How you can spot a child predator and prevent sex crimes

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Their names grab the headlines. In just weeks, one after the other, accused child predators have been pushed into the spotlight as dozens of alleged victims step forward.

Among the accused are a former football coach, principal and camp counselor. On Tuesday, a school janitor was added to the list. With more victims reporting abuse, it raises the question, is it possible to spot a child predator?

A Summerville woman whose husband allegedly abused their daughter and step daughter spoke out Tuesday night.

"I have a lot of guilt that I didn't see it, that I didn't protect them," the woman said.

It's a parent's worst nightmare and a reality for this Summerville woman. Her two daughters say they were sexually abused by a man she was married to for years, something she says she never saw coming.

"He was good at hiding it," she said. "He always did it when I wasn't home."

It wasn't until 10 years after the alleged abuse that her oldest daughter stepped forward, Her younger sister soon followed.

"I feel real proud of them that they came forward," Their mother said. "I hope this is going to help them. It's going to help anyone that comes forward."

The mother says she had no idea her children were being abused under her own roof. It raises the question; can you spot a predator before they have a chance to ruin lives?

"They're not the creepy guy in the park that everyone would expect to see or crazy," says Cindy McElhinney with Darkness to Light. "They're normal and they go out of their way to fit in."

McElhinney says predators can't be spotted with the naked eye. She says they will seek multiple avenues to be near children. And once they've found those avenues, she says they may overstep the line of physical contact.

"They blur the boundaries of touching such as tickling and roughhousing, brushing up against them," McElhinney said.

Pedophiles will isolate certain kids and begin grooming them according to McElhinney.

"Giving them gifts, other give them special attention or privileges," she said.

The number one thing you can do to protect your child is to go with your gut.

"Adults may not say anything because they're scared we're not right, but it's our obligation if we see something to say something," McElhinney said.

Victim's advocates say many abusers were actually victims of abuse themselves. Right now there is no statute of limitations in South Carolina, meaning it doesn't matter how long ago a child was abused, it can still be reported to authorities.

Abusers tend to prey on younger children who are more likely to not report abuse. Advocates encourage parents to talk to their children about what's appropriate and what isn't and to never allow one on one time between their children and adults.

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