Profile of a Pedophile

Published January 1, 2000

“If sexually abusive educators had tails and horns, matters would be simplified greatly. The fact is, however, they often are well-liked by students and colleagues.”

Unfortunately, there’s nothing about the characteristics of a typical pedophile or serial child sex abuser that would set off alarms for parents or administrators:

  • Usually an adult male
  • Often appears to be hard-working and family-oriented
  • Tends to be better educated and more religious that the average person
  • Tends to be well-liked by parents and children; a pedophile teacher is often one of the most popular teachers in school

Here’s how pedophiles generally target their victims and allay suspicion:

  • They actively seek children who are quiet, needy, or have problems at home
  • They also lavish attention on children they don’t abuse, to build a sense of trust by parents and other students
  • They find ways to be alone with children; for instance, music teachers or coaches often are in a position to give individual attention to students. In one case, a pedophile teacher volunteered to direct the school’s computer center, because the door was always locked to prevent theft
  • They usually accomplish molestation by gradual seduction, not coercion

Warning signs for parents:

  • Child suddenly doesn’t want to go to school
  • Change in child’s behavior or academic performance at school
  • Abrupt mood changes, or aggressive behavior
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Child has unexplained new toys, clothes, or money
  • Exhibits age-inappropriate sexual behavior or language
  • Loss of appetite
  • Child has nightmares or can’t sleep

Sources: Dr. W. Richard Fossey, associate dean of the college of education at Louisiana State University; Craig Emanuel, investigator with the Arizona Department of Education Sources; Child Abuse and Neglect, a book by Roland C. Summit; and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette series, “Dirty Secrets,” by Jane Elizabeth Zemel and Steve Twedt.