No More Mr. Nice Guy: Jesus and Children

It’s a scripture that many avoid. We don’t want to believe that Jesus would utter violent words, so when he does we pretend like he didn’t really say them. But what if we took seriously Jesus defense of children? What if churches were willing to go to war for the protection of the kids who were in their care? Jesus is often painted as a fuzzy, cuddly kind of guy who was always soft spoken–a pacifist who turned to the other cheek at all costs, even the cross.

But the reality is that Jesus sheds his nice-guy persona when children are willfully led into darkness. Listen to his words: “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea‘” (Matthew 18:2-6 NIV). I’m not arguing that Jesus was talking about vigilante justice here. Rather, he is talking about the justice of God. Over and over again Jesus talks about judgment, exclusion from the Kingdom, and torment with weeping and gnashing of teeth. God does not smile at abusers, pat them on the head, and say, “There, there, my unfaithful servant. Just try harder next time.” And neither does Jesus.

In fact, it is not often that we find Jesus visibly upset. But when children are involved, the gloves come off. The word for “to become angry at” is only used once of Jesus, and it appears in Mark 10:14: “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant” (Mark 10:13-14 NIV). Jesus then rebuked his disciples and took the kids in his arms to bless them. But only after he tells them that anyone who doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a kid will never make it there. An angry Jesus. A Jesus who says a person would be better off to have death by drowning than to cause a kid to sin. In other words, “You think that downing was bad? You haven’t seen anything yet!” Let that sink in for a minute.

After conducting a workshop on child abuse, a young woman came up to me in tears. “I tried telling my mom that dad sexually abused me. She told me that I probably just imagined it. A few years later I got the strength to talk to someone at church about it. I was told that the Bible says to forgive and I need to move on. How can I trust anyone anymore? Doesn’t God care that he did this to me? I don’t even know if I believe in God anymore.”

When our response to abuse is a pacifist view, and when children are told to “just get over it” or to “learn to forgive like the Bible says,” I wonder if some of the wrath of God will not be reserved for them as well. I know–but their intentions were good. They didn’t mean to harm a kid by telling them those things. But guess what? They did. The last time I read my Bible cover to cover, I failed to find where people are rocket launched to heaven for having good intentions. We Christians are just as likely to “cause one of these little ones to sin” as the abuser if we give them a picture of God as someone who couldn’t care less about their abuse. And pulling scriptures out of context in order to not have to face an uncomfortable conversation is no excuse for damaging children’s eternal souls.

I’m just thinking out loud, but perhaps we should tell our sons and daughters, our children in the pews, our students in the schoolroom that we’d be damned (literally) if we would ever intentionally allow someone to harm them. I go out of my way to tell my 3 year old daughter that I will always try to protect her and that if anyone ever does something to hurt her she can always tell her mom or me. Kids should feel protected. They were designed by a Creator to feel safe and secure in a stable home. They shouldn’t have to fear that if they tell mom and dad about something bad that happened, they will get in trouble or be ignored. One night as I was putting my daughter to bed she said, “Dad, you make me feel safe.”

We exchanged “I love you”-s and as I walked out of her room I fell apart. I cried as I thought about the countless children who feel abandoned rather than safe. It’s time to take a closer look at the anger of Jesus and live in His shadow.

How Should Christians Treat Repentant Pedophiles?

On September 13, 2009 a small church in Louisville ordained a registered sex offender as a minister of the Gospel. The man was a “changed man,” they demanded. I personally think this was a foolish decision, for a host of reasons. But questions abound on the internet from churches asking what to do with registered sex offenders who wind up on their steps and in their pews. It’s a fair question. I live in a small town with two (yes, two!) state prisons and believe me, we do get released prisoners to show up, desperate for any help they can get. If you have followed my blog at all, you’ll know that pedophiles are just like you and me on the outside–they are educated, religious, productive, sophisticated, warm, and trustworthy. But what lies beneath the skin is a genuine sexual attraction to children. Because we cannot see this attraction, we tend to listen to the kind, charismatic words and see the gentleness they exude. We view these people for what we see at face value–as the kind old man who is warm and nice to our kids at church. We don’t want to fathom that someone could ever think of a child in that way, let alone act out on it. But they do. Ask my friend Les Ferguson. He describes his son’s molester as a kind family friend. A kind man who did unimaginable things behind closed doors and then murdered Les’ wife and son.

