Angeline Stanislaus, a forensic psychiatrist in St. Louis who's interviewed and assessed hundreds of sex offenders, says those who prey upon children choose occupations and avocations that provide access to them.
"It may be a school, a church, on the streets where kids come to play basketball," Stanislaus says. "They have hobbies or jobs that involve some kind of contact with children. Scout leaders. They spend weekends volunteering in the YMCA, teaching swimming."
It's common, she says, to find them helping with athletics, teaching kids techniques. "It gives them a chance to hold the kids in their arms," she says. "Then there's the locker room scenario. The kids undress, and [adults] normalize it to be with them when they undress."
They also "groom" their victims by paying special attention to them, even giving gifts to gain trust by making them feel special.
Or, sometimes they select troublemakers. "They're vulnerable kids, from broken homes, poor families who get in trouble a lot," Stanislaus says. Not only does a troublemaking child have little credibility if he or she reports being molested, the offender has easy blackmail material to keep the child in compliance.
"He says, 'If you report that, I will report that you're underage drinking or smoking pot,'" she says.
Offenders who target children also cultivate relationships with adults who surround children, Stanislaus says, "so they'll allow or give more permission for access to these kids, so they can get away with it. That's why they end up not being arrested for so long."