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Now-arrested teacher masterfully groomed his sex abuse victims

On behalf of Soloff & Zervanos, P.C. Posted in Sexual Abuse on Thursday, October 2, 2014.

We have written many times in past posts about the act of “grooming.” This is what child sex abusers do to gain their victims’ trust, break down boundaries and eventually keep victims from reporting the abuse. It takes patience, skill and the ability to be highly manipulative.

Victim grooming is how many child sex abusers are able to continue abusing victims even while holding a high-profile position in the community. An especially troubling example is a high school teacher recently arrested in New York City. He has been accused of preying on at least seven female students over the course of three years.

According to the New York Times, the 44-year-old former pilot became a teacher at one of New York’s elite public high schools in 2009. The giant building with more than 250 teachers and more than 5,400 students was an ideal place for him to gain the trust of certain students while avoiding being noticed by other faculty members.

In the wake of his arrest, students have described the man as the consummate “cool teacher.” He talked like students and discussed things they cared about. He smoked alongside the smokers and even provided students with cigarettes.

He paid extra attention to his female victims and provided them with other “forbidden” gifts, including alcohol. According to one law enforcement official, he also chose his victims carefully. The official said: “I think he focused on ones who were insecure, and liked to get special attention.”

What is especially telling in this case is that this alleged predator has managed to groom his other students as well as his victims. Some students have even come forward to offer to speak on the teacher’s behalf. The best they can apparently offer, however, is that “they would be surprised if he would ever do anything aggressive.”

This kind of disbelief is common in cases involving master manipulators. It is why they are so effective. Some individuals may observe behavior that doesn’t seem quite right, but they won’t say anything because the person otherwise seems so likable. And victims may be afraid to say anything because they fear that no one else will believe them.

Sooner or later, predators like this man almost always get caught. But how many victims they hurt before getting caught depends on the actions of those who notice the warning signs. In cases like this, it is always better to say something and be wrong than to stay silent and be proven right.

Source: The New York Times, “Brooklyn Tech Teacher Was Known as Cool Friend, Until His Arrest,” Kim Barker and Tate Taylor, Oct. 1, 2014