I’m currently reading Jaycee Dugard’s memoir A Stolen Life. If you have not read it, get it today and read it. I mean it. Get. The. Book. Enter into the bedroom of a victim before rushing to embrace the “repentant” pedophile. The psychological abuse always accompanies the sexual abuse. God bless Jaycee. She holds nothing back. What I read last night made it difficult for me to fall asleep. Unimaginable. I am still haunted by the things this “nice man,” as she describes him in the book,” named Philip Garrido did to her–for 18 hellish years. I’m haunted by the things my dad, whom I always trusted and respected, did to young children. I still can’t wrap my mind around it all.

I admire churches who trust that people have truly repented, I really do. But pedophilia is a very complex issue and even the greatest professional people in the field of psychology have been repeatedly fooled. One area that churches need to become familiar with is recidivism (relapse) rates among pedophiles, because you can rest assured that they will use the statistical data to help their case. There are a number of common actuarial instruments currently used that gage risk in incarcerated sex offenders. The Stable and Static99 are 2 common instruments that are used. Without getting too technical, these instruments are touted as being wonderful guides to tell us whether “reformed” pedophiles will reoffend. Despite what you will hear from people who administer the tests, they are definitely not reliable for predicting whether a sex offender will reoffend. In fact, Dr. Anna Salter says this: “They do not measure the risk of reoffending; they measure the likelihood of getting caught. No instruments are able to measure the risk of reoffending, because there is no access to offenders who continue to offend but who do not get caught” (annasalter.com, “What Does Static99 Really Measure?).

The recidivism rate among registered sex offenders is lower than most other crimes, at less than 10%. So most people get a false sense that, because the recidivism rates are low, sex offenders really have an epiphany of sorts and have “learned their lesson” from spending hard time in prison. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I spoke with Dr. Salter directly and asked her what her thoughts were on why recidivism rates were so low among sex offenders (she is highly respected in the field of treating pedophiles, is a Harvard PhD, and has been in the field for over 30 years). She told me that several studies show that sex offenders have about a 3% chance of ever getting caught for any one offense against a child. She told me, “In my experience, that number (3%) is probably high. They just don’t get caught.” Reassuring, isn’t it?

Before churches swing open their doors and criticize people for standing in the way of repentant sinners, remember that there is no other sin in this category of such deep secrecy. It is the most successfully hidden secret and should be treated as such. Simply because someone says they don’t offend kids anymore doesn’t mean they aren’t actually doing it. One site asked the question (I can’t remember the source), “If a pilot told you that the plane previously had mechanical problems but they’re pretty sure there’s now only a 40% chance that there will be an immediate mechanical failure, would you feel comfortable flying?” Let’s factor in what we know about Gene Abel’s study and Anna Salter’s experience–that pedophiles only have a 3% chance of getting caught for any one offense. Here’s what that would look like:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We just spotted some thugs dressed in black masks with a mechanic’s bag running from underneath the plane. According to our instruments, there’s a 97% chance that they secretly sabotaged this plane and badly damaged major components in the hydraulics and main computer. We should be cleared for takeoff in about 3 minutes, so make sure your seatbelts are fastened and enjoy the ride.” Any normal person would be jumping out the window to get off that plane.

So, when we know what we know about recidivism rates, when we know what we know about pedophiles avoiding getting caught at all costs, when we know that there is no cure for pedophilia, and when we know that it is extremely difficult to control pedophiles even after years of therapy, that should change our perspective on repentance. We should now be the passengers on the plane saying, “Something doesn’t feel right; it’s not safe to fly.” Paul preached all over that people should “perform deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20 ESV).

Repentance needs to be proved. A repentant pedophile will perform deeds by demanding that he not be near children again. A repentant pedophile doesn’t ask for pictures (no matter how innocent they seem) of any children. A repentant pedophile will renounce any internet use for the rest of his life, since pornography and fantasy drive them to their core. A repentant pedophile will not happily accept a role as minister where people now look to him as a spiritual leader of old and, yes even very young, people. A repentant pedophile will make sure that his presence is not traumatizing to survivors of child sex abuse in the congregation. And if it is, he will gladly find another church and not put up a fight. A repentant pedophile will not ask church members if he can babysit their kids. Please beware of these things and let’s work together to make our churches safe.

