John L. Smith
Predators often 'groom' children and parents before assault
Posted by Las Vegas Review: Nov. 16, 2011 | 1:59 a.m.
Mounting evidence to the contrary, Jerry Sandusky insists he's no pedophile.
But damning grand jury transcripts and his eerie interview with NBC's Bob Costas, which aired Monday night, leave little doubt why Sandusky finds himself charged with eight counts of child sexual assault.
While Sandusky professed his innocence to Costas, the former Penn State assistant football coach admitted, "I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I showered after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without sexual contact. ? I shouldn't have showered with those kids."
Now other alleged victims are coming forward, The New York Times reports.
The Sandusky-Penn State scandal has entered the national conversation and shocked the sports world, but the published details are actually pretty common in pedophile cases. It's the kind of behavior James Sweetin, Dr. Neha Mehta and Dan McGrath deal with every day.
Sweetin is the Chief Deputy in charge of the District Attorney's Special Victims Unit, which prosecutes sexual assault and physical abuse crimes against children. Mehta is a child abuse pediatrician with Sunrise Children's Hospital and the Southern Nevada Children's Assessment Center. McGrath is a lieutenant assigned to Metro's Sexual Assault Section.
Listen as they describe the general methods of the pedophile, and you'll better understand why the case against Sandusky is so strong. You'll also see how a pedophile's behavior follows a predictable pattern.
Child molesters defy the stereotype of the oily character hanging around the schoolyard gate. McGrath notes that sexual assault by a stranger is actually rare. Most pedophiles are more likely to be found in places where they can groom young children, engender parental trust and gradually work to separate vulnerable kids from their caregivers. Pedophiles tend to hide among the dedicated and well-meaning who volunteer as Scout masters, ministers and coaches.
"From my experience, it's more of family or acquaintances," McGrath says. "A lot of the child sexual abuse cases are generally adults who have access."
The grand jury transcript alleges that Sandusky used his status as Penn State's defensive coordinator, his youth football camps and his Second Mile charity for at-risk youth to cultivate his victims.
Pedophiles groom not only the children, but also work to persuade parents of their devotion and responsibility, Mehta says.
Adds Sweetin: "We have victims who come in all shapes and sizes, obviously, but one of the most significant commonalities between them is a person of trust in their life who acts out against them. These things usually start off with the victim looking up to the perpetrator. ? Through what we call the 'grooming process,' it's so clear in so many of these cases, the perpetrator blurs the line between good and bad touching. They are able to commit many various sexual acts upon them without the child telling anyone or in many cases putting up a fight because they're eased into it so lightly."
Mehta reminds us that any child can be molested but says children without strong parental figures are often more vulnerable to the psychological ploys and physical advances.
Although pedophiles generate many victims, it's common for those children not to know others exist. That makes it more challenging for the child victim to come forward.
"Many children don't realize that there could be other, multiple, children being molested," Mehta says. "They don't make the connection that this person has worked very hard to create that illusion for the child. The child is left to think, 'Maybe it's something about me.' "
Then there's the question asked by some misguided Penn State fans and Sandusky's own attorney: Why did the victims wait so long to report the crimes?
Many reasons, Sweetin says. Some remain silent out of embarrassment. Others take many years to process the betrayal of the adult-child relationship. Others feel a sense of responsibility and guilt.
"Many don't want anyone else to know what's happened to them," Sweetin says. "They think, 'What's going to happen to you when your parents find out.' They think with a kid's mind."
Sweetin often meets sexual abuse victims who come forward after years of silence, and says he thinks it adds to their credibility: "Many times these victims go on to accomplish things in life. They go to high school, graduate from high school, but they eventually are so bothered by what happened that they decide to make a report to the police. That's not an unusual thing."
For defense attorneys faced with multiple victims and a client with a history of suspected abuse, attacking the timing of the report is a common tactic.
As the evidence mounts against Sandusky, it may be the only defense the former defensive coordinator has.
