by Anna Salter
Basic Books, 2003
Review by Jack R. Anderson, M.D. on Dec 10th 2004
The pages of this book are fraught with
red flags and sounding alarm bells. Salter wants us all to wake up and do
something about the sexual predators who live, undetected, among us, and wreak
physical and emotional damage upon defenseless women and innocent children with
their secret and deceptive agendas for satisfying their perverse sexual
The author has impressive credentials for
writing such a book: a Harvard Ph.D. in psychology; more than two decades
researching the subject; lecturing in more than forty states and in ten
countries; giving keynote addresses at national conferences in four of these
countries; and receiving, in 1997, the Significant Achievement Award of the
Association of the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, an award given to only one
person in the world every year.
This book can be roughly divided into three parts: beginning; middle; and
end. The Introduction and Chapter 1, "The Problem," constitute the
beginning; Chapters 2, "Deception," 3, "Techniques of
Deception," 4. "Child Molesters", 5, "Rapists," 6
"Sadists," 7, "Psychopaths: Fooling People for the Thrill of
It," and 8. "Staff Seductions," make up the middle portion; and
Chapters 9, "Rose-Colored Glasses and Trauma," 10, "Detecting
Deception," and 11, "Protecting Our Children and Ourselves:
Deflecting Sex Offenders," are included in the ending.
In the book's beginning--the introduction
and first chapter--the author tries to dispel the erroneous belief that sexual
offenders are all monsters who differ so much in their appearance and behavior
from "normal" people that they can be easily recognized. Instead of
sneaking into a house in the middle of the night, they are more apt to "…come
through the front door in the middle of the day, as friends and neighbors, as
Boy Scout leaders, priests, principals, teachers, doctors, and coaches."
She also gives statistics to help us
readers understand the scope--the enormity--of the problem. Research beginning
in 1929 documented sexual abuse of female children as being from 24 to 37
percent, and of male children between 27 to 30 percent. A modern study found
that two hundred and thirty-two child molesters admitted attempting more than
55,000 molestations, 38,000 of which were successful, involving more than
17,000 victims. In a larger sample of five hundred and sixty-one offenders
involving all kinds of sex offenses--exhibitionism, voyeurism and adult rape as
well as child molestation--they admitted to more than 291,000 sexual offenses
and more than 195,000 victims.
Even more astounding than the number of
sexual offenders, offenses and victims is the report that most of the offenses
had never been detected by the authorities. "Crime pays, it seems,"
writes Salter, " and sexual crime pays particularly well."
The seven chapters in the middle section
of the book are filled with reports given to the author by different kinds of
sex offenders. Many of these offenders had been committing offenses for years
and decades before finally being identified. They had been able to continue
their molesting, raping and other sex offenses for so long because what Salter
sees as most people's trusting nature. Even mental health professionals were
frequently taken in by the sex-offenders proficiency at deception.
The author believes that the various
psychoanalysts who hypothesize that child victims of molestation unconsciously
lure the molesters because of their own repressed sexual desires, are
themselves part of the problem rather than the solution.
Salter gives an extreme example of how
easy it is for sex-offenders to deceive people. A correctional officer and his
wife made friends with a convicted child molester during his term in prison,
and invited him to live with them after his release, despite the fact that they
had a nine-year-old daughter. They were so taken with this offender that they
initiated adoption proceedings after he had lived with them a few months. The
offender molested their daughter the entire time he lived with them , and when
this was discovered he was again convicted and re-incarcerated. Despite this
development, the officer and his wife were still so attached to the prisoner
that they continued to visit him in prison.
Throughout this middle section of her
book, Salter emphasizes the two principal reasons for the astounding number of
undetected sexual offenses: the offenders' unbelievable deceptive skills and
the gullibility of the general public.
At the very beginning of the final
section of her book, Chapter 9, Salter compares her own view of the world with
that of one of her friends. Her friend voices her belief that "there is
good in everyone." Salter believes that this point of view is not only
naïve--it is also dangerous. She writes: " The most optimistic viewpoints
on the world can be shown to make us healthier and happier, but
can--unchecked--make us vulnerable to predators as well." She further
contrasts her own viewpoint with the "rose-colored" one of her friend
by saying: "She would reason with an intruder. I would shoot him."
In Chapter 10, "Detecting
Deception," Salter points out that there is no such thing as a checklist
that we can use to spot predators. She advises that the first step we must take
to recognize sexual offenders is to become aware of our own biases--our
"positive illusions" that cloud our judgment by making us believe
that we live in a much kindlier and gentler world than is really the case.
Once we manage to convince ourselves that
there really are sexual predators all around us, looking for circumstances that
offer opportunities for rape or molestation, we are ready to learn the
tell-tale signs of lies and other forms of deception. Salter, who gives
training sessions on detection of deception, tells us that most people believe
that gaze aversion and fidgeting are reliable signs of lying. Not so. These are
only signs of nervousness, and many sexual offenders are such practiced liars
that they feel no nervousness at all while prevaricating. The author gives us a
long list of different kinds of body language that are indicative of
deception--the kinds of "tells" that gamblers look for to recognize
when an opponent is bluffing. However, at the end of the chapter she gives us a
caveat : "We should not put all our eggs into the basket of detecting
deception; we should consider deflection instead."
In the final chapter, Salter suggests
that, since the detection of sexual predators is so difficult, "…we must
pay attention to ways of deflecting
any potential offenders from getting access to us or to our children." She
goes on to give us some common sense suggestions as to how to do this. For
example, if we accompany our children to school and church events, our very
presence is a deterrent to attempts at molestation. We can avoid high-risk
situations--for example, don't leave our children unattended with men who
involve themselves in youth activities although they have no children of their
own or children of that age.
The last paragraph of the book reads:
"If I do my job right, my children's lives will be filled with so many
opportunities and interests, they will not even notice what they're missing.
The only one who will notice is that friendly, smiling, affable man with a secret
life, the one at the sock hop, the one who's waiting for an opportunity that
will never come."
All of us who have children--particularly
if we also have grandchildren--owe Salter a debt of gratitude for writing this
book. If we read it carefully and follow her advice, there will be a noticeable
decline in the incidence of sex offenses and the devastating effects these
offenses have on their victims.
© 2004 Jack R. Anderson
Jack R. Anderson,
M.D. is a retired psychiatrist living in Lincoln, Nebraska.