Child Predators: The Victims

Don't Let it Happen to You
Dr. Phil talks to victims of a child predator. Find out how to protect your child.

When Kevin was 10 years old, he met David Hernandez, who was working as a camp counselor. Because he had grown up without his father in his life, Kevin appreciated the male attention. But when that attention turned into molestation, Kevin began to feel terrible. When David was arrested for child molestation, Kevin testified against him. He says, "I find it hard to believe that David Hernandez isn't in prison for life. I think it's possible he could get out and do it again."

Many child molesters use a "grooming process" to prepare their victims. Kevin says David used his role as a father figure to groom him. "I had no role model in my life. From the day I met him, he just stepped right in and was the greatest guy in the world to me," Kevin explains. "It was a euphoria that I hadn't felt before, having someone to look up to, someone that really cared about me, and had an interest in what I was doing every single day. Being fondled by him just tore my heart out."

Predators often step in to fill a hole in a family. In Kevin's case, his mother only had a little time to spend with him after work, and she wanted to find a male role model for her son. "My mother had no idea," Kevin says. "She was constantly looking for a big brother or a father figure for me, and she thought she had found that in David."

Parents need to be on the lookout for predators who try to attach themselves to a family. Kevin offers the following advice: "Don't let somebody step into your family to fill a role. You need to be the person that fills that hole in the family. If your son or daughter does not have a male or female role model, you need to go out and find one. If someone solicits your family to fill that role, you have to ask yourself, why would they do that?"

Kevin knows that there are hundreds of scared children, just like he used to be, who are victims of predators. He wants them to know, "It's nothing to be ashamed of. You can't be ashamed of someone else's actions." He continues, "It's something you'd never want to tell your mother or your father, but you need to tell somebody, and you need to tell the police."

Jessyca was in the 4th grade when a neighbor began sexually molesting her. For three years she was too terrified to tell anyone. Then, when she was 13, her neighbor kidnapped her and held her captive for more than three months, sexually abusing her every single day. Now 20, Jessyca still experiences flashbacks and has trouble trusting people, especially men.

"It was very terrifying because every day was something new or something else hurt," she says. "It was really hard because I didn't know if I would be coming home alive or not. I was very lucky that I got back home."

Her mother, Monica, never gave up hope. "We decided when she was first missing, that he wasn't going to win, and that she wasn't his to take. She was ours and she needed to come back home."

Through three years of sexual abuse, Jessyca never told anyone what was happening to her. "I didn't say anything because I feared for my life," she explains. "I was never taught about sexual abuse or sexual assault, so for me it was just a normal thing when it was done every day. And he threatened to kill my brothers or my parents, so I was afraid to say anything to anybody."

Looking back, Monica says that she now sees how Jessyca's abductor groomed their family. "It's shocking," she said, "because I would deem myself as a very protective mother, and it [still] happened to our family. He befriended our family. My husband was away a lot for work, so there was a void there, and he also had a son that was my daughter's age."

Monica and Jessyca want to alert parents to the warning signs of predators so that they can protect their children. "[They take] a very unusual interest in your child," Monica explains. "They want to be around your child all the time, and they want to take them to the movies and do all sorts of fun things. They offer things like rides to school and things like that to help parents out. They do it very slowly, they're very charming, and they're very kind."