Was Larry Nassar A Rare Perpetrator?

At the sentencing hearing of Larry Nasser, the former USA Gymnastics physician who molested more than 150 young female gymnasts, the judge referred to him as the kind of predator "we rarely see." However, recent history clearly refutes that statement.

Over the past twenty years, the number of predators with a similar pattern of cultivating trusting relationships with children and the community as a cover for their abuse has become all too common.

Predators portray a pattern of activities that must be recognized by adults if they are to be able to stop them. These predators have expertise and demonstrate genuine concern for children. They usually exercise some kind of authority over children and also take time to cultivate a relationship of trust with parents and others in the community. They weave their way into the child's life and develop trust with the family. They present themselves as someone who can help. They are surrounded by children and often praised for the work they do with children. Their pattern of grooming is predictable.

In addition, the organizations affiliated with these predators have protected the institution's reputation first and foremost, and not the children. Frank Bruni "Larry Nassar is a Familiar Monster" nytimes.com (Jan. 27, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

Safe adults “rarely see” the behavior predators like Nassar demonstrated. It is up to safe adults to be observant and to recognize predatory behavior in the people around them who interact with children.

Even people who have concerns about specific behaviors they observe in a situation will defer to their feelings or thoughts about the adult involved and make excuses for the questionable behavior. Adults give other adults the benefit of the doubt even when it is not deserved.

Maintaining a questioning eye when observing adults and children together and trusting your instincts when something seems off are important to the safety and protection of children. Seeing these grooming behaviors as a risk to children is the first step in making sure children and the environment are safe from sexual predators.

What are some of these predator behaviors that are cause for concern and must be interrupted by safe adults?

  • They spend time alone with children and discourage other adults from participating
  • They seem to prefer being with children rather than adults
  • They encourage children to keep secrets from parents
  • They give gifts to children without permission and then expect the children not to tell
  • They keep photos, journals, and diaries filled with pictures and mementoes of children they have known
  • They let children do things their parents would not normally allow
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