The short answer could be anyone. Some are more likely to reoffend than others, and depending on the person may have different motives for committing sexual abuse.
However, these are people that tend to have strong ties to the community, with a normal life, stable relationships, gainfully employed, and lack of criminal history. And the people that are often preyed upon tend to have a personal, or very close professional relationship.
We will be focusing in mainly on the helping professionals that come into our lives, such as doctors, therapists, teachers, clergy, coaches and other similar people. This is not an exhaustive list, but a good starting point. Basically, we want to focus in on those that assume authority to help us improve wellbeing, and ourselves whether from athletic ability and recovery to healing our minds, bodies and souls.
How to Spot the Sexual Abusers
Why is it so hard to spot these offenders from the start? Maybe it’s because we are told, through media portrayal as well as others, that these sexual offenders are monsters and that is what we are basically looking for. As humans, we do tend to look for the stereotypical signs of danger in others. And while you should always keep your guard up against those that legitimately give you cause for concern, the people that commit sexual abuse can be quite the opposite. They can be charismatic, thoughtful, well educated and carry the authority that comes with their field. From there, they can create an atmosphere that feels professional, safe and conducive to healing, growing and learning.
Now, we are not saying that you should live in fear. However, you should always be aware of your surroundings and situations. It should also be stated that abuse does not typically happen right off the bat. There is usually a lengthy process that sexual abusers go through to when selecting a victim. This process can be hard to identify as it can happen through normal interactions.
Here are some potential red flags that you will want to keep an eye out for:
- Discussing intimate details of the professional’s life
- Sitting too close for comfort
- Initiating more “unconventional methods” that may include hugging, hand holding or other forms of close contact
- Giving seductive looks
- Special attention outside of sessions, including lunch, dinner and social activities
- Changing business hours and schedules so that no one else is around
- Giving and receiving gifts
- Providing/using alcohol or illicit substances during sessions
- Telling the person that he or she may “love you” or “you are special”
- Relying on the person for emotional support or advice
And a few that may apply more towards the physical areas of healing and development
- Body work that gets too sensual or seductive
- Physical touching that gets too close to, or into private areas
- Having a victim’s private time before or after sessions being interrupted, such as washing, changing clothing, etc.
What to Do Next
Keep in mind that this list is just a starting point, and is not exhaustive or exclusive to one particular area of practice. Also, mental manipulation may cloud one’s ability to readily spot some of these red flags.
But, after each visit, take a moment to decompress, clear the mind and break down your visit with some of the potential red flags in mind. If something seems amiss, trust your gut instincts and begin to take action.
Start by cutting off ties first and foremost. Cancel your appointments and document your experiences. Do not hesitate to reach out to a close family member, friend or significant other and let them be the strength needed to go through the next steps of reporting the offender to who may be most appropriate, whether it’s management, business owners or law enforcement. And depending on how far things get, you may want to seek counseling with professionals who will have your best interests at heart.
Also, do not overlook taking legal action against a sexual abuser. This may be one of the hardest things to do, because the violations are of such a personal and embarrassing nature. But with the right support system you will be able to help stop the abuse as well as help any other victims come forward. And with legal action, you are also raising the overall awareness of sexual abuse, making it just a little bit easier to talk about, which leads to educating and empowering others to stop abuse before it can even start.