Sheriff's detectives said child molester Nicholas Rocha didn't have to go far to find his victim: he just had to turn to his girlfriend. Detectives said Rocha sexually molested his girlfriend's 8-year-old daughter over a period of nearly two-and-a-half years before getting caught.
The Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault says 80 percent of child molesters are known and trusted by the victim's family. And in many cases, such as ones involving single moms, they are brought straight into the home and allowed easy access to the victim.
"The unfortunate thing is this behavior is typical of predators," said Alliance Against Family Violence Director Louis Gill.
Alliance said 60 to 65 percent of single moms who come through their doors have children who have been assaulted by the mother's boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. The center says child molesters will prey on single moms who are struggling with balancing parenthood, work and trying to find a father for their kids.
"They're able to identify the woman's needs, need for job security, emotional attachment and baby-sit the kids," said crisis counselor