Contact: John Caher, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8415 or (518) 225-5240 – cell
For immediate release: 11 a.m., Dec. 29, 2010
Child Sexual Predators: The Familiar Stranger
DCJS releases video to help parents protect their children from sexual predators
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) today released a video in which convicted child molesters reveal how they preyed on their victims – and in which adult victims of childhood sexual abuse discuss what they wish their parents had known or done to prevent the abuse.
Child Sexual Predators: The Familiar Stranger was produced by DCJS as a result of legislation signed by Governor David A. Paterson directing the agency to create a video to instruct parents on how to protect their children from sexual predators. It will be distributed to libraries across the state.
“A child molester is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Acting Commissioner Sean M. Byrne of DCJS. “Unfortunately, people who abuse children are extraordinarily manipulative and resourceful. Parents may have no idea that the friend, relative, coach, clergyman or other trusted acquaintance who is lavishing attention and seemingly innocent affection on their child is a sexual predator – until it is too late. I hope that this video will raise awareness and prevent children from suffering the devastating and often life-long impact of childhood sexual abuse.”
The video includes footage of four paroled child molesters who provide candid insight into what they did, how they did it and how parents can protect their children from people like themselves.
Also featured are three survivors of childhood sexual abuse – a woman who was repeatedly molested by a 17-year-old neighbor when she was about six- years-old, a man who was abused by a priest when he was a teenager and a young woman who was molested by her own father.
Child Sexual Predators: The Familiar Stranger also includes a demonstration by FBI Special Agent David C. Fallon who, posing as a 15-year-old girl in Albany, enters a readily accessible online chatroom. Within 30 seconds, a 47-year-old man on Cape Cod is flirting with who he believes is a teenage girl; within 30 minutes, seven potential predators have zeroed in on the girl. One of them – “Superhero129” from Florida – sends the “girl” a picture of himself half-naked and asks her: “Would you fool around with me?”
Dr. Edelgard Wulfert, professor of psychology at the University at Albany, takes viewers on a guided tour through the troubled mind of a pedophile and offers insight into how child molesters operate, how they manipulate children and families – and why, all too frequently, parents refuse to believe their own child.
The program is narrated by Tina M. Stanford, director of the New York State Office of Victim Services. Ms. Stanford noted that children are almost always molested by someone they and their family know and trust, not a stranger.
“As a former prosecutor and crime victim advocate who has dealt with sex offenders and seen the impact of their crimes on their victims, none of footage in this video surprises me,” Ms. Stanford said. “As a parent, it sickens and scares me.”
The legislation resulting in this video was sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D-Brooklyn) and Senator Dale M. Volker (R-Western New York).
Below are descriptions of the offenders and victims who appear in the video and excerpts from their comments. The names of the offenders are all pseudonyms:
“Pete,” a respected member of his community and beloved uncle, molested his 10 and 11-year-old nieces when they stayed at his house. When they told their parents, the parents believed Uncle Pete – not their own children. “Pete” was arrested after he attempted to entice online someone he thought was an underage girl, but was really a police officer.
“What turned me on about the children, the young teenage girls that I was chatting with online, was their innocence and the idea that what I was doing with them, talking sexually with them, was taboo to society and it excited me.”
“Fred” used his role as a teacher and coach to gain access to his victims. He focused on emotionally needy boys, and sexually exploited their need for affection.
“I got involved in activities where children … were involved. I became good at what I did in those fields, coaching junior football, junior basketball and so on. It wasn’t usually the athletes, it was the wannabes, the hang-arounds. The athletes, they were self-sufficient usually. They had to have some guts in order to turn out for a team and play, but the kids that hung around … I would make friends with.”
“David” was a child therapist who specialized in treating children who had been the victim of sexual abuse. He molested three young boys and two girls, typically in his office and occasionally while their parents were in his waiting room. “David” would essentially blackmail his victims, threatening to disclose their secrets if they disclosed his.
“One boy said that he was experimenting sexually with a neighbor girl. They were both about ten, nine at the time. Rather than doing what I should have done, which was to report this to the parents…I’m storing this information to say, ‘Well, when I begin to sexually offend against him, now I have this little thing in the back of my pocket.’”
“Jack” molested both his 13-year-old stepdaughter and eight-year-old stepson. The girl told her mother, who didn’t believe her; “Jack” told the boy that if he said anything, the police would come and the child would be taken away from his mother.
“I started grooming her by becoming a part of the family and taking her to amusement parks, to movie theaters… I would put my arm around her shoulder, just to see where I could go. Eventually, I'd move my hand down towards her breast… I proceeded to do the same thing to my 8-year old stepson.”
Laurie was repeatedly molested when she was six or seven-years-old by a teenage neighbor. It was years before she told her mother, and decades before she recognized that what this boy had done to her was a crime.
“When I told my mother when I was 12 what happened, I didn’t feel it was a crime. I felt at that time that it like I had done something terribly wrong by letting this happen to me. I didn’t view it as a crime because it wasn’t violent, it wasn’t hurtful ... He didn’t hurt anybody.”
Mark suffered abuse by a priest, starting when he was 12-years-old. The priest lavished Mark and other boys with praise and attention and brought them on special trips to his hunting cabin deep in the wilderness, where the boys were served alcohol and abused over many years.
“I was trying to minimize what had happened because I didn’t want to be a molestation victim. I didn’t want to be perceived as having sexual encounters with a priest, or any male… To this day I feel very guilty that I didn’t speak up. It would have prevented these younger kids from getting molested.”
Jessica was abused by own father. But it was Jessica, not her father, who was banished from the household. Jessica’s mother chose to believe her husband, not her daughter, and Jessica was banished from her home when her father got out of jail.
“The closure for me would be if he[her father] stood up and apologized …That is the closure I need. But I need closure from my mom more than anything. I need her to say, ‘I am sorry for sticking up for your dad while I should have been a parent.’ That is what I need. My dad hurt me. But my mom hurt me more.”
Child Sexual Predators: The Familiar Stranger was produced by New York Network, a service of the State University of New York. It will be distributed to libraries across New York State over the coming weeks.