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Child Safety Situation #12

Boy, 11 years old; attacked while selling school candy door-to-door alone.

Although he had spent most of his Saturday afternoon going door to door selling candy for his school, 11-year-old Steve* had a smile on his face, thinking "I had no cause to worry about my parents restricting me to our neighborhood. I've only covered half, and I bet I've already sold enough to get the prize."

When he rang the next bell, 15-year-old Martin* opened the door. "Oh, boy," Steve thought, hardly believing his luck. "Teenagers are always hungry." Steve was not surprised, when he told the teenager he was selling candy for the school, that he said, "Sure, I'll take four. Come on in out of the sun while I get the money. You look hot. You want a coke?" "Yeah, thanks," Steve said as he walked into the house. "June is getting real hot."

It is not exactly clear what happened next. Maybe Martin got Edmond and himself a coke. Maybe while they were drinking the cokes, Martin said, "My money's in my room. Come on back with me, and I'll show you my new computer game while you're here." Once the teenager got Steve in his bedroom, Martin attacked and sodomized him. Then, Martin strangled Steve, hid his body in a trunk, and carried it out to the woods near his home. When Steve didn't come home, his parents called the police, who zeroed in on Martin when it was discovered that no one passed his house bought candy from Steve. When confronted, Martin admitted he had killed Steve and led the police to where he had buried the body.

It turns out that Martin did not have many friends. He had met a guy in a chat room while he was surfing the net, who listened to his problems and his complaints about his family and how bored he was. When Martin agreed to meet at an arcade, he was surprised to find his friend was 44, as old as his father, but he was a lot more fun to play games with. After awhile, his new friend began to take Martin to his home to see X-rated movies. He introduced Martin to all kinds of sadomasochistic sexual practices. His friend's live-in roommate eventually joined in too.

Nobody knows whether Martin jumped Steve because he was angry about the abuse he may have felt he had received, or he simply killed Steve because Martin was afraid he would tell what Martin had done to him.

What can you learn from Steve and Martin's stories to make you more predator resistant?

Never Walk Alone:
If you are going door to door for any reason, do not go alone. A few buddies going together is good, as there is some safety in numbers. Even better, have your parent waiting for you in the car out front. Never go to meet anyone you met over the internet without having your parents accompany you. You may thank you are talking to a kid your own age, but it could be a pedophile trying to seduce you into having sex with him by giving you the attention, love, or freedom you feel you are not getting at home.

May I Visit:
Never go into any house, even a neighbor's or relative's house, unless whoever you live with told you earlier that day you could go into that person's house. The most obvious safety rule Steve broke was the rule never to enter the house of a stranger, even if he appears to be a mild-mannered teenager. Without telling his parents, Martin went to meet a stranger alone, and, then, he went to his new "friend's" house to watch X-rated movies.

Step Back:
When Martin asked Steve to come in, Steve should have stepped away from the door. He simply should have said "no, thanks," or "my parents don't let me go into anyone's house without their permission." Sure, you're raised to be polite to adults and older children, but if what someone asks you to do is potentially dangerous, they are really the one inconsiderate in expecting you to take a chance. Besides, being considered a bit rude is a whole lot better than getting raped and losing your life.

Think Twice:
Predators are smart: they pretend to be nice to get you to do what they want. Martin was anything but the friendly teenager he appeared to be. The man who got Martin to let him have sex with him pretended to be Martin's friend. When a serial killer or serial rapist is finally captured, you are almost always sure to hear someone say, "he seemed like such a nice man." Dr. Jekyll would never get you to come into his laboratory, if he let you see his Dr. Hyde monster side. But you can always tell what they are by what they want you to do.

Tell if someone you met over the Internet wants you to come meet him or talks about sex or sends you sexually suggestive pictures. Even if the person you meet seems nice at first, tell if things get out of hand. Don't believe your seducer if he says "nobody will ever love you but me, after what you've done." Martin's parents still loved him when they found out how he had been seduced. If he had told them earlier, maybe, he would not have built up so much rage that he killed another kid.

Once you find yourself doing things you are ashamed of, stop the relationship, as a lethal relationship tends to get worse. What started out as watching X- rated movies and drinking beer can easily move to acting out what you see. Then, it's on to group sex, rough sex, prostitution, uncontrollable rage and murder. Call a stop before the consequences destroy your or someone else's life. Remember, having been abused is no excuse for abusing others: you decide how to react to what happened to you, whether to abuse others or help others who suffer as you suffered.

Developing skills and making friends with people sharing your interests makes you less susceptible to predators' lures. You probably know that animal predators look for the weak in the herd -- the sick, the young. Well, sexual predators look for lonely, insecure teenagers to lure into destructive relationships. They listen to the complaints about parents and school. They agree rules and authorities are stupid. They help get what the teenager wants -- alcohol, drugs, clothes, money, understanding, whatever is missing in theteenager's life. In the process, the teenager gets raped, sodomized, sexually exploited.

It is up to parents to monitor their children's use of the internet. There is pornography on the net that is worse than anything you could pick up in an adult book store. There are sexual predators lurking in chat rooms waiting to seduce children and teenagers.

When a child has been tricked into having sex with an adult friend or relative, the sense of betrayal, anger, and self loathing may be greater than is the case when a child is raped by a total stranger. Family molestation can never be glossed over as "a family affair," as these victims are often so badly scarred they need prolonged counseling to reconstruct the self esteem lost when they are seduced by someone they loved and had every right to trust.

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*Names changed to protect privacy; information presented for educational purposes only. Reprinted with permission from The Jimmy Ryce Center.

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