On Tuesday, March 12, Bus Driver Sammy Lee Mays, 45, was arrested and charged with two counts of solicitation of a child for a sexual act. For a record of the charges, see the following link. http://www4.co.hennepin.mn.us/webbooking/chargedetail.asp?v_booknum=2013006505
According to the criminal complaint, Mays targeted a young girl who was on his route to Anwatin school. Pedophiles and other sexual predators engage in an activity called "grooming." Grooming is basically the stage where predators "test the waters" by seeing how a proposed victim reacts to the predator, thereby assessing the proposed victim's weaknesses or propensity to be exploited. Mays' form of grooming was to make it obvious that he was staring at the girl in his rear-view mirror while he was driving, (to see how she would respond,) and to give her gifts of cash.
At first the girl thought that Mays was doing this for many of the kids, but she soon realized that she was being singled out. Mays then escalated to the point where he gave her a note, and asked her to read it at a later point. In the note, Mays detailed that he wanted the girl to be a "friend with benefits." He said that he wanted to find a virgin with whom he could have sex because he was concerned about contracting the AIDS virus. He also listed the things that he would do for her if she agreed, including taking her for trips to the Mall of America, and giving her more gifts. He called her an "African Queen."
Pedophiles are always a terrifying thought for parents, but especially so when we realize that this person is employed in an area where we would think our kids would be protected. We should be able to expect that the other adults who are in charge are conducting background checks on these employees, however this is by no means a solution to the problem because there are obviously many pedophiles out in the world who don't have criminal charges on file simply because they have not been caught yet. (It is worth noting that in the above case, Mays was not an employee of the Minneapolis Public Schools but rather a sub-contractor who provided transportation services. As soon as this company learned of the charges against Mays, he was fired.)
So how do we begin to know who might be a danger to our children? Experts offer parents a few tips of things to look for-
One- Parents should be aware of any behavioral changes that their child is exhibiting. If someone is grooming your child as a potential victim, (or, has already victimized your child,) your might display a sudden fear or dislike of going to the place where this predator is located. If Johnny or Jane suddenly announces that they no longer want to go to school, the park, or their friend's house, there might be something going on.
Two-As previously mentioned, pedophiles and predators groom their chosen victims. Ask questions if Johnny or Jane starts coming home with new clothes, jewelry or extra cash.
Three- Parents of victims often say that they did not expect any untoward behavior from the perpetrator because he was such a nice guy, such an upstanding citizen, so religious, etc. Be aware of a situation that is too good to be true. For example, yes, you might have a kind neighbor who has offered to take care of your child in an emergency, but you would probably be suspicious if the neighbor had weekly pizza parties and sleepovers with kids from the neighborhood.
Four- In another effort at grooming, predators will often look for the kid who doesn't fit into the larger group. If you've ever watched a nature program on television, you have probably seen the hunter animal who tries to find the weakest animal from the herd, and targets that one as his victim. There is a similar motive by the human predator, who searches out for the kid who may be shy, awkward or in some way different from the other kids. The belief on the behalf of the predator is that this kid has no social system and therefore will not tell anyone that the crime has occurred. (Mays targeted a girl who had a hearing impairment- luckily, he was wrong about her place in the social system and the courageous girl immediately reported the crime to her family, who in turn reported it to the police.)
This brings us to one last, and perhaps most important tip for avoiding pedophiles- Keep all lines of communication open! Many victims of sexual assault, (both adults and children,) believe that they were somehow to blame for the act. They may feel that they were stupid for ever accepting a gift from someone, or that in some other way they "asked for it." Sexual predators are well aware of this, and will often get children to break their parents rules in order to blackmail the kids into remaining silent about the ensuing crime. If parents give children the opportunity to admit their transgressions in a safe environment, they foster self-esteem and help the child grow into a strong autonomous adult. One of the lessons taught by the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center is that "In the case of sexual abuse/ assault, it is NEVER, EVER, EVER YOUR FAULT!"
For more information about the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, see the following link. http://www.jwrc.org/
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