Dr. van Dam has provided workshops in primary prevention techniques. These techniques educate professionals and community members, from all over the world, to know how prevent sex offenders from accessing children. Video materials are an essential component of the training. Participants report finding the training both riveting and successful.

Below is an outline of the workshop, which can be crafted to meet the needs of both professionals or the general public.

Stopping Child Molesters in Their Tracks
Carla van Dam, PhD

If protecting children from being sexually abused were easy, the problem would not persist. The reason so many children continue to be molested, anywhere from 25% to 33% of the population, is because society remains completely baffled by the topic. When children do report being abused, any evidence is typically invisible and the few clues that do surface seem too incredible to believe. Doing anything about child sexual abuse seems too difficult, making it easier to do nothing, thereby putting more children at risk.

Child sexual abuse can be greatly reduced, but this requires methods beyond routine personnel screening practices and/or putting children in charge of their own safety by teaching children to say “No” to predators. Individuals and organizations must be able to respond in four important ways:

1. Accept that known and respected adults molest children: Child molesters are often known, liked, and respected individuals. People unable to consider this reality inadvertently invite molesters into their homes or organizations, who then “groom” and molest victims with little risk of exposure.

2. Learn to identify the behavior patterns of skilled child molesters: Molesters are extremely skilled, but their behavior is also predictable. They tend to be unbelievably helpful in order to gain access to families, or to organizations that serve children. They often blur personal boundaries in many ways that can include engaging in tickling and roughhousing games with children. They use such activities to screen those individuals and organizations that tolerate these behaviors as being more likely to provide a safe haven.

3. Intervene when the rules are disregarded: Individuals within families or organizations must be willing to intervene. Skilled molesters ingratiate themselves, seeming to be above reproach, and often become aggressively defensive when challenged. They typically leave a trail of evidence with people who have dealt with them in the past, a “slime trail” that is invisible only because each concern or situation is kept secret. Molesters tend to disappear from families or organizations where boundary violations are not tolerated, and where secrecy is not encouraged, as such environments are not safe for them

4. Inoculate the family / organization. Child sexual abuse flourishes in secrecy and isolation. The best antidote is open communication. Adults who experience concerns must do something, which helps break the cycle of secrecy and isolation. Adults must work together to manage these issues. Working together, managing boundaries, and talking about the topic sends the message that child sexual abuse will not be kept secret or tolerated.

Setting and maintaining clear boundaries is never wrong. Doing this also sets the example to children about maintaining clear boundaries, saying “No,” and telling a trusted adult.

Those whose motives are suspect will find this intolerable, and will not waste their precious “grooming” time where they cannot gain unimpeded access to children. They will go where access to children is easier / safer. Knowing this should encourage adults that coordinated actions can protect children in their care.