Predators, psychopaths, violent criminals, rapists and sex offenders are all names of violent people who are cold blooded and devoid of a moral compass. They are evil and avoidance, if at all possible, is our goal. This month, we want to look at what factors help turn a person into a criminal and why they are becoming more and more common. Also, we will describe what to look for in recognizing a predator and cover some of their characteristics. This is some rather “dark” information here, but we need to wake up to the reality of these predators and understand them, so we can hopefully recognize one of them before it’s too late.
We all have heard many patriotic songs that declare: “America, the land of the free!” This is a true statement for most of us, but this “land of the free” has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world! And to illustrate how effective prison time is in changing someone, the re-arrest rate is nearly 70% for another felony crime after they have been let out the first time. Maybe the fact that the average 8 year sentence usually only means 3.5 years behind bars has something to do with it.
The U.S. recently hit a new record! No, this news isn’t good either. There are now over 747,000 registered sex offenders as of April 2013, reported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This number is up 25% from the first time it was looked at in 2006.
What are some other reasons that America’s prison cells are so full? Col. David Grossman, a leading expert on violent crime, argues that the breakdown of American society, combined with the pervasive violence in the media and interactive video games, is conditioning our children to kill in a manner similar to the army’s conditioning of soldiers. He says, “We are reaching that stage of desensitization at which the infliction of pain and suffering has become a source of entertainment: vicarious pleasure rather than revulsion. We are learning to kill, and we are learning to like it.”
If you want more than one man’s learned opinion, in 2000, the American Medical Association, Surgeon General, the American Academy of Psychiatrics, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology made a joint statement to Congress concluding, “Media violence causes violence in children, and the violent video games appear to be particularly harmful.” It is now 14 years later and have we made any progress? Isn’t all media and gaming far more realistic and accessible now than in 2000? The system isn’t working to stop the creation of a predator and cyclical child abuse is hard to stop. We have to be aware of how pervasive the influence is and use that to further our resolve to be on guard and not let it happen to our children.
Abuse is a well-known predictor of future predator behavior. Child abuse, whether defined as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, is a real problem in the U.S. and it occurs in every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, and within all religions. Child.org was founded in 1959 and they report that about 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing this horrible cycle. Tragically, the U.S. loses, on average, four to seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.
Who are these predators and are they easy to pick out in the population? Bill Oliver, a psychiatrist who worked in a SuperMax prison with violent predators for 20 years says this about them: “Predators are shadow figures and they are chameleons that blend into their surroundings and they look like they should be there.” He also sums it up by saying, “The Devil does not look like the Devil.” A thug is a thug, and we don’t need much help picking them out. The predators that rely on their chameleon-like look and behaviors are the ones that can take so many by surprise. Criminals do not make appointments! The point is that they don’t look like a predator; many times they are handsome and charming (ever heard of Ted Bundy?), leading a “normal life” and having a career. This is critical information! Is that good looking guy at Starbucks really just asking about where you got your cool shoes, or is he questioning you to “test” if you could be his next victim.
Clinical psychologist, Martha Stout, reveals that 4 percent of ordinary people have an undetected mental disorder, and the chief symptom is the complete absence of conscience. Complete lack of conscience is probably one trait we would all pin on a predator. Some other characteristic traits they tend to display are selfishness, narcissism, and complete lack of empathy. I know we all know people like that who aren’t predators, but these can be red flags. We’ve all seen the neighbor on the news when someone is arrested for a horrific crime saying that they are so surprised because the person seemed so “normal.”
Here’s some more astounding evidence of the predators living around us according to Oliver and he says, “About one third of criminals are in jail, one third are on parole and another one third are not caught in the United States.” What! America has two thirds of its criminals roaming the streets? It also turns out that many crimes are masterminded by people IN prison and prisons have become training grounds for the even more violent criminals of the future, once they’re paroled.
Oliver also concluded that rehabilitation is not a realistic concept for predators and claimed, “They are intensely narcissistic and cowards at heart. They have no concept of yesterday or tomorrow. They look at humans as objects and will do whatever it takes to get whatever they want from whomever they want. They are exceptional at gaining trust and are very conniving. There are usually drugs, alcohol, and psychological desensitization involved so they feel it is the victim’s fault and not theirs.”
We can look at the animal world for evidence of the prey most sought by these predators. Drop quiz: Does the pack of coyotes attack the bull elk with the antlers or the young calf? You got it, the young calf. Anna Salter, the author of “Predators” and one of the leading experts on sex offenders said, “Rapes of adults are actually only about a third of the rapes that occur in the country each year. In a year, the National Women’s study reported 1.4 million rapes of children.” The landmark National Women’s Study of 1989 concluded that 1 in 7 of women will be victims of rape in their lifetimes and 60% of the time is when they were children! Hold onto your hats because 30% of rapes occur in kids less than 11 years old! Statistics don’t even tell the whole story because it’s theorized that only 1 in 6 rapes even get reported.
It turns out that children are targeted more not just because they are vulnerable, but because the offender is generally someone the family trusts. Teach your child at a young age about unacceptable behavior and touching from others. Don’t just blindly let your child go with an adult you know that seems so wonderful and trustworthy. Many times these good personality traits are built into the “act” of the predator.
Predators usually have a pretty serious history. Anna Salter interviewed 591 sex offenders that had a combined 195,000 victims! That’s 330 victims, on average, per predator! That is enough victims to fill the Louisiana Superdome two and one-half times! If they aren’t conniving then how do they get away with that many crimes?
Salter interviewed many sex offenders and I think it’s important to read the following statement verbatim from one of the multiple offenders, because it’s very chilling and educational at the same time: “Getting the person to trust me first. Then I knew I could do whatever I wanted. I wanted to see the pain I could cause them, the bringing them down. It was the ultimate rush… What I felt when I hurt somebody physically, that goes away. When I hurt somebody emotionally, that’s never going to go away. That was a thrill.” Salter also found that many of these predators hide in schools, businesses, churches or any other place with a population of children and they often hold positions of trust. Parents don’t close your eyes and turn a deaf ear to this and just assume the good in everyone. Protect your children and talk about the unthinkable with them.
Hopefully this has opened your eyes to the truth that there are a large number of predators on the streets and they walk amongst us. You do need to worry more about the charming man in the suit than the guy that looks like a thug on the street corner, because the thug sets off your alarm bells well in advance. The famous Voltaire once said, “Minds differ still more than faces.” Don’t let someone’s outward appearance fool you into being led into a situation where you are attacked or your child’s innocence destroyed forever.