator committed the crimes was appalling.
Who is a child predator?
It is almost impossible to pinpoint a child predator just by looking at an individual. So, where can you find child predators and how can you identify them?
Child predators are often individuals who arouse the least suspicion of being involved in something so heinous. They could be anyone, from a shy neighbour to a suave acquaintance to a caring and helpful relative. The advent of the digital age has given rise to a new class of child predators called online predators, who pose a bigger threat to adolescents than younger children.
Modus operandi of a child predator
Several mental health experts and investigators dealing with paedophiles have spoken extensively about how these predators go to great lengths to set up and execute their crime. There is an incubation period during which a child abuser grooms the victim, which is followed by normalisation of certain inappropriate behaviours. It is only after going through these two stages that the actual crime is committed. Most child predators employ almost the same techniques to trap their victims. Here’s a brief outline of how child predators usually operate.
- Selecting a target: It all starts with selecting the right target. However, child predators do not pick their targets at random. Their search always narrows down on children who are friendly and approachable, and are vulnerable and desperate for attention.
- Establishing trust: Most children are wary of interacting with strangers because of parental warnings to refrain from doing so. To overcome this obstacle, child predators try to integrate themselves into the daily lives of their intended victim and family without arousing any suspicion. For instance, predators initiate friendship by helping the child or the family when they need assistance, and making themselves appear as ‘good samaritans’.
- Possessing a trump card: Parents always try to instil discipline in their children by making them adhere to rules and regulations. However, often, children aren’t happy about it. This feeling of discontent is what child predators capitalise on. They try to entice children by offering them incentives — for example, something that is forbidden by the family — and asking them to keep it a secret. While children readily accept the gifts, they don’t inform their parents about these due to the fear of being reprimanded. To children, these secret adventures seem both thrilling and liberating.
- Capitalising on a child’s innocence: A child’s lack of understanding of what constitutes an unsafe touch or sexual misconduct is something that child predators rely on. They try to normalise physical contact by gradually introducing children to it and then increasing the frequency and intimacy of contact. Therefore, it is important for parents to make their child understand the difference between safe and unsafe touch.
Nowadays, almost every adolescent is a part of the online community. And, predators are present even on this digital space. Most of the time, online child predators create a fake profile of an individual who is slightly older than their intended victim. Then, the predator begins to lay the trap by first luring the potential victim into a conversation. Once the abuser gains the trust of the victim, he tries to coax the child to come for a meeting in an area he is more familiar with. It is during such meetings that the victim is usually sexually assaulted.
Do you remember your parents warning you to not accept food items, water, etc., from strangers? It did not seem like such a big deal then, did it? But, it’s important for you to understand that issuing such instructions and making children follow them is necessary.
It is also important for you, as a parent, to be open with your children and explain to them the rationale behind not allowing them to talk or interact with strangers. Also, you should encourage your children to confide in you without fear or inhibition. Finally, as always, remain vigilant!
Rudhdi Walawalkar, a part of Safecity’s Writer’s Movement, is a law student at ILS Law College, Pune. She is passionate about women’s rights.
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