Do you guys remember that show To Catch a Predator? It was a segment on Dateline NBC, hosted by Chris Hansen, that ran from 2004 to 2007 and it caught people trying to engage in lude acts with a minor.
Well, I watched that when I saw it on TV back when, but I was just thinking about it the other day and looked up YouTube clips. It’s hard to fully understand how rampant this kind of thing is. Things from my past have started coming back to me that were within the parameters of pedophilia, that I had mostly blocked out of my memory. It was astounding when I started remembering all these events because I started to realize how easily it can happen to any child. I’m sure all of us at some point have had a questionable experience with this. So, in the hopes that parents or minors are reading this right now, I want to share some of my own experiences to demonstrate how easily kids can be preyed on when parents aren’t around.
The Family Friend
The earliest memory I have of feeling creeped out involved a friend of the family (he’s no longer a friend of the family). My mom and her siblings had known him going back to their early 20s, when they worked together at a bar and partied with one another. I remember him as being really slimy in personality and decorum: middle-aged man who shaved his body and had an earring, always wore the same outfit, was an alcoholic and used to watch you so intently you’d feel like a hole was being burned into your soul. From the time I was about 4 years old he would jokingly refer to me as his girlfriend, which bothered me even at that age when I had no idea what was going on.He continued with this pet name well in to my teens, which speaks for itself.
He continued to creep me out for years. He came to visit us when I was about 15, and my mom had left me alone in the house with him while she ran out for a bit. I was sitting in my room and I could hear moaning coming from the other side of the house. He was taking a bath in my parents’ ensuite, and it wasn’t hard to imagine what he was doing… but the point is that he was making highly inappropriate sounds for a man who was alone in a house with a minor. I think it was that evening, or maybe the evening after, that he exposed himself to my mother and she told him to leave. My father was a truck driver at the time and was on the road, so I guess this “friend” thought he’d be opportunistic with anyone who was willing to take him up on it. We haven’t seen or spoken to him since, and I’m totally fine with that.
(I later found out that a relative of mine had a worse experience with him, but I won’t share that story as it isn’t mine.)
The Apartment Building Pedos
This memory is really vague, but there’s one thing about it that jumped out at me then that I still remember. I was six years old and had met another kid or couple of kids who lived in the same building as me, and I had been invited back to the apartment. I want to say there were at least a couple kids, and between 2 and 4 adult men. The men were sitting around a dining room table and the kids were kind of standing around, when all of a sudden one of the little girls stripped off her clothes (just down to her underwear) and started strutting up and down the hallway that was directly in front of the dining room table. The hallway had a red lightbulb screwed in to the ceiling that cast this ominous, eerie light on this girl I was watching in absolute confusion. What is she doing? Why is she doing that? Who are these men? Why aren’t they telling her to put her clothes back on?
That’s about all I remember. I know for certain that I did not partake. I don’t think I told my mother about it, either.
The Backyard Neighbour
This happened when I was about 7. I was playing in the backyard when I started talking to the guy who lived behind us. Most of the houses on this block didn’t have a fence, so the backyards were mostly all communal. This particular neighbour had a row of cedars growing around his yard as a “fence” and I think he might have been out clipping them. Being the inquisitive kid that I was, I had probably wandered over and started talking to him. Anyway, I remember him telling me he was going on some trip and I was always intrigued by adventure and exploring, so I wanted to go and I remember him wanting to take me. This is the first day I meet him, mind you. He doesn’t even know my mom. Kids don’t really know that there’s something wrong with this, because they’re too trusting and young to understand it. He invited me in to his house, and I remember there being a lot of clutter. There were magazines everywhere. That’s all I really remember.
He ended up getting killed by the other neighbour. The guy shot him and then committed suicide, in some kind of neighbour dispute. God knows what that was about, but the guy who killed him had two small kids about my age… so who knows.
Another Friend of a Parent
This one was probably the biggest one. He was a friend of my father’s. He was a guy who lived in my dad’s apartment building who my dad had met and started hanging out with, as they enjoyed playing guitar together. He was tall, extremely skinny, had greasy thin hair that came down past his ears and his skin was dark and wrinkly from years of chainsmoking and boozing. To look at him as a 9-year-old kid was creepy. I came down one summer when I was nine years old to visit my dad and we went down to this guy’s place to hang out. He had a daughter my age and a son a few years younger, so I had made a friend too. The kids and I were playing Nintendo and our dads were playing guitar, having a couple drinks and talking. My dad left after a while, to go back to his place and watch TV. I asked if I could stay and keep playing Nintendo with my new friends, which he was fine with. (Dad was only at the other end of the hall)
After some time had passed, my friend’s Dad asked me to come with him for a minute. Now, I don’t remember if he had upset me earlier that night somehow, or what the context was for what was about to happen, but nonetheless it was extremely bad judgment on his part. He brought me in to his bedroom and closed the door. He asked me to sit on his bed and he knelt in front of me and had his hands on my thighs and was rubbing them, telling me, “You know I love you, right?” He kept going on, saying stuff like this, until I got up and ran back to my dad’s apartment in tears. It had made me so uncomfortable that I started crying, not understanding why he had done that or why it was making me upset. My dad immediately got up and barreled down the hallway. I don’t know what was said, but their friendship was over in that minute. I keep meaning to ask my dad about that, but I’m not usually thinking about it and my dad never brings it up.