Where Are You, God? A Prayer

I sit in my chair looking across my neat desk into eyes that are sad. Just plain sad. There is no mistaking the emptiness. It’s haunting, but even more so for him. I can turn it off at the end of the day. He cannot. A burning question comes back to me, “Is this loneliness and despair what God has in store for me?” “Is it a sick game from a God who’s far more powerful than me?” It’s a question too many people have, and too many people get irresponsible and damning answers from religious leaders. Victims of abuse are told, “Just put your trust in God,” as if that melts away the images of his sweaty body being thrust upon them, forcing them into unimaginable acts. “Jesus Loves You, This I Know,” one man sings as he’s raping his daughter.

Perhaps we preachers should allow people to cry out to God, to yell at him, be mad at him, and to question him. Rather than offering useless clichés like, “God is good, ALL THE TIME!” we should be saying, “My God, I can’t imagine.” Though the person sitting in my office that day is not a victim of sexual abuse, his feelings about God mirror many who are. I did not offer any “wise” prescriptions for his personal life experiences. I simply listened. And cried.

I asked him if I could publish his prayer, because I believe there is grace, eloquence, and brutal honesty in his words. I believe that people can benefit from hearing his desperate cry to God. I believe preachers should be listening to these types of prayers and, instead of offering cheap advice, offer hope by identifying with the hurt. Here are the raw, unaltered words of his prayer:

Almighty God, I humbly come before you now. I don’t know what your plan is for me or if you even have a plan for me, but I need some assistance from you. I know that you love and care for me deeply, which is why I don’t understand why you let me suffer so much. I know that as Christians we are called to suffer as Christ suffered for our sins to be forgiven, but why did you make things to turn out this way? You are the one and only omnipotent God. You could have made things to be anyway you wanted. It’s not like you had to get anyone or anything else’s permission to make things the way you wanted, you are the boss. I don’t get why you would make the penalty for sin death. You could have made it something far less severe or even done away with anything that would be considered sinful. Why did you choose to let people suffer and die and burn in hell for all eternity? Just for the sake of giving us the choice to serve you? Sorry, but if that’s the case I’d rather not have the choice. I’d rather prefer you to control my actions and guide me along your desired path than just saying: Okay, you’re born now, so you can choose to follow me or suffer forever. I didn’t have a choice in being born, so why should that change for the worst just because I have been born?
On another note, I don’t understand why good people suffer and evil people get the riches of the earth. I know that in the end good godly people will be rewarded with eternal life in Heaven and that wicked people will be cast into Hell and die for all eternity, but this raises a question and a concern in my mind. Why do good people have to wait? So, from my perspective, it doesn’t make sense to punish people for doing good things and rewarding people for living sinfully. That doesn’t seem like the Ideal way to convert sinners to Christianity. Wouldn’t it be easier if living in a godly manner got the rewards and leading a sinful life drove people into darkness such as poverty & depression? I really feel that would be a better system than what we’ve got right now (not trying to challenge you almighty God, I’m just saying that I don’t understand anything you do at all).
Anyways, I am suffering right now pretty severely. I don’t have a job, I’m not in school, I have no money, I haven’t been to Church in months, I’m lonely, I’m depressed, I’m anxious, I hurt physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. And the worst part of all of this is that there is no end in sight to any of these problems. In fact, I only see that most of them (if not all) will be getting worse. God I apologize for this but why do you allow me to suffer so much? Now I realize that there are people out there who have worse problems than I do, but I am definitely in need of some divine intervention now.
God, I feel worthless. I feel that I have no point in existing. You’ve given me reason to suspect that you do have a purpose for me by the fact that I could have died twice now but didn’t. So, if you do have a purpose for me please tell me what it is so that I can work on accomplishing that. And if I truly don’t have a point or my point is to suffer, than I would like to opt out of this mess that is my life. Please give me a life that is worth living. My entire life, from birth to present, has been nothing but failure, pain, sorrow, grief, and torture. I feel as though I cannot keep dealing with this fiasco for much longer especially since I only see it getting worse.
I want to embrace life. I want to love and be loved. I want to experience joy and happiness. Please let me. God, please help me now in my time of need.
It is in Jesus’ name that I say and ask these things and more. Amen.

