Many of us would like to believe that sexual abusers are identifiable by how they look. They are not. Sexual abusers look like nice people. Yet there are things that distinguish abusers from those who do not abuse children. Research comparing child molesters to nonmolesters has shown us that molesters tend to have poorer social skills, lower IQs, unhappy family histories, lower self-esteem, and less happiness in their lives (Finkelhor et al., 1990; Hunter et al., 2003; Langevin et al., 1988; Milner & Robertson, 1990). The majority of abusers are heterosexual males (Valente, 2005). As surprising as it may seem, many abusers have strict religious codes yet still violate sexual norms. In one study, for example, an incest offender who had been having sexual interactions with his daughter for 7 years was asked why he had not had vaginal intercourse with her. He replied: “I only had anal sex with her because I wanted her to be a virgin” (Dwyer & Amberson, 1989, p. 112).

Denying responsibility for the offense and claiming they were in a trancelike state is also common. The majority of offenders are also very good at manipulation, which they develop to prevent discovery by others. One man told his 13-year-old victim, “I’m sorry this had to happen to you, but you’re just too beautiful,” demonstrating the typical abuser’s trait of blaming the victim for the abuse (Vanderbilt, 1992, p. 3). Ironically, those who abuse children also often report disdain for other sex offenders (Dwyer & Amberson, 1989).