The Stranger You Know: How to Spot a Child Molester's Tricks

Think you would be able to tell if a molester was using deceptive "grooming techniques" to gain access to your child? In many instances, the red flags can practically be under our noses. Yet often, parents who learn that their child has been victimized will share the same reaction… "I had no idea… He was so nice…He didn't look like a molester."


Molesters don't look like the "boogeyman". If they did, it would be easy to stay away from them. Child molesters are cunning experts at deception. If they weren't, they'd never get away with their despicable acts.

See also Child Predators Love Kids


Molesters are typically NOT strangers. 90% of the time, they have a relationship with their victims and the family.


Molesters use deliberate tricks and ploys to gain a child's (or our) trust. That's their first step. Once they've accomplished that, they can proceed with their second step, which is to sexually victimize their target.


Relatives, a family friend who spends a lot of time at your home, a married neighbor or co-worker, cousins or older siblings, the ice cream man, that nice old man who lives next door and seems so harmless, the soccer coach or teacher who takes such a special interest in one particular child, above all the others. Someone who works very hard at arranging "alone-time" with your child, making it seem like they're doing you a favor!

See also Sleepovers...Should You or Shouldn't You?

What Do They Look For?

A vulnerable target… a child in need of some extra attention or affection, or one who seems shy and lacking in confidence, sometimes a child who is more of a loner or in need of friendship or guidance.

What Else?

An opportunity… for example, at social gatherings, most adults will chat for a few minutes with the kids, and then turn their attention to the other adults for conversation, etc. But… if all the grown-ups are in the kitchen, and "Uncle Bob" always prefers to stay in the living room with the kids playing "Twister", pay attention to the red flag.

How Do They Do It?

By using the things that kids love. Toys, video games, computer gadgets, extravagant gifts. "Mom and Dad can't afford to get you that new Wii game? Come on over to my place, you can play with it here." "You're not allowed to watch a certain TV show at home? You can watch it at my house, with me!" A child molester is an expert at relating to kids, speaking their language, and working very hard at being "one of the gang."

What's The One Thing That Deters A Child Molester?

The fear of being caught. If a molester thinks your child won't "keep the secret" or sees that you're a visible parent, involved in your child's daily life and activities, he will often move on to an easier target - one that will be "safer" for him!

See also Sneak Veggies in Your Kid's Food -- They'll Never Know!


No one wants to go through life distrustful of everyone. And, you don't have to. But smart parents know that there are red flag behaviors that are usually present when someone is "grooming" a child for their own devious purposes. It's our job to be aware and alert to certain behaviors in those who interact with our kids. If you or your child become aware of the following red flags, do not allow "one-on-one" alone time with that person. By recognizing these tricks early on, we can intercept the grooming process BEFORE it feeds itself into actual molestation.


• Someone who repeatedly ignores social, emotional or physical boundaries or limits. • Someone who singles out one child as a "special friend", lavishing them with a lot of extra attention, gifts, flattery - developing an age-inappropriate relationship with that child. • Someone who often insists upon or suggests a lot of uninterrupted "alone" time with a child. • Someone who refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits. • Someone who insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want this physical contact or attention. • Someone who shares inappropriate personal or private information with a child, that should normally by shared with adults only. • Someone who frequently points out sexual images or tells inappropriate, suggestive stories or jokes with children present. • Someone who seems overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen, and talks repeatedly about the child's developing body. • Someone who appears to be "too good to be true", frequently offering to baby sit different children for free; taking children on special outings alone; often buying children gifts or giving them money for no apparent reason. • Someone who frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom. • Someone who continually invites children to spend time alone at their home, enticing them with the latest games, toys or gadgets - especially an adult who does not have children of their own.

About the author

Pattie Fitzgerald is the founder of Safely Ever After, Inc. and is recognized as a leading expert in the field of childhood sexual abuse prevention education. She is certified as a Child Safety Educator and Child Visitation Monitor, and has been working in the field of child advocacy for over ten years. Admired for her positive approach and warm, compassionate style, Pattie has created her unique brand of "Safe-Smarts" which parents and children are embracing across the country. Her published works have appeared in newspapers, parenting magazines, and trade journals throughout the United States, and she has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN Headline News, MSNBC, KCBS, KABC and KNBC news as well as countless national radio programs. For more information, please visit

Article published by