Updated: September 5, 2013 4:33PM
THE SCARLET M: If only good guys wore white hats and bad guys wore black ones. Life would be so much easier. But they don’t. Which makes child molesters so difficult to recognize. Holly had no idea that her second husband would someday sexually assault her daughters.
HAZEL: Holly married this guy when her daughters were six and three, but the molestation didn’t start until the older one was 16. So this isn’t really a case of a pedophile marrying to obtain unfettered access to sexually undeveloped children. I don’t think there’s any way anyone could have predicted what would happen a decade into the marriage.
Some molesters do indeed marry single mothers because they want access to the kids. However, I don’t think that’s what happened here. Even the most patient of groomers won’t wait a decade to get what he wants.
And I doubt the abuse started earlier than that. That’s when Holly noticed drastic changes in her daughter’s behavior.
JERSEY: Molesters don’t actually look like monsters, and they don’t wear scarlet letters unless they’ve already served time in prison for molestation and are on the National Sex Offender Registry. There aren’t a lot of tells in most cases.
Most child molestation is committed by people the child and the parents know and trust. That’s why kids need to be taught proper boundaries and that it’s always OK to go to mom or dad if they’re having doubts about any adult.
MARIA: Molesters look just like everybody else, and often are respected by other people because they hold positions of power. That’s why it’s important to ask your children what’s wrong if you see strange behavior and believe them if they tell you they’ve been molested.
The thing that helps child molesters the most is that people don’t want to believe that the molestation is actually taking place. People don’t want their illusions of a safe world and a nice family to be destroyed.
That was certainly the case in my family. Even given obvious signs and having the actual abuse perpetrated right in front of them, my family chose to deny that my father was abusing me. It was so much easier for them that way.
PAULA: A woman should only let a man into her and her children’s life slowly and then she should observe his behavior carefully. She should never hand over the running of the house or the disciplining of the children to him.
And before any man comes into your home, you should have an open, frank talk with your children about everything from unwanted touches to telling on anyone who does anything that makes them feel icky, even if an adult has threatened them not to tell.
And always listen to that little voice that nudges you if anything is wrong. Be aware of everything that goes on. Is he using the computer at odd times and closing the screen if you get near? Find out what’s going on. Don’t be put off. A little paranoia may save you and your children from heartache. If you don’t protect your children, they’ll never be able to trust you again.
Are you a single mother? What steps do you take to be sure the men you date aren’t predators? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my new website askcheryl.net. Creators Syndicate