I remained friends with his daughter, but I never went back to his place again. I’d go visit her at her mom’s place, and then when I was a little older I started high school with her and we hung out all the time. When we were about 13 I decided to tell her what had happened that night, and in retrospect I kind of wish I hadn’t… because she was clearly in shock and didn’t know how to react. I didn’t have the best judgment at that age, or the maturity to understand how that might affect her relationship with her dad. But I wanted her to know, in case something like that had happened to another one of her friend’s or even her, god forbid. To this day, I am convinced something was wrong with him.
The Parking Lot Pervert
When I was about 12, a friend of mine and I had walked over to the neighbourhood convenience store. On our way out we walked past this car parked almost directly in front of the store. There were like 3 guys standing around the passenger door and one guy sitting in the passenger seat, all of whom I estimate to have been between the ages of 17 and 21. When we got about 20 feet away we heard this creepy, seductive “Hey girls” and we turned around and saw that the guy sitting had pulled out his dick and had it in his hand. I was young and innocent and didn’t even know what it was at first, until both my friend and I figured it out and turned around to quickly walk around the corner. We had both burst in to laughter, not fully aware of what had just happened. But looking back on it now, it was a case of grown men exposing themselves to 12-year-old girls… possibly even soliciting sex from a minor. The more I think about these things, the more I wish I was mature enough to know what to do about it.
The Older Online Boyfriend
When I was 15 I had connected with this guy on ICQ who claimed to be 20 and living in Toronto. He had sent me pictures of himself, which honestly resembled the types of photos you’d see inside a picture frame you’re about to buy… except all of his looked like the same person. He claimed to be half Thai, half causasian. I thought he was really hot, so we talked every day to the point where we were referring to each other as boyfriend/girlfriend. He actually sent me hand-written letters in the mail on fancy letter paper that he’d spray with cologne (because I was stupid enough to give him my address) with pictures and stickers, etc. Then in the summer of 1999 I was traveling to Edmonton to visit my sister and I’d told him that I’d be at the airport at such and such a time, hoping he’d come to see me. My parents were totally unaware of any of this.
After I arrived in Edmonton and was on my sister’s computer, he advised me that he had supposedly gone to the airport to find me. Then he sent me a letter to my sister’s address, which I still have (with the photo he sent me) and I just took a look at it and realized he didn’t put a return address on it. So my guess is that he was up to no good and didn’t want to get caught. When you don’t put a return address, there’s usually a reason. And lo and behold, if I try to google his name now, I can’t find him. So he could have been using an alias to lure young girls… or maybe he was just a creep praying on young girls who got arrested.
There have been other guys I talked to online who were over the age of consent when I was under it, who I naively developed feelings for. They’d talk to me on the phone, or we’d have lengthy chat conversations… none of which were ever sexual, but in retrospect I find it odd that anybody above the age of 18 would want to talk to a 14 or 15-year-old girl that frequently, unless they were a family friend or related to them. And kids at that age don’t see the problem with this; they don’t understand how wrong it is, especially if they enjoy the attention and are in a rush to grow up. But as anyone who’s ever watched To Catch a Predator can see, they are caught in droves. It’s pretty disturbing how frequently this happens, and how much the perpetrators seem to be fearless of consequence or blatantly unaffected by the risk this behaviour carries.
There were also plenty of times that I got messages from men in Egypt or Kuwait who wanted to talk over the microphone and would start asking me sexual questions. This happened right in front of my parents once, and obviously my dad shut that down right away.
None of these instances were definitive cases of soliciting a minor or pedophilia, but you can still see they were odd and seemingly ill-intentioned. You can also see how easily it happens. As far as the internet is concerned, all it takes is for a minor to be alone with a computer or wireless device that can transmit data, for this kind of thing to happen. I won’t mention names, but someone in my family was posting pictures of herself posing in revealing clothing and her parents didn’t do nearly enough to stop it. She was eliciting sexual conversations this way, because she was looking for male attention… but she was also provoking a negative reaction, which made her extremely defensive. She just didn’t get it, because boundaries weren’t enforced. Her parents didn’t monitor her enough and gave her too much freedom and too much trust when she repeatedly proved to be incapable of honouring it, and that easily could have ended badly. And as you can see, it can happen anywhere in person, to anyone.
Keep your kids safe, no matter how much they whine or cry. It’s becoming more dangerous out there every day and there are deviant people everywhere.