'Be aware of the stages of sexual grooming': How to spot a child predator

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Deon Wigget: How to spot a child predator
Deon Wigget: How to spot a child predator

In late 2019, Deon Wiggett’s series of sensational podcasts My Only Story shook South Africa, as he shared his trauma and revealed the identity of the man who raped him as a schoolboy.

The second season of the investigative podcast, which covers former St Andrew's College teacher David Mackenzie and his alleged abuse victims, is no exception. 

Wiggett is a full time writer, but also works as an activist who helps men to heal by bringing their rapists to justice.  

As he worked to find, and expose, his abuser he devised a model that anyone can use to identify paedophiles in their midst.

"It’s nice to pretend that men don’t rape children, but once you know what to look for, it becomes surprisingly easy to spot them. Once you match a universal pattern with a specific man’s profile, what once was hidden becomes obvious," he says. 

Parent24 spoke to Wigget to learn some of his tips that parents and teachers can use at home and in the classroom, to protect their children from potential predators.

This is what we learned:

What should parents or teachers look out for? 

First, it is important to remember that men who want to have sex with children never stop thinking of ways to get close to children. Whenever anybody gets close to your children, don’t default to the notion that they are probably trustworthy.

Our default position should be extreme vigilance. Paedophiles are not like us.

If someone is a sports coach, teacher, scout master or whatever, we must scrutinise what that adult gets from being around children. Always question their motives. Look at their behaviour.

Be aware of the stages of sexual grooming – this is a pattern and something all paedophiles do to turn themselves into a child’s hero. Children need heroes, but we must be super vigilant when someone actively tries to become a child’s hero – giving the child gifts, showering them with affirmation, taking them on outings alone, that kind of thing.

This is not normal.

In the process, they groom the parents too so that they trust the person with their child.  

What should kids look out for?  

Children need to be taught to be wary of any grown up taking a sudden or above-ordinary interest in them. They must be taught that if a grown up starts developing a 1 on 1 relationship with them, they should tell their parents about it. 

Additionally, children must know to be extremely careful of being lured into sharing seemingly innocent secrets with a grown-up. This is so often the trap.  

The moment you hear "you must not tell your parents about this" – this should be a red flag.  

There is no substitute for solid caring guidance and support from parents or guardians. They must not allow kids to develop inappropriate relationships with other adults.   

When is a red flag more than just a flag, and how trustworthy is that 'gut feeling'?  

Always listen to your gut. We get taught not to, but your gut is always right.

Our bodies and brains pick up things that our conscious mind thinks are irrational or unreasonable.

If somebody gives you the creeps, keep your children away. You don’t need a reason not to want a certain adult next to your child.   

What action should a parent or teachers schools take to protect their children?  

There is a brutal lack of interest in sexual abuse from the SA Council of Educators. And schools don’t research potential teachers thoroughly enough.

Why did they leave their previous school? What about the school before then? This is important.  

Our regulations and laws need to be stronger to protect children.

In New Zealand, for instance, it is against the law for any supervising adult to be alone with someone else’s child. We need stronger protection like this.

This is a matter of policy – we do not need money to make this happen.   

What should happen if the suspect is a close family member or trusted adult? 

It is a crime not to report sexual offences against children to the police. If it is found later that you knew, you are an accomplice. You could go to jail for not reporting this. 

Paedophiles do not deserve protection; children do.

If you suspect someone is a paedophile, first make sure your children are far away from him, and then take a look at the other children that are around him.

It is not enough to keep just our own children safe; we need to keep everyone's children safe. It takes a village to keep children safe.

We have to speak up, or these men will carry on till the day they die. Paedophilia is a life-long compulsion.

My Only Story

Deon Wiggett’s debut book "My Only Story" is now available in stores and online, and contains more useful information such as how to identify paedophiles, how to pick up signs of grooming and more. 


Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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