How paedophiles catch their prey
A paedophile, who trawled void decks and playgrounds for victims for 13 years, was recently jailed for molesting kids. We speak to counsellors about how to protect kids from such predators
When you see a fin cutting through the waves, you know a predator is looking for a victim.
But unlike sharks, human predators are not as easy to spot.
This is how one tried to ensnare Kate (name changed to protect her identity), who is 12 years old.
She, like her peers, cannot do without social media. And social media draws predators like moths to flames. Sure enough, Kate met a "friend", who claimed to be her age.
But then this "friend" kept sending her pornographic content.
Fortunately, her parents discovered it in time,which could have prevented something more serious from happening, said her counsellor.
Ms Frances Yeo, psychologist at Thomson Medical Centre, treated Kate.
She said although Kate had communicated with the stranger, she had been wise enough not to reveal her identity.
While children these days seem more savvy, counsellors The New Paper spoke to said children are still vulnerable to strangers.
Here are their tactics:
THEY OFFER THINGS THAT CHILDREN WANT
Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for Youth Services at the Singapore Children's Society, said: "Some children - those who spend time alone or who are (on) the streets alone - are possible targets for strangers.
"Especially if they can offer items that these children want".
Tahir Hassan, 49, was sentenced to 11½ years of jail and 15 strokes of the cane recently after pleading guilty to four counts of outrage of modesty.
The married supermarket sorter and packer, who had been trawling playgrounds and void decks for 13 years, knew how to entice victims.
He had entered the home of two children by offering them light sticks.
On other occasions, he sold children perfume, massage lotion, or lured them with promises of boosting their eyesight and intelligence.
Psychologist Daniel Koh of Insights Mind Centre said children's mental development also comes into play.
He said: "At their age, children look at what's in front of them, like sweets, or someone being nice to them.
"They could be distracted by such offerings, and may not realise what is being done to them."
THEY PSYCHOLOGICALLY GROOM CHILDREN
Psychologist Frances Yeo, said: "These kids (who spend time alone) are more likely to want to be liked. And the predators will use psychological grooming tactics to develop a relationship before abusing them.
"Psychological grooming (features) deliberate, intentional tactics that offenders use to select and engage their victims, such as using gifts, acts of services to develop a close relationship with the child.
"Once the offenders have developed a relationship with the child, they will also groom them not to tell anyone about the abuse, sometimes even using fear to stop them from telling others."
THEY PRETEND TO BE HARMLESS
Predators also portray themselves as being harmless.
Parenting specialist Sarah Chua from Focus on the Family Singapore said: "Young children often think that dangerous people look scary like in cartoons. This is not true and parents need to address that."
Mr Koh agreed: "Child abuse can also be carried out by professional-looking people, thus making it harder for children to assess who is who."
This is where parents come in, said Dr Balhetchet.
She said: "Parents, or rather, caring guardians, need to be vigilant and from time to time check on their children, especially when they are alone at home.
"Parental love is all about caring and maintaining the connections, not about control."
Beyond checking, children should also be taught to look out for specific behaviour.
Mr Koh said: "Teach them to be wary of unknown people asking who is at home, randomly giving or asking for things, or coming closer to the door."
- A 23-year-old man had sex with a 14-year-old girl he had met in October 2014, and was jailed for 10 months last November.
He had been in a shelter at Changi Beach with his dad, when he invited her to join him.
While sending her off, he suggested going into a handicapped toilet, where they had sex and he sodomised her.
- A 66-year-old man was jailed for 21 months in 2014 for performing lewd acts on a special-needs girl in 2012.
He had posed as a teacher while chatting with her at the bus stop and brought her to a secluded staircase to abuse her.
He had previously molested three other boys, aged between 11 and 17, from 1985 to 1995.
- A 47-year-old man was jailed nine months in 2014 for molesting a minor the year before.
She was playing outside her father's shop when he attacked her.
- A 21-year-old man was given a two-year probation in 2011 for sexually assaulting a girl who had completed her Primary School Leaving Examination in 2009.
He told her to trust him like an elder brother, but then groomed her to posed for naked photos and made her perform sex acts on him.
ADVICE FOR PARENTS
- Check on your children from time to time
- Home should be secured
- Teach children boundaries when encountering a stranger: Do not open the door to strangers, do not talk to them without any trusted adults around, do not accept their offers
- Coach children to recognise suspicious behaviour, such as strangers asking who is at home, asking to keep a secret from their parents, giving or asking for things
- Play out what-if scenarios such as "What if a stranger says mum told him to fetch you from school?" Prep your child how to say no to anyone who makes them uncomfortable, how to call for help and how to make a quick getaway when in danger
- Educate children about not communicating with strangers on the Internet
- Teach children the world is still a caring place, but there are a handful of people who may take advantage of them
Madam Salamat, 46, has had to leave her two daughters, 21 and 16, and 11-year-old son alone at home as she works as a full-time administrative executive.
But she equipped them with handy tips to ensure their safety.
Madam Salamat said: "I taught my children not to trust anyone other than their family members.
"As they grew up, I slowly enforced the dos and don'ts, like not opening the door to strangers, and not following them to secluded areas, and what strangers can do to harm them."
A businessman and father of four children, aged between 21 to 31, Mr Mark Chan, 62, said his wife resigned to look after their children as they were afraid their kids would go astray without their supervision.
He said: "Although we became a single-income family, we didn't want to give strangers a chance to meet them alone.
"When their mother is out, or our children are outside, we call them.
"We bought them phones as early as primary school because we thought it was very important to reach them at any time."