The child molester’s tricks

The preliminary results from of the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey 2012 are out. The results look good – on the whole HIV has gone down in all of Kenya, except Nyanza.

But a small piece of data in the report needs some expounding. It tells us that 7percent of children aged 12-14 years have already had sex. The vast majority of those that had sex, had it by age 10 (Median 10: Range 9-12 years of age).

Although 7 percent may sound like a small figure – it represents tens of thousands of children. Children aged 10 should not be having sex at all. That tens of thousands of them are having sex should not be taken lightly and is deeply disturbing.

One thing that cannot be ruled out is the fact out of those that have had sex, I out of every 5 girls under 15 was defiled according to the Kenya health demographic survey…

I have written a few times about sexual abuse of children in Kenya:

When beasts eye boys. The Daily Nation, 17th December 2012.

Seeking justice for sexually abused children. Daily Nation. 31st October 2012.

While I wrote these two articles a while ago, I spent sleepless nights thinking about the right way to say what needed to be said. I find this topic distressing yet I know it needs to be talked about. There was a time when the news always had a segment about another child here and there abused. The stories were told in an unhealthy way that normalised the abuse of children – made it seem common, part of our social fabric – something we are unable to control.

So how about those of us who navigated the childhood world without being sexually abused? The lucky ones never even knew adults like those existed, but many of the stories are about escapes – some more narrow than others. Where are our stories of escape? They need to be told – don’t they?

I remember a distant relative who was about 10 years my senior – a jolly fellow. We used to meet him when we went to the village over the holiday. He knew how to get us laughing, I used to think he was wonderful and hang around him a lot. He is the first guy I kissed when I was just 7 years old. He visited us at home and we would be lying on the sofa in the living room when the parents went to bed and kiss and kiss. I loved it.

When I was about 9 years old – when those painful mosquito-bite breasts appeared on my chest, he started asking that ‘we go somewhere to be alone together’. I did not see the point and refused. At age ten I remember him roughly telling me, in a rather angry voice ‘you are a grown girl now, stop acting stupid’ when I refused to go ‘somewhere quiet to be alone with him’.

There was something in his voice that day that I still remember – the threat, the feeling that something terrible was about to happen. That was the last day he got a kiss from me.

That was escape.

I remember a primary school teacher when I was in Standard 7 who walked into the class and we all thought ‘wow!’ coz he was soo cute. The list of the class according to performance was stuck near the blackboard and he went to it and read out my name ‘Tabitha ni wangu wa maisha’, he said to the class. I was glowing. He was the choir master and I was in the choir. He insisted that I be by his side the whole time when we went out to sing – those were Moi days and Moi was all over the place – if you can remember. So whenever he was passing by our town- we would be out singing by the side of the roads. I remember a song that choir master wrote for ‘GG Kariuki’ that earned him some money from the MP when he visited our area once.

Anyways, this teacher wanted me by his side 24-7. He did not do anything strange to me but I sensed trouble and I got really rude to him once. He made me apologise in front of the choir and then I never had to be by his side again.

He went on to impregnate a few of my school mates over the years. He was transferred to another school – where he continued with his tricks but finally, one parent took him to court and he was put in jail for a while.

In both instances – though I was 10 and less – I followed a gut-instinct that told me something was not quite right.

Whereas the teacher was slow in his approach – buying his time to win my affection – my cousin who – was younger -was sharper. He was grooming faster and carefully.

In the journal of Child Abuse and Neglect of 1989, Conte and colleagues from Chicago University interviewed 20 men who had abused children. In their paper titled ‘What sexual offenders tell us about prevention strategies’ the men discuss the methods they used to lure children and abuse them. Although the paper is old, the way in which men groom children has not changed that much –except for now- the same methods are being applied on the internet.

Some things stick out. For one, the children targeted by abusers were well known to them- rarely did they target strangers. This is not news to anyone who has read anything on paedophiles –kikukulachu ki nguoni mwako – holds very true.
The paedophiles talked about grooming techniques, a bit like my distant relative that used to kiss me all the time before he moved in for the kill.

Conte and colleagues asked the men to come up with a ‘manual for a child sexual offender’. Remember this was among the very first papers written on this topic- of course the statements are general and do not hold for ALL cases of child sexual abuse but they represent a pattern. We as parents and care givers need to understand the mind of the enemy – see how he works and find ways to protect our children.

This section in bold I plagiarised from the paper in full – the manual for a child sex offender reads like this……

If you have a repertoire of jokes that move from risky to pornographic, have porn magazines lying around. Talk about sex. Watch the kids’ reactions. Stick your head in their bedrooms while they are in their bedclothes. Act like it’s a natural thing. Be sympathetic. Try a lot of complements. Have accidental contact with their breasts. Befriend them, be nice to them. Target children who appear to be not close to their parents or children who have already been victimized. Look for some kind of deficiency. I would find a child who doesn’t have a happy home life, because it would be easier to groom them and to gain their confidence. I would find a child that didn’t have very many friends, because it would be easier for me to gain their friendship. Look for a kid who is easy to manipulate. They will go along with anything you say. I would approach them by being friendly, letting them think I was someone they could confide in and talk to. Be in a position where you are a close friend with someone who is involved with alcohol and drugs and probably has the attitude that kids are like dogs, just around the house. Someone who has a tight control over kids and where if the the kid does anything wrong he’ll be severely punished. Being a molester, you can pick on that and start showing the kids extra attention. They’ll thrive on it and will become easily manipulated to your control. You can also set it up when the parents trust you and use you as a babysitter. You’ll be. alone with the kid, and the kid doesn’t like his parents. Choose children who have been unloved. Try to be nice to them until they trust you very much and give you the impression that they will participate with you willingly. Use love as bait. Never threaten her. Give her the illusion that she is free to choose to go with it or not. Tell her she is special. Choose a kid who has been abused. Your victim will think that this time is not as bad. Identify a child that would be looking for help, who is vulnerable feed the positive things, like she looks real good. If she didn’t have any boy friends, tell her why not; be interested in her. Get the parents to trust the offender. Work slowly. Get as many people who are close to the victim to trust you. Observe the victim, if he/she is friendly, if they come to like me a lot, it would be safe to try to touch them under these conditions I don’t think the kids are apt to tell. Select an isolated and quiet child. They want somebody and need someone. First you would groom your victim by heavy handedness promoting fear. then isolate the victim so that no one else would be around. The next step would involve making the child think that everything is OK so they wouldn’t run and tell. You could convince them there is nothing wrong with it or pressure a child not to tell, using force or coercion.

Its sick stuff – that an adult would target a child who is already one step down and pull them even further into the abyss is unimaginable – but this is happening across the world, all the time.

Attacks by strangers do happen – but across the world – paedophiles are well known by their victims and parents.

Prevention programs need to focus on self-esteem issues – they need to target vulnerable children before the paedophiles get there.