The term “inappropriate relationship” is often used to describe what is legally and developmentally child sexual abuse and sexual assault. Consent laws vary per state and can be complex however, most state laws confirm minors cannot consent. Regardless of the law, research by medical experts has consistently found that the brain does not fully develop until the mid-twenties. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center:
“It doesn’t matter how smart teens are or how well they scored on the SAT or ACT. Good judgment isn’t something they can excel in, at least not yet. The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.”
What Techniques Do Offenders Use to Defend Their Misconduct?
Regardless of a minor’s brain development, the onus is always on the adult to do the right thing — especially when the adult works with minors and has a professional, ethical, and legal responsibility to refrain from misconduct. Offenders often use gaslighting and DARVO tactics to defend their misconduct. Gaslighting is manipulating the accuser to not trust their own judgment or reality and manipulating bystanders to question the accuser’s credibility. DARVO tactics are Deny And Reverse Victim with Offender, essentially turning the blame from the offender to the victim.
For example, a teacher may claim the student was the aggressor and pursued the teacher. Even if that was true, if a student flirts or makes advances towards a teacher, it is the teacher’s responsibility as an adult to immediately address the behavior as inappropriate conduct and report to administration. This ensures that it is noted, there are no misunderstandings, and nothing kept in secrecy.
Responsible, well-intentioned adults who work with kids understand the importance of boundaries and know how to provide support while maintaining a professional position. They are very careful not to blur the lines and if called out for questionable behavior or poor judgement, they listen and do not repeat the offense. Predators, on the other hand, will repeat the offense. They are very good at giving excuses or reasons as to why it is a misunderstanding. This should be a red flag.
What Is Grooming and How Is It Used by Predators?
To fully grasp the situation, it is important to understand how “grooming” is used by predators. I use the word predator versus offender because these are deliberate actions. Grooming is the process by which a predator gains a person’s trust, typically fulfilling a need, while pushing boundaries and testing the victim’s vulnerabilities. Simultaneously, the predator grooms all the adults and bystanders into believing the predator is trustworthy, helpful, and great with kids. Predators would not be successful if they could not get the adults that surround them to believe they would never harm kids and therefore come to their defense.
It is very common for predators to have been referred to as the “favorite” coach or teacher. They are described as “more like a friend” than a coach or teacher. The offender creates situations to be alone with the victim, like volunteering to give them a ride home or to practice. They volunteer to tutor kids before or after school or give kids private lessons for sports, music, or theater. They offer their phone number, email address, or send messages on social media under the guise of being a safe person to talk to. This is how they exploit children’s vulnerabilities.
These behaviors gain the trust of the victim and are used to make them feel special. Minors do not understand that they are being coerced and manipulated for the pleasure of the predator until later on in life when their brain develops, they mature, they come to learn what constitutes sexual abuse, or they have kids of their own. This is why it is imperative that the adults who work with children follow mandated reporter laws and report any questionable behavior. It is not their obligation to prove guilt or investigate the matter. It is the mandated reporter’s obligation to report the behavior to authorities who are specifically trained to investigate and let them determine guilt or innocence.
The Importance of Reporting Promptly
Predators are cunning and rarely ever caught in the act of sexually abusing a victim. This is why all red flags, boundary crossing, and inappropriate behavior should be reported and addressed immediately. These can be just the tip of the iceberg as to what is really happening to the victim.
In California, the statute of limitations (which sets a time limit for when a victim can file a lawsuit) for filing a civil case for child sexual abuse currently has given a temporary reprieve from the time limitation. Assembly Bill 218 opened a window for filing a claim for any abuse that occurred in the last 50 years. That window closes December 31, 2022; after that, the standard statute of limitations will apply.
If you or a loved one were affected by sexual abuse, please contact us at (619) 516-8166. We are here to answer any questions regarding something that happened to you or your loved one and inform you of what steps you can take.