There’s a Pedophile In My Church: What Now?

This is a question that is not uncommon for me to get. Minister friends of mine desperately ask what they should do when a known pedophile is in their congregation. One friend told me, “We have two known pedophiles in our small church and we have a very real threat of several families leaving as a result. What do we do?” To compound the problem, I ask the question: “What should we do about the unknown pedophiles in our churches?” The real threat is not whether those families will leave the church. No, the real threat is that the church, if no policy to protect children is in place, is at great risk of having children sexually assaulted. The statistics are alarming, no matter which study you look at. People who molest only have about a 3% chance of ever getting caught (Dr. Gene Abel). They are hiding (quite well) and offending in our churches. And there are lots of them. But wouldn’t a victim tell if he was being abused by a trusted church member? Most likely not. A 2005 study (London et al.) which surveyed 10 other studies shows that only 12%-18% of sexual abuse is ever reported to authorities. Of those 12%-18% cases that are reported, most will never be investigated.

At any rate, what of the pedophiles, rare as it may be, who repent of their sins and ask for forgiveness? Isn’t that enough? Doesn’t the Bible simply tell us to forgive and move on? Why dwell on the sins of the past? When leaders are faced with this issue, should the pedophile stay or should he go? Too many well-intentioned church leaders have been conned into believing that pedophilia is as benign as dropping the occasional “f-bomb.” Or they have a significant deficit of knowledge and experience in understanding how serious pedophilia is. They simplistically view it as a “wrong vs. right” issue, as if they were dealing with someone who cut another off in traffic. And when the offender asks for (or sometimes demands) forgiveness, it’s suddenly treated as an issue that’s as simple as asking the offender to not commit that sin anymore. This is most notable with known offending priests who are put into sex rehab then transferred to the next diocese and given more unguarded access to children. It’s strange to me when strong sympathies lie with the offender instead of the victim. I once had a therapist tell me how pedophiles get a bad wrap, and to a large degree this is true but they also have worked very hard to get themselves there. He went on to tell me that they are mistreated by having to register as sex offenders, marking them for life. “Pedophiles,” he lamented to me, “are not welcome in churches either.”

But what about the victims, I thought? In my entire conversation with him, ironically he never mentioned how bad of a wrap victims of abuse have it. He never mentioned that they are marked for life, and that many victims of child sex abuse often become victims of teen and adult rape, prostitution, drug abuse, depression, PTSD, guilt, sexual displeasure or dissociation during sex, shame, failed marriages, or worse. He never mentioned that many victims are plagued with affective flashbacks–where a trigger such as a certain smell, noise, or touch on the shoulder can inadvertently cause them to remember their young bodies being violated as if they were actually experiencing it in that moment. Affective flashbacks can happen at any time–at the dentist’s office (a dentist opening the mouth often triggers affective flashbacks for victims who were repeatedly forced to perform oral sex), in the shower, at church–and most often the survivor doesn’t even know why she is having vivid and grotesque images of her childhood abuse. There is no controlling it. There is no “snapping out of it.” There is no “just getting over it.” It just happens. And it haunts the mind. Victims and survivors of abuse are the forgotten souls. To be sure, since my father’s arrest and subsequent sentence of 30-60 years, I’ve had many concerned people ask me, “How’s your dad doing?” Oddly, I’ve been asked once, “How are your dad’s victims doing?”

Worse, still, are the stories I hear of churches quoting Matthew 5:39 to victims of abuse: “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” The minister goes on: “Young lady, God says that to the measure you forgive you will be forgiven.” One pedophile bragged online of his biological daughter, “She loved it (the stimulation of her genitals) so much that her face turned blood red! She looked like she was about to pop!” His daughter was 2 years old. How, church leaders, do we expect survivors of abuse to sing “God Is So Good” while we tower over them and demand that God will judge them if they don’t “forgive and forget” their abuser?

