Thursday, May 10, 2012

...But He Was So Nice!

Paul Gibson seemed to be nice enough. Slight, with reddish hair and beard, a fair complexion and pale blue eyes, he was a trusted member of the Parkdale community. Everybody knew what a fine fellow Paul was. He was the guy who could always be counted upon to help out at the food bank –  the friendly one who took such a kind interest in the kids.

In 2008, a grandmother, who visited the bank for Christmas presents, particularly appreciated Paul’s friendliness. Life was tough for her, looking after her two grandsons aged four and seven. She had taught the children to be polite and they were nice little boys – but she wasn’t as young as she used to be. Paul seemed to understand her needs. It was nice to have someone who obviously cared. By summer, he was baby sitting the boys whenever she had to do errands or  shop. Outings to the CNE and Centre Island became easier because Paul was there to help.

Strangely though, life became more difficult. The happy, outgoing boys weren’t as nice anymore. The seven-year-old was becoming an angry, belligerent child who was no longer doing well in school. He started wetting his bed again and would wake up at night screaming. One day, he kicked Paul in the groin and swore at him. The grandmother was horrified! She had taught him never to speak like that or say those words. When challenged, the boy simply said he “was mad.” Who could have known that the boys had been warned that their family members would be killed if they told about what “the nice man” was doing to them?

Eventually, one of the boys told his parents about the abuse they suffered whenever their grandmother went out. The parents ambushed Paul the next time he went to baby sit and he was charged. Thankfully, he was convicted in February of sexually violating the two boys. He now awaits the results of a psychiatric assessment and could be declared a dangerous offender, a designation which carries an indefinite sentence.

My point to this whole story is understanding what was going on in Paul Gibson’s head when he so ‘generously’ volunteered at the food bank, ‘befriended’ the harried grandmother and her two grandsons and so ‘kindly’ spent his time ‘helping’ her with the boys and ‘making life easier’ for her.

It’s called, “grooming.” Behind Paul’s gentle smile and friendly offers of assistance, were dark thoughts of the perverted things he was going to be able to do to those little boys as soon as he could get them alone. Grooming is a carefully planned strategy for gaining the trust of both the children and the parents or caregivers. It requires the planned establishment of a legitimate connection to the child that will allow for the process of time the “grooming” takes. Teaching, bus driving, sports coaching, camp counseling and volunteering to help with children’s activities all offer opportunities to be alone with children with no adult supervision. In order to protect our kids, we have to understand and be on the lookout for “groomers.”

One characteristic shared by all child molesters is that they are finely tuned manipulators and they recognize their adeptness at manipulating people to achieve their own ends.

In her book, The Manipulative Man, Dorothy McCoy referred to the ICD-10 (the mental health manual used in Europe) in listing the following characteristics to watch for in classifying someone as a manipulator:

  • Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
  • Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules and obligations
  • Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them
  • Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence
  • Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment
  • Marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for the behavior that has brought the patient into conflict with society.
While these are guidelines for identification, not every manipulator will exhibit all of the characteristics and those who do, will do so in greater and lesser degrees.

Manipulative men hide in plain sight. They hide their true selves from everyone.

Child molesters hide in the hope that their victims will be too ashamed to tell the awful secret.

Paul Gibson did not have any history of police involvement in his life. He would have passed a police check with flying colours.

Not all nice men and women are nice men and women. We have to get savvy for our kids.

1. McCoy, D. (2006). The Manipulative Man, Adams Media, Avon, Mass. p.9.

© Diane Roblin-Lee - May 10/12

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