Upgrade Your Life: The 5 worst photos to post online
By Taylor Hatmaker, Tecca | Upgrade Your Life – Tue, Sep 6, 2011
With online networks steering our social lives these days, deciding exactly how to represent ourselves on the web can be tricky. This episode of Upgrade Your Life addresses 5 kinds of photos you should avoid putting online — and why.
1. Don't post pictures showing personal data
Even if your Twitter account is private and you closely monitor who sees what on your Facebook profile, personal data revealed in photos isn't necessarily safe. Strangers and hackers aren't the only threat; people you know can steal your identity, too. And according to a study conducted by the Javelin Strategy and Research group, they are with increasing frequency, thanks to social media. According to Javelin's 2010 Identity Fraud Survey, people between the ages of 18 to 24 were especially prone to this kind of identity theft, likely due to their high level of engagement with social networking websites.
By 2011, this demographic had shifted to the 25- to 34 age group who are now the most likely victims of so-called "friendly fraud. Older Americans are the least likely to secure their social media accounts, which also puts them at high risk for identity theft at the hands of friends and acquaintances.
* Don't post any images with any identifying information whatsoever. No driver's licenses, marriage certificates, leases, or passports. You may think that's obvious, but do an image search and you'll see plenty of newly married couples, proud teen drivers, and world travelers posting high resolution pics of their documents.
* Even if you think your photos are private, more people might be able to see them than you think. On Facebook, friends of friends might be able to see photos tagged of you, if the photo's owner has the setting enabled. Facebook's photo settings are notoriously complex, so err on the side of caution and untag photos when necessary.
2. Disable location services and geotagging
Cameras are increasingly sophisticated — even the ones built into our phones. As you snap pictures, many cameras record information called EXIF data or metadata, including the camera's make & model, settings like speed and aperture, and the time the photo was taken. While much of this is helpful, it's just good for you to know you may be posting this info with a photo. Probably the biggest issue with embedded photo data is geotagging: when a GPS-enabled camera, memory card, or cell phone camera pinpoints your exact location in the metadata — even without your knowledge. Some social networking services strip that data out, but others include it — which mean you've essentially posted your home address online for anyone who knows how to view the geotagging data.
If your device includes this geodata as the default option, you'll need to disable it in your settings. If you're working with a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR, you can find this through the settings menu on your camera — just look for a menu mentioning "geotagging," "location" or "geodata" and to be sure the feature isn't enabled.
Turn off geotagging on Android and iPhone
To disable geotagging on an Android device, open the camera app and be sure the "geo-tag photos" box in the settings menu is unchecked. On an iPhone, hit the settings icon, click on "location services" from the menu, find "Camera" and move the slider from On to Off.
It's almost holiday time! Unfortunately, the holiday season is also one of the most active times when identity thieves attempt to take advantage of busy, distracted consumers chasing holiday deals and scrambling to get everything done. Whether you plan to fight the crowds at a busy mall or shop online in your pajamas, you need to take precautions against identity theft.
When you're out shopping:
- Protect your Social Security Number (SSN), credit card and debit card numbers, PINs (personal identification numbers), passwords and other personal information.
- In case your wallet gets lost or stolen, only carry the identification, checks, credit cards or debit cards you really need. Likewise, don't pre-print your Social Security number, phone number or driver's license number on your checks.
- Remember that you have the right to refuse requests for your SSN from most merchants and service providers – they have other ways to identify you.
- Make sure to safeguard and/or tear up any receipts or carbon copies with account numbers once you no longer need them. Thieves known as "dumpster divers" pick through garbage looking for pieces of paper containing Social Security numbers, bank account information and other details they can use to commit fraud.
If you're shopping from home:
- Never provide bank account or other personal information in response to an unsolicited e-mail or when visiting a Web site that doesn't explain how your personal information will be protected.
- Take precautions with your personal computer. Install a secure "firewall" to stop intruders from gaining remote access to your PC. After you confirm legitimacy, download and frequently update security "patches" offered by your operating system and software vendors to correct weaknesses that a hacker might exploit. Use passwords that will be hard for hackers to guess. For example, use a mix of numbers, symbols and letters instead of your date of birth or last name. Also, shut down your PC when you are not using it.
Taking a few simple precautions can help you have a safer holiday season.