So what do we do when a known pedophile is in our congregation? It depends. I’m talking here of pedophiles who make it known, or it becomes known by some other source, that they have already been investigated or convicted. Should an accusation come up about a suspected pedophile in the church, always report it to authorities for them to investigate the allegation. It’s the law. Never do an internal investigation. But in dealing with already-convicted pedophiles who find their way to your church, this is a deep theological question that cannot be reduced to a few bullet points. I’m still wrestling with finding proper tension between the abuser and the abused. Each congregation is different, but the one constant that should remain the same is this: Do what is in the best interest of victims and/or adult survivors of sexual abuse in your congregation. If they are able to speak, listen to their voices. Learn from them. Try to understand what they have been through and that many of them may have been severely traumatized. This was not a slap on the cheek. It was abuse. Gross abuse of the worst kind. And it probably didn’t happen just once. Victims in our congregations need to hear from the pulpit that we preachers don’t stand for abuse and that they are safe in our congregations.

Second, have a clear safety policy in place. Should the known pedophile stay, absolute conditions need to be placed upon him unapologetically. Pedophilia does not go away simply because one has publicly repented. There is no cure for it. Pedophilia can be controlled. It can never be cured. There need to be crystal clear boundaries. The pedophile should never have any access to any children whatsoever–this includes outside church activities as well. And this is for the remainder of his life. One friend told me that at their church they have designated men who escort a known pedophile anywhere he goes in the church building. He is not allowed to sit in a pew with children or have any physical contact with children. This is a good policy, and one that first takes the protection of children into consideration. Other people may judge this as overkill, but other people have not had their children brutally violated either. Churches are very high risk places for sexual abuse because most people are trusting and would never dream of someone abusing a child in broad daylight, especially at church.

Third, assemble a group or committee to research abuse. Know the signs to look for in an abuser. Know the signs to look for in a victim. Education is a great beginning because we cannot be vigilant if we don’t know what we are watching for. I’ve read about 30 books and countless articles on the subject so far and have listed some of the most helpful books in my resources page. This would be a great starting place.

Finally, never mistake forgiveness with trust. Forgiveness should never be demanded of victims of abuse. They have been to hell and back and it may take years and years until they are ready to begin forgiving. If others in the church can forgive an offender, they should never equate forgiveness with trust. They are two different things altogether. And the one who can forgive (especially a non-victim) should never expect a victim to forgive just because he was able to. To do so will only lead to revictimization.

How You Dress Your Child Matters. . .to Pedophiles

It’s still striking to me how many of my friends (un)knowingly post shirtless photos of their very young children on Facebook, making their children the object of gazing eyes of trolling pedophiles. Really, pictures of your young child bathing, swimming, or running around the house nude is not appropriate to display to hundreds of people. And for those who think that I’m exceedingly paranoid, just cruise Youtube for 30 seconds and you’ll find that there are countless channels dedicated entirely to snapshots and videos of (even very) young girls and boys which were stolen from Facebook accounts. Names of videos like these dominate Youtube:
Young hotties
Very young hotties dancing
Young cutie teen shaking her butt on cam
Collection of hot young pinay girls
Young hottie dancing (about 8 or 9 years old)
Young girl dancing with hot style
Facebook hot girls
Jailbait
Hot sexy girls self shots

What’s even more disturbing is how young girls have been endorsed by their parents to display themselves in public. With shrink-wrapped shorts and shirts which grossly display butt cheeks and cleavage, voyeurs don’t have to take to social media sites to have their imaginations stimulated. In fact, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and the like are all just bonuses to real life encounters. Unlimited, free still and video images are up for grabs and here’s the kicker. . . unless they are explicit images of underage children, it’s all legal. As one whose father is a convicted pedophile who is in prison for the rest of his life, I told him that I now educate people on how to protect their children from molesters like him. As a result, he has given me invaluable insight into (1)just how easy it is for molesters to offend, especially in Christian places where people are typically way too trusting of everybody and (2)how to protect children from abusers. His answers are not atypical from other molesters so instead of quoting him directly, I will paint commonalities among a sample of many offenders which I’ve gathered from books, training workshops, training videos, and further research about and conversations with pedophiles. Hopefully people will take heed and begin to take steps to protect their children.

Point #1–Porn steers people toward pedophilia, normalizes it, and accelerates the need to view harsher, cruder, and younger images. What’s frightening is how normalized, mainstream, and available porn has become. What’s more frightening is just how many are viewing it. Pornography drives the imagination and the imagination dumps fuel onto human desire, confusing the desire for more stimuli with the need for more. Porn also blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Philip Jenkins, author of Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet notes that pornographers quickly learned that by falsely offering child pornography sites, they have captured a huge audience with which they are gaining massive profits. Though the females are 18 or older, Jenkins rightly notes that “countless ‘adult’ images portray grown women as schoolgirls or with shaved pubic hair. While the patrons of adult magazines or Web sites would be appalled to be told they had anything in common with the loathed pedophiles, some of the psychological stimuli are related. . . those interested in child pornography might not be so far removed from the ‘normal’ population. The gulf with normality is all the narrower when the materials in question involve young teenagers” (p. 30).

Viewing pornographic images, including child pornographic images, in public schools is nothing new and is actually quite common. A friend of mine works IT at a public school and, though there is a substantial firewall in place, pornographic images are accessed very often by staff and students. Donald Cherry, a 27 year old history teacher in Tulsa, had three students aged 14-16 catch him looking at pornography. When the students asked to see the images again, Cherry allowed them to view the porn. He was eventually caught and the investigation revealed 8 pictures of child porn on his computer. At his sentencing, Cherry said, “I’m very big into escapism and leaving reality behind” (Pamela Paul, Pornified, p. 177). The reality, Mr. Cherry, is that those graphic images of children in compromised poses were really taken by some pervert who exploited the innocence of those children for your “escapism.”

It is no secret that porn is constantly pushing the limits on what is “normal.” Children who enter the porn industry at 18 are being made to look younger and younger and are forced to do more and more. Hardcore lewd sex acts such as anal penetration, double penetration, gangbangs, ATMs (ass to mouth), transgender sex, sadism, homosexuality, and bestiality are leaving less and less to the imagination for casual viewers. It’s no wonder tens of thousands of men are suffering from erectile disorders in real life and are forcing their sexual partners to perform the same lewd acts they see on their monitors, including making them shave pubic hair and dress up as schoolgirls (Ibid, 211-238). But don’t take my word for it. In the words of a pedophile, “If you want to cut the snake off at the head, address the pornography issue.” And so I do.

Point #2–Fantasy, especially masturbatory fantasy, sustains molesters’ momentum. I will address the dress code for your children in the next point, but it cannot be emphasized enough that constant fantasy motivates and drives the molester. A couple months ago I was in Michigan visiting my in-laws. Our 3 year old daughter loves to ride carousels, so we have a tradition of going to the mall and letting her ride with Grandma and Grandpa. I watch people. An older man looked out of place and could not take his eyes off the carousel. Every time a certain young child went around (thankfully it was not my daughter or I may be in jail), he became fixated on her. When she got off, the next group came on. Same thing. I quickly learned that he preferred girls about 8 years old with long dark hair, tight shorts, and dark complexion. Every time. We left the mall and came back a couple hours later. My daughter wanted to ride the carousel one more time. This same creep was in the same spot watching and fantasizing about his next victim. I reported him to the operator and she said, “I didn’t notice until you told me, but that same guy was here for several hours last night.” She called security on him. What we may view as innocent, the pedophile manipulates, fantasizes about, and masturbates to the images he has stored in his mind. Be aware of who is gazing upon your children at all times.

Though this video is dated, it shows that imagination plays a huge role in pedophiles. Here, they act out their fantasies with children in a virtual playground:

Point #3–How you dress your child matters. . . to the pedophile. Most of us don’t give a 2nd thought to how we dress our very young children. We’re just glad to get them out the door without any major meltdowns! But molesters will tell you that how you dress your child plays a significant role in whether or not they will begin targeting your child for the grooming process. According to pedophiles, the following is what most likely will grab their attention (this includes children as young as infants). Cute sundresses, especially if underwear is exposed when they are playing. Tight clothing, including shirts and shorts. Anything that is revealing whatsoever. Done up hair, like cute braids or pig tails. This doesn’t mean you can never braid your kids’ hair. Just beware that by doing so your child is becoming more appealing to child molesters.

What will deter a molester? Loose fitted clothing. Plain hair. Jeans. If wearing a dress, let it be at least knee length and don’t allow underwear to be exposed. I would add NEVER post nude pictures of your young child on social websites and NEVER allow your child to post revealing pictures on their social pages. This includes “sexy” pictures in front of a mirror, swimsuit poses, etc. Though it’s not common, people have used geotags in photos to show up at strangers’ houses. But the point is that thousands of Facebook and Twitter images are being trolled for every day by pedophiles. They steal, copy, and distribute pictures of your child without your ever knowing it. Be wise. Set your photos on Facebook to a private setting so that only friends can see your pictures. And don’t friend a bunch of random people you don’t personally know. To do so is to invite disaster.

Point #4–It is embarrassingly easy for molesters to groom and offend children. It does not have to be done in the quiet of the night, either. Quite often, children are abused in front of their parents and the parents have no idea. Watch the way other people touch your children. A good rule of thumb I have is, keep your gropy hands off my kid. I’ve read account after account of molesters who slip a hand inside a shirt or rub up against genitalia purposely in front of the child’s parents as a test (they are testing groomability of the child). The parents surprisingly don’t notice because they’re not looking for it. I do. I recently was visiting a church and was holding my daughter. An old man came up and as I was holding my daughter he kept poking his finger into her stomach. She obviously didn’t like it but he persisted. I almost lost it. I kept my composure but turned my back on him and made a rude comment that he heard. I don’t care. She is my daughter and I have a right obligation to protect her the best I know how. So do you.

**Editor’s Note** After I first published this blog, a good friend of mine who is also a therapist made some very valid points and I would like to clarify. I am not saying that, if you dress your child a certain way, he or she will become a victim of abuse. There are many types of offenders, from sadists (who are the minority), to grabbers (also a minority), to groomers (the majority), opportunists, etc. They carefully select the most vulnerable child and will molest them no matter what they are wearing. But I did want to make the point that masturbatory fantasy is extremely important in pedophiles to the point of obsession. We must be careful not to make our children more vulnerable by being careless about posting pictures of them with little or no clothing.

The number one thing that pedophiles are looking for is access. Can I groom the parent to allow me time alone (i.e. babysitting, “fun day,” field trip, bathing them, etc.) with their child? Some pedophiles are persistent. Others will quickly back away if access is denied.

Facebook: Playground for Pedophiles

As I study pedophilia, trends of child sex abuse and exploitation, and ways to prevent abuse, it becomes excedingly clear: pedophiles brazenly abuse right before our very eyes. If you think this is an exaggeration, it is not. It is a rule that is as true as the law of gravity. Always. To make matters worse, churches are the primary target for sex offenders. There are a number of reasons, but the main reason is that access to children is abundant and unhindered, in most cases. There is a high level of naivety among churchgoers, and we want to believe the best in others. I know, I am a minister. That’s what we believe about Scripture and about God–that God can and does transform people. Here is where we have a major blind spot, though. We believe that our churches house those transformed people, and that very little sin exists within our four walls, especially if the majority of our attendees are Christian. Unfortunately, this is not completely true. In fact, the more we adhere to that belief system, the easier it is for pedophiles to fly under the radar within our churches.

Worse yet, pedophiles will find the path of least resistance. Always. They find locations, people, and media outlets where they can find safety in numbers, where people (adults included especially) are easy to groom and fool, and where the exploitation of your children can take place unabated. The more I am in ministry, the less naive I am becoming. It saddens me to see how many of my Facebook friends unknowingly place pictures of their children into the hands of pedophiles. While pictures of your prepubescent children bathing are cute to you, they have no place on Facebook. Neither do pictures of them at their dance recitals, in bathing suits, or the like. And if your settings for the pictures are pulic, they are being copied and traded among pedophiles on Facebook. You can count on that. Again, if you think I am exaggerating, I have witnessed blatant pedophilic trading on Facebook first hand. It is pulic, it happens every minute of every day, and it is a thriving business. I commend the work of activist Raymond Bechard, who created the website stopchildpornonfacebook.com.

I have posted a video below of Raymond unpacking the world of child porn on Facebook below. I must warn you that it is extremely disturbing and must be viewed with discretion. Anyone who has a child or grandchild, and especially anyone who has pictures of your children on Facebook, needs to be aware of the risks you may be putting them at. I am fully aware that this is not a popular subject, but I assure you that the more we ignore it, the more we create paths of least resistance.
*** WARNING–The following content, while censored, is still extremely disturbing to those not familiar with child abuse. Use your discretion and do not allow your children to view ***

Pedophiles Using Facebook As Their Dark Playground from Richard Lepoutre on Vimeo.