By Ox Drover
I recently read The Socially Skilled Child Molester: Differentiating the Guilty from the Falsely Accused, by Carla van Dam, Ph.D.
Carla van Dam, Ph.D., is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has practiced in the U.S. and Canada, and taught in several universities. She is well known in the community of those who focus on primary prevention strategies to help end child sexual abuse. One of her previous books was Identifying Child Molesters: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse by Recognizing the Patterns of Offenders.
Several of the reviews of this book pretty well sum up my opinion of this well-written book.
“The Socially Skilled Child Molester provides a thorough description of common types of child molesters, most importantly, distinguishing between ‘grabbers’ and ‘groomers.’” Kelly Simonson, Ph.D.
“A provocative analysis of four types of smarter, richer, socially skilled and often litigious offenders as opposed to the cruder, more frequently captured types. Such offenders, whom the author calls ‘groomers,’ usually spend more time cultivating the good graces of family members, neighborhoods, and whole communities rather than selecting and seducing their victims. These offenders are usually regarded as upstanding pillars of the community, and include businessmen, priests, judges, coaches, teachers and volunteers…” Thomas R. O’Connor, Ph.D.
“Carla van Dam carefully describes the various child molesters who sit next to us in our churches and synagogues, go to the theater, and eat in the same restaurants with us. They continue to harm children because they fool us into thinking that such nice guys couldn’t do such a terrible thing.” Lenore E. Walker, Ed.D. (Dr. Walker was a pioneer in the defense of women who faced criminal charges for attacking their long-time abusers. Her books include The Battered Woman, The Battered Woman Syndrome, Handbook of Child Sexual Abuse, and Abused Women and Survivor Therapy.)
Having personally been well acquainted for a number of years with one of the most prolific child abusers, totaling over 1500 victims, Charles “Jackie” Walls, III, who is currently serving life without parole in Arkansas Department of Corrections, I know how easy it is for these “socially skilled” child molesters to pass for “upstanding citizens” in the community for decades, all the while doing damage to so many. Though I never liked Jackie because he was an obvious narcissistic creep, it never dawned on me, I never had the faintest inkling, that he was living this dual life of upstanding family man and Boy Scout volunteer of the year during the daytime, and monster at night.
Dr. van Dam’s book gives a clear and precise directions for spotting the warning signs in a predator who is socially skilled and highly thought of in the community, who presents himself as the “too good to be true” businessman, priest, rabbi, physician, nurse, volunteer, etc., who is too helpful, too private, too attentive to children, too touchy with children, too involved with image management, too one-sided in relationships, always giving, never taking, too opportunistic, too superficial, too prone to violate boundaries of personal space and privacy, too aggressive when confronted, too quick to drop friendships when children grow older, too likely to disappear when contact with children is denied, altogether too charming . . . and, too good to be true.
Dr. van Dam divides her book into 10 chapters, as follows:
Chapter 1. “Understanding the Problem” focuses on the fact that the “groomers,” as she calls them, are well-socialized child molesters and behave as if they were addicted to sexual contact with children.
Chapter 2. “Child Molesters in Their Natural Habitat” familiarizes readers with the operating styles of the groomers and allows them to notice the often-predictable practices so that readers can more effectively prevent child sexual abuse.
Chapter 3. “Current Practices” provides the reader with information on the inadequacies of the way child sexual abuse is addressed by communities.
Chapter 4. “Not All Child Molesters Are Alike.” This chapter gives a closer focus on the vocabulary used to describe sexual misconduct. Child molesters do much damage to children by first carefully grooming adults in order to gain access to children.
Chapter 5. “Common Misperceptions.” This chapter focuses on groomers’ excuses and explanations when their conduct is challenged. These are hackneyed clichés that are often misconstrued as sincere. Everyone needs to know these well enough to recognize them when they occur.
Chapter 6. “Accurately Differentiating Danger.” This provides the framework to understand how the behaviors of groomers often vary from those whose conduct should not be worrisome. It points out that behavioral patterns of successful groomers vary significantly from those who are not child molesters.
Chapter 7. “A Framework for Understanding Child Sexual Abuse.” Using an iceberg as an analogy of the groomer’s behavior, this chapter gives information to the reader about how to expose the groomer’s operating strategies to protect children.
Chapter 8. “Interviewing Child Molesters.” This shows the reader that though groomers are incredibly successful liars, the lies they tell can be identified, and are often predictable. This allows the reader to be less gullible and better protect their children.
Chapter 9. “Predicting Risk.” This chapter deals with differentiating convicted offenders from the less to the more dangerous.
Chapter 10. “Incorporating Corroborating Evidence.” This chapter brings all the information together for both professionals and for families in ways to network in the community to protect our children from predators.
This book, in my opinion, is a must-have for anyone who wants to protect children, in their own home and in the community. While Dr. van Dam does not think that all pedophiles qualify as psychopaths, she does say that they “lack empathy, and experience no real remorse as shown by their actual behaviors.”
Although this book focuses on child molesters, many of the practices that the groomers use are familiar to some of us who have met sociopaths who looked like such “good people” and turned out to be such bad nightmares. The book may also be interesting to people who want to understand more about how a bad person can hide in plain sight.
To purchase the book, go to Amazon.com: