My Conversation with a Convicted Pedophile
And the characteristics I saw that helped explain a predator’s mentality
Trigger Warning: this article contains discussions of sexual predators and sexual manipulation that may not be suitable for all readers. Fearless community, please read with care.
People like to tell me things. They tell me their life stories, they divulge secrets to me, they admit their fears. It’s great when I’m interviewing someone for a story, but it can turn on me. I don’t want to hear about someone’s personal pain because I take it on despite myself.
Stories about a crime committed also make me nervous and wonder if I should call the police.
But there’s one conversation I hate more than all the rest: the unsolicited defense of the self.
This isn’t unique to me. It happens to everyone. We run into someone with an ego inflated to dangerous proportions who cannot shut up about him or herself. These are the worst people on Earth, the toxins we all want to purge. But, they persist.
One night, I found myself at dinner with an uninvited guest, we’ll call him X, and found myself cornered by one of these I-think-I’m-amazing-even-though-I’m-garbage conversations with no escape.
X and I met through my weekly writer MeetUp for bilingual authors. He joined, hoping for help with his self-published romance novels. I knew something was up any time he asked for feedback on a page or two.
He got all the usual notes — the dialogue needed to be more natural or the female characters were so horny they read like cartoon characters. X met our guidance with eye rolls and grimaces. He applied none of our notes, and soon after, he stopped writing.
His lack of open-mindedness made me wonder — what was he doing in our group?
The nature of our get-togethers was to foster constructive criticism and push ourselves. He hated every second, yet he kept showing up.
One night, after the meeting, I walked down to one of my favorite spots for vegan tacos and he unexpectedly invited himself along. I shrugged and thought, “Well, maybe I can get a bead on this guy.”
X didn’t want to talk about writing. He wanted to talk about the VERY young step-daughter who he fell in love with during his second marriage.
He launched into the topic with no segue. I can’t even remember how he started, but I remember his insistence we talk about this terrible thing. My jaw fell open as he said, “You should know about this. I want everyone in my life to know. Especially women.”
Then he launched into a lengthy description of his second union, which fell apart when his spouse got a terrible case of depression.
When they married, her two daughters were little, the oldest was maybe ten and a happy kid. As his wife descended deeper into depression, the kids got used to being on their own and one of them, we’ll call her Y, hit puberty.
Here’s how he told the story
“I would come home and here was this young woman greeting me at the door. She never wore a bra when she opened the door to me and she’d give me a big hug. I watched her transform into this stunning beauty right before my eyes. She wanted to spend all her time with me. It was amazing.”
Here’s what I heard:
“My step-daughter had no one to take her bra shopping, and I decided that was not my problem. Her mom wasn’t giving her enough attention, but she found that when she threw herself into my arms, she got plenty.
I could have spoken to her like a dad and explained that she needed to find a friend her own age, but I was lonely. So, I capitalized on her loneliness and let her attention make me feel manly again.”
It’s not over.
He described how his wife “pulled away,” and spoke to him less every day. “And this beautiful young girl wanted to lie in bed with me all the time. What was I supposed to say?”
Here’s what I heard:
“My wife got depressed and I pulled away. I could have taken her to the gym, gone with her to therapy, or walked with her every day, but I didn’t.
My stepdaughter started inviting herself into my bed. She wanted me to hold her. It was inappropriate, but I decided to not say anything to her. I buried the part of me that knew how this would all play out.”
You probably guessed by now that X crossed a line with his daughter. X confessed the whole affair to his minister at church, and who then reported X to the police. The law locked him up for several years and then released him so he could be monitored as a parolee.
None of that surprised me. What shocked me, and what I keep replaying on a loop in my mind, is his view of himself. He looks in the mirror and sees an innocent man.
This despite the fact that he admits to all the bad choices he made. According to him, a 13-year-old outwitted him and trapped him in an elaborate plan to ruin his life.
What shocked me, and what I keep replaying on a loop in my mind, is his view of himself.
How could a sexual predator who entered a romantic relationship with his stepdaughter, blame the kid?
The reason is simple. Sex offenders see themselves as the unicorns of the world. In their minds, they’re smarter than everyone and they’re untouchable. Ironically, that mentality gives all of them the same personality traits.
A closer look
The Center for Hope and Safety has a mini guide of predator characteristics to help explain a predator’s mentality. X’s belief that his daughter was a conniving villain and the cause of all of X’s problems falls under Blaming.
“The sexual offender shifts responsibility for his actions from himself to others, a shift that allows him to blame the other person for “causing” his behavior. For example, “She was acting provocatively.”
Once in a while, I run into X and he always hits me with a torrent of personal stories. He mentions his “girlfriend, who is almost 18,” and describes his many drug trips and club exploits with his older, biological daughter.
These kinds of conversations are Self-Glorification.
From the Center — “The sexual offender usually thinks of himself as strong, superior, independent, self-sufficient, and very masculine. His idea of the ideal man often is the cowboy or the adventurer type. Any action or perceived attitude of another person who does not conform to his glorified self-image is a putdown.”
The night X told me his sordid tale, blamed the victim and waited for my reaction, my terror left me frozen. I didn’t know what to say.
I’m sure he waited to see who I would blame, him or Y, (him). Maybe he expected to impress me. It was my first time confronting someone who saw sexual manipulation in an innocent light and I had no means of diffusing the situation.
What I wish I had known
First, we need to keep in mind how sexual predators see themselves when a victim comes forward and accuses them. We should expect them to fly into a rage as the truth destroys their internal fantasies. How can you accuse me of anything? I’m so great! These rages are evidence of a dangerous mindset, not proof of innocence.
When we meet someone new that gives us that feeling of “ick” in our stomach, we should ask ourselves — is this someone who can’t shut up about themselves? Do they always look a little disinterested when another person gets the spotlight? Can this person recognize when he/she/they have made a mistake, or is everything someone else’s fault?
If you or someone else notices these behaviors, say something. Mention that these are the tropes of sexual predators and they all follow the same patterns.
I wish I’d known not to put up with it. If you hear a predator defend his or her actions, say something or walk away. Don’t listen and nod. Don’t normalize any of this. Listen to the victim and keep the sex offender mentality in mind. Remember, X believed a 13-year-old child knew enough about grown men to seduce one of them.
That’s a much crazier thing to say than, “my stepfather is sleeping with me.”
Let’s not forget the victim
One piece of X’s story that stood out to me was after he got out of prison and tried living a normal life. As we paid the bill and gathered our stuff, he told me about Y tracking him down.
“I was in a coffee shop with my oldest daughter, helping her with homework when Y showed up and started screaming at me. She was crazy!”
That’s how he told it. I noted how X didn’t register any of Y’s “crazy” words or phrases. To him, it was meaningless noise. And that chilled me. Here was this poor kid who thought she was in love with her stepdad when in reality, she loved an idea.
She must have yearned for a stable home and a parent who would support her.
This girl wanted a parent to keep her safe and make her feel loved and appreciated. When her physical appearance and her actions brought that fantasy closer, so close she could almost touch it, she kept her stepdad’s attention however she could.
It’s easy to imagine how she felt when she drove to that coffee shop with so much rage and hate in her heart, ready to let her jerk dad have it. If she’d only known who she was dealing with — a man so divorced from reality, he couldn’t hear what she wanted him to know.
That this was his doing, and she’d never recover.
Originally published on medium.