Content warning: this article contains sensitive content that may unsettle certain readers. Please do not read ahead if you are easily offended.
If you’re not actually raped, it can be really confusing sometimes to distinguish what sexual predation is and what it looks like – we’re also often not sure how to respond. What are the hallmarks and signs that you’re looking for in a sexual predator and what should you say if you find yourself in a situation like this?
While many people in the world are mostly decent, the sad truth is that there is an element of society that will stoop to horrible lows to manipulate people and get what they want sexually. Recently, I dealt with a case where an underage teenage girl was the victim of a sexual predator. Luckily she wasn’t raped and got away mostly unscathed.
However I was struck by the fact that, even though she is a really smart girl with loads of self respect and self confidence, she didn’t know and understand half the things this predator was aiming at her, and had no idea how to say no to him in a way that would make an impact and get him to stop what he was doing. It also took her a while to realise that he wasn’t going to let up, and her only real chance for safety was to get out of there.
So while this article may seem like it’s a total basics article, it is an article that I’d urge you to let your daughters and their friends read, even your sons. Alternately have the conversation with them and ensure that they know the signs to look for – the ten minutes you take could truly prevent a rape or save a life.
Coercion, intimidation and manipulation
When we speak or read about sexual assault and rape in media, often we do it with the idea that there is brute force involved, but this isn’t always the case. Sexual predators will often coerce, intimidate and manipulate their victims into having sex with them.
When in you’re in puberty and your hormones are racing, this can be a really dangerous thing, because it feels good when someone touches you, especially if there is a gentleness to their touch. You feel like your body is betraying you because you feel a rush of excitement, a surge of hormones, and so you start questioning if maybe you do actually want this.
Predators know this, so a favorite tactic is for them to say things like:
- You’re enjoying this
- You want this
- This feels good
When those good feelings are surging through your body it’s easy to believe that, and land up agreeing to a sexual liaison you don’t understand, with a person you don’t really want, because you think the person is correct in what they’re saying.
Another tactic that sexual predators like to use is intimidation and threats.
So they’ll threaten to tell your parents you were drinking or smoking or using drugs, or hanging around with people you’re not meant to be hanging around with, unless you give them what they want sexually.
There may also be threats that they will harm you, or come to your home and hurt your family. They may threaten to hurt your friends, and tell you stories about how dangerous their life is and how many dangerous people and criminals they know.
Another tactic I’ve heard of is guys saying to girls they have some sort of demonic or magical power. This is much easier to do when you’ve given the girl drugs and her senses are warped and she’s suggestible and prone to seeing things. Threats here will include that they have special powers that will enable them to find you, and you’ll never be able to hide from them.
Another tactic used commonly is guilt.
In this particular case, guilt that you’ve hurt the guy somehow because you led him on and were a tease, often accompanied by the claim that you have given him blue balls.
For the adults reading this now, I know you’re probably thinking what the…?, but yes, really: blue balls. In this case, the young girl almost capitulated because the guy told her that she had led him on by teasing him and now he had blue balls, which meant that his balls could explode and he would die.
No matter how well you prepare your child, there are certain circumstances under which drugs will cross their paths. The circumstances that hold the most danger are peer pressure, and drugs given without the person’s knowledge.
Peer pressure is so difficult to prepare a child for, because it’s really going to hit when they are feeling low and their self-confidence is at a point where they are scared to lose friends. So try as you might to prepare them, peer pressure is a real danger when it comes to getting involved with drugs.
Likewise many of the sexual predators will give drugs to teens to get them wasted enough so that they will have sex with them, either by offering and pressuring them into taking the drugs or spiking drinks. Other tactics could include things like hot boxing an unwilling drug taker in car or room, so that they can’t avoid exposure to the drug.
An obvious sign to watch for and warn your teens about here is to look at the age of the people offering the drugs. If the guy or girl isn’t within three years of your age, you have to ask yourself why they are hanging out with you. If they’re ten years older or more, then you really have to be wary and get out of there as soon as possible.
What to say
There are courses and pieces of advice out there for what to say in situations like these, but the thing you have to remember is that people like this are afraid of getting caught, and you can use that to your advantage.
Use clear words and statements like:
- Please leave me alone
- I don’t want you to touch me
- Please go away
- I am not interested in you
Say the things you’re saying in a clear, strong, firm voice and make sure other people see and hear you saying no. Use the word no: No! Stop touching me. Repeat yourself a number of times and move away from the person physically.
Some people will get more pushy at this stage, and if you are frightened that they may legitimately hurt you, then call your parents immediately and get out of there. There is nothing your parents can do to punish you that will ever be worse than being raped or murdered.
In other cases, the person will back off and back down because they now feel embarrassed and have been called out. I’d still strongly recommend that you get yourself out of there and to safety though. Scary people remain scary all the time and the best way to be rid of them is to get geographically far away from them.