Oprah On Protecting Your Children From Child Molesters | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN

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If you can suspend your judgment and repulsion for just one hour, you have an opportunity today to have some breakthrough revelations. You're about to witness a no-holds-barred conversation that I had with four convicted sex offenders. It's really the most candid and open discussion I've ever had with child molesters. And what they told me is definitely going to help you protect your children. So there are really four things that I want you to take away from this show. First, at least 90% of child molesters are people you know. They are not strangers lurking in the bushes, waiting to steal your children. We're talking about family friends, uncles, fathers, brothers, neighbors. And that means less than 10% of molesters are the strangers who are abducting kids that you see on the news, less than 10%. Second, molesters seek out and seduce vulnerable, needy kids. And then they gain their trust. It's all very calculated, and it's all very deliberate. Because without trust, as you're going to hear them say over and over today, the sexual abuse is not possible. Trust is the number 1 factor that they need to succeed. Third, the abuser is so conniving, and they manipulate their victims. So in most cases, the molestation actually feels good. That confuses the child into blaming themselves, when it's never the victim's fault. And fourth, what should you be looking for? You're going to hear, in these molesters' own words, what they believe every parent needs to know to stop it. So watch and listen carefully because this is a group session with four molesters, their therapist Dawn Horwitz-Person, and me. Well, thank you. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. I really come with-- I can't say no judgment. But I come with an open mind, not to judge you but to try to understand. And to try to understand so that we can help other people understand so that your words will not be in vain. That's the wish and prayer that I have for this session with us today. OK? So the other victims, your other victims, did you know them? Yes. OPRAH: You knew all your victims? Yes. So everybody here knew all their victims? And that, I think, is such an important part. And that is part of the educational part that we really wanted to get across is, you know, that whole stranger danger myth. Mhm, some guys are hiding in the bushes, but 90% are not. At least 90% are not. They're able to molest and rape and abuse their victims because they have a relationship, because they know them, because they can set them up. Because there's trust. BOTH: Because there's trust. And because there's trust. WINFREY: And how old was she, and how old were you? DAVID: I was 12 or 13, and she was nine or ten. DAVID: By this time, you'd convinced yourself she wants it. DAVID: I had myself so convinced that I'm having fantasies of us running away somewhere where we could live as man and wife, where no one would know we were related. WINFREY: Would you say you cared for this person? DAVID: Yeah. WINFREY: Would you say you loved her? DAVID: Absolutely. WINFREY: What do you think you did to her when you think about it? Have you thought about it? DAVID: I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. WINFREY: And what do you think you did to her? DAVID: I killed who she could've been. Basically, I murdered a person, and just because she's still alive today and walking around and breathing and even because she's just starting to make a better person of herself --getting back in school, getting her life on track --that doesn't take away anything from what I've done. WINFREY: Have you had contact with your victim since she told? DAVID: Yes. Yes. A few years ago, I was contacted by her therapist. WINFREY: What has she said to you? DAVID: She told me she forgave me, and I have a real problem with that because I don't think it's forgivable. WINFREY: When I heard David say that he killed who she could've been, that was one of the most powerful things I've ever heard anyone, particularly a sex offender, say because that is the absolute truth. When a child is abused, it changes who they are. It kills their spirit. Today, we're going inside the minds of child molesters. Recently, I had a rare opportunity to sit down with four men, all convicted sex offenders, who are willing to talk openly about why they do what they do. I know what they have to say will help you parents protect your children. And I promise, if you can just withhold your judgment and really listen to what they have to say, there is really priceless information that can keep America's children safer. So tell me why you would agree to do this interview today. Why did you want to do this? I would like to tell the people of the world, the parents, the guardians on a few things that they should be watching out for. When the person is paying more attention to the child than being with the adults-- they go to a party. But there's children there. And he spends more time with the children than he does with the adults at the party. Red flag. LEE: Red flag, definitely red flag.

