Protecting Your Child From Sexual Predators

Protecting Your Child From Sexual Predators

On June 22, 2012 parents across the globe breathed a sigh of relief when retired Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse. Cheers erupted from spectators when the verdict was relayed outside the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Parents believed they could breathe more comfortably knowing a convicted child sexual predator was incarcerated. Not so fast. The number of predators is staggering. According to the most recent survey of states conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there are 747,408 registered sex offenders in the United States today. To put this daunting number in perspective, if the number of sexual predators were evenly distributed across our 50 states then there’s approximately 15,000 registered predators in each state. Still a staggering number!

Given these numbers, it’s imperative parents not only educate themselves but also their teens against child sexual predators. Prevention is the #1 way to protect teens from child sexual predators. So how do you protect your teens? I’m glad you asked.

Let me start by giving you an analogy using a temperature gauge. Think about the continuum of the touches as a temperature gauge increases from cold to hot. With the cold temperature reading being non-sexual touches and the hot being sexual, the child sexual predator starts at the cold and moves up the thermometer. The progression may be so gradual that the teen doesn’t realize the extent of the inappropriate touches before he or she gets burned. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, most of reported child sexual predators are male. For the purpose of this blog, I will refer to the predators as male. I will also use the terms child sexual predator, sexual predator and predator interchangeably.

Child sexual predators come across as charming and disarming as they transition from non-sexual touches to sexual touches. They do so methodically and purposefully. The purpose of the slow progression of touches is for the teen to get used to the sexual predator’s touches. Where a touch to an arm or leg is a common interaction between the sexual predator and the teen. Nonsexual touches usually start out with a touch on the shoulder, thigh, or a tousle through the teen’s hair. While the predator is engaging in non-sexual touches, he might say, “Good to see you” or “Great job on the ball field” or “Nice looking hair cut.” While the sexual predator touches the teen’s non-sexual body parts, he is monitoring the teen’s responses to the touches and to him. Additionally, the non-sexual touches help establish rapport with the teen. If the teen appears receptive to the non-sexual touches and to the predator then the non-sexual touches typically advance to tickling or wrestling all in the name of fun. What teen doesn’t like to have fun?

 Think about the most common body part that’s usually tickled. The abdomen, right? The abdomen is the middle ground between sexual body parts. When the child sexual predator transitions from the extremities such as the head, arm or thigh, he may gently jab with one finger or quickly skirt his fingers across the abdomen before escalating to a full abdomen tickling episode. Perhaps, you may hear him say, “Are you ticklish?” or “Tickling was one of my favorite games with my dad.” The touch seems innocent as a way to play around. The sexual predator uses everyday language to normalize the touching. Since tickling induces laughter, smiles and good feelings, it serves as a veil of innocence to test boundaries. Notice the smiles on the faces of the boys in the picture below.


wrestling as fun

In addition to tickling, the child sexual predator may wrestle or “rough house” with the teen. Most boys like to wrestle to demonstrate their strength and competitive skill in pinning their partner. Accidental touches to the genitalia are bound to occur on occasion in tickling or wrestling with wiggly bodies. Again, the sexual predator is watching the teen’s reaction to the touch and to him. If the sexual predator is called out for the supposed accidental touch, you might hear excuses and minimizations such as “Man, you are fast. I didn’t realize that I touched you there.”  Or, “If you didn’t move around so much, my hand wouldn’t have slipped.” Or, you might hear “Relax, it was an accident.” What you may not hear is the sexual predator accepting responsibility for the inappropriate touch or any validation of the teen’s confused, hurt or angry feelings to being touched inappropriately. To further desensitize the teen to the touches, the sexual predator may engage in the tickling episodes and wrestling matches in front of parents and other people. If no one else objects then it sends the message to the teen that these types of interactions are okay behind closed doors when alone with the sexual predator. Clearly, this isn’t the message we went to give our teens.

I want you to see how various opportunities for non-sexual touches can turn sexual when adults and teens tickle or wrestle. In the video you’ll see a dad with his two sons wrestling on the ground. Nothing inappropriate happens in the video. I show you the video so you can see the close proximity of body parts with moving hands, wiggly bodies and sexual organs almost touching when bodies lay on top of each other. Not appropriate play or interactions between non-parental adults and teens. Watch the video below to see for yourself the potential of how non-sexual touches can turn sexual in the name of fun.


What did you notice in the video? There are three cautions I want to point out.

  1. Did you notice how easy it would be for a sexual predator’s hands to slide across your teen’s genitalia during tickling and wrestling with wiggly bodies?
  2. Did you notice the close proximity of sexual body parts when the dad lays on top of his sons? Now, imagine your teen’s body underneath a sexual predator during tickling or wrestling matches! Disgusting, isn’t it?
  3. Did you notice the boys’ shirts ride up to expose parts of their bodies? Now, imagine if your teen’s pants slid down a little during tickling or wrestling matches! Are you grabbing a trashcan to vomit in yet?

The shift to sexual touches is usually gradual. The language the sexual predator may use to entice a teen to sexual play surprises many parents. A phrase a coach might say to a player such as “Let’s get cleaned up and then get some pizza” is reminiscent of what many parents say at dinner time at home. The language structure is similar. The difference is the intent behind the words. Since teens are accustomed to hearing the familiar language from their parents they don’t find the words suspicious. They go along with the request. When the teen finds him/herself in compromising situations, the sexual predator is ready with minimizations and justifications for the sexual advances.

Keep a watchful eye on the types of physical interactions your teens have with adults. If you and/or your teen feels uncomfortable with a touch then speak out. Your teen’s body is private and is to be respected. By setting up physical boundaries of appropriate and inappropriate touches your teens are well on their way to minimizing their potential to be the next victim. Not only can you breathe sighs of relief, you can relax knowing your teen recognizes the dangers of tickling and wrestling with non-parental adults.


Blanca Cobb is a lie detection and body language expert whose been interviewed by national and local media such as Good Morning America, CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS. Blanca is the President and Founder of the North Carolina based TruthBlazer where she teaches detecting deception classes. She is also a senior instructor at the Body Language Institute in Washington D.C.

To get secrets to decoding body language and learn how to separate fact from fiction, follow Blanca Cobb on Twitter @BlancaCobb and on Facebook. Or, reach out to Blanca directly at

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