How were you able to groom this five-year-old girl? She relied on me quite a bit instead of her parents. And-- - She called you grandpa. - Yes. How were you able to groom this five-year-old girl? She relied on me quite a bit instead of her parents. And-- - She called you grandpa. - Yes. You were a friend of the family? Yes, yes, she grew to trust me. And I took advantage of that trust. How are you able to make that OK in your mind? Because this is a five-year-old, a five-year-old. I thought she liked it. I found out later that it hurt her, just touching her hurt her. But what if she did like it? Because if you're doing your job well-- I always say this, having been abused, that if an abuser is doing his job well-- you've never experienced sex before. This is your first sexual encounter. They're doing their job well. It's bound to feel good. And so what if it feels good sexually? Does that make it OK? At that time, I needed-- I needed attention myself. But a five-year-old is going to give you the attention that you as a 65-year-old-- Yes. --man need? LEE: Yes, ma'am. Really? LEE: Yes. Yeah. Tell me, Darren, why you want to do this, why you want to expose yourself this way. If I could stop what's happened to my daughter to happen to another daughter out there, and to prevent another father who's romancing some kind of ideas, like I had in my head, about molesting his daughter, maybe to stop it before it happens. If I can save one child from being molested-- What do you say to that father right now? Because we're reaching millions of people all over the world. I would-- OPRAH: Unquestionably-- Yeah. OPRAH: --some who are watching, many who are watching, no doubt, are harboring fantasies about their daughters or stepdaughters or somebody in the family. What do you want to say to that person? If you're romancing those ideas, if you're having fantasies about young children, your daughters, anything like that going on in your head, go get help. It doesn't go away. It's deep-seeded issues that cause it. And they need to be all worked out. And trying to do it by yourself is not going to work. So why are you doing this, David? Even if I could impress upon one set of parents, just be better parents. What does that mean? Well, I was able to molest my victim because she was severely neglected. I was the only one there in her world who would listen to her, who would validate her. And that gave me such power over her. And children are always looking for love. DAWN: Yeah. And sometimes, I would say about myself-- because you all know I was molested, right? Raped at 9, and then molested for many years at 10 and 12 and 13, 14 years old by members of my family and family friend. But to hear you say that is affirming for me because I was also one of those little girls who looked up to my uncle, looked up to my cousin, looked up to the family friend and was manipulated. But for years, didn't know that I was manipulated and, you know, blamed myself for it, held myself accountable for it. Do you understand the damage that you have done? I don't think I'm capable of understanding the damage that I've done. Just by looking at the effects I've had on her life, I know that there's been a huge amount of damage. But I'm not-- Can you talk about that a bit? Because the thing that has frustrated me over the years in trying to get parents to understand that first, it's about seduction. It's about grooming and seducing your target. Am I correct? Mhm. It's about grooming and seducing. And you choose your targets. So I think it would be really valuable for parents to understand how they're chosen. You've talked a little bit about that, David. You look for the child that's neglected. You look for the child that's needy. You look for the child that isn't getting a lot of attention, which was the case with your victim. What else do you see in their eyes that lets you know that you can get away with it? Because nobody's choosing any child. I say this to all my girls at school. Nobody's choosing any child, who has the confidence and the self-esteem-- - Absolutely, yeah. - --and is going to-- - That will tell, will scream. That they think is going to tell. Nobody's choosing anybody that they think is going to tell. Am I correct? - Right. All right, so what is it that you see in that child that allows you to believe you can get away with it? I see anger in there, anger against their parents, retaliation against the parents. I see trust for them towards me. Because I think what we need to clear here is that you couldn't victimize unless there was trust. DAWN: Right. OPRAH: That's the thing that people don't understand. It only happens this way when there is trust. Right? You couldn't-- you couldn't do it unless there was trust. WINFREY: This is one of the most important lessons I want you to take away from this show. Child molesters charm their victims into trusting them, and they can often do that because they're close family friends or relatives, and many of them really truly do not believe that they're doing any harm because they don't think that they're causing pain. Their goal is to bring sexual pleasure to the child so the child can them bring sexual pleasure to them, and that is why it is so hard for you to save your child. It's a calculated dance of seduction. Listen carefully. WINFREY: Let's talk about the grooming process, because I think I was 42 years old before I recognized that I'd been groomed. So I think if we can save one person out there who has been molested and is still blaming themselves or who doesn't understand that you guys are pretty conniving, manipulative, and actually smart in your seduction abilities, so how were you able to seduce? How did it start? DARREN: Giving back rubs and foot rubs and, you know, get them used to physically being touched, and it kind of creates a bond. WINFREY: Getting them used to your hands being on them. DARREN: Exactly. WINFREY: And then trusting that so that by the time you reach for a breast or you reach for the genital or whatever... DARREN: Absolutely. WINFREY: ...it's easier. You're shaking your head because? DAVID: Because that's very much how I initiate my grooming process, is I would listen to her, and then I would listen to her with my hand on her shoulder, and then we would cuddle on the couch together, and then priming her for me to be physically intimate with her. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. Very much like a couple on a first or second date, is it not? Ms. HOWITZ-PERSON: Right. WINFREY: Darren, what do you want to say? DARREN: I knew it was wrong, but I justified it in my own mind by saying it was a special thing between us, and I wasn't hurting her. WINFREY: We've heard people say, even publicly, I would never harm a child. You thought you weren't harming her. DARREN: No. WINFREY: You thought you were doing, what, bringing her physical pleasure, is what you said? DARREN: Physical pleasure. WINFREY: And you thought the same thing, Lee? LEE: Basically the same thing. I truly believed I was bringing her physical pleasure. WINFREY: Mm-hmm, and that because it was physical pleasure, that made it okay. I'm saying at the time, you thought that. LEE: Yeah. Yeah, because she was pleasing me and I was pleasing her. WINFREY: You didn't think that you were a disgusting old man? You didn't think that? Seriously, Lee, you didn't think at the time, "I'm a disgusting old man." LEE: After it got started, yes. After I started it, to me, it was just too late to stop. WINFREY: Why was it too late to stop? LEE: Like I said, I thought she enjoyed it, so I would make her happy, and I would do things to her, and... WINFREY: What kinds of things? LEE: What? Fondle her. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. Touch her? LEE: Touch her. Yeah. Fondle. Yeah. WINFREY: So, if I were to ask all of you, none of you thought that you were causing harm at the time. LEE: Not at the time. WINFREY: So, if you've been carrying the guilt, the shame, which is the true horror of thinking that you are to blame for your own abuse simply because it felt good, that is exactly what they wanted you to feel so that you wouldn't tell. It is not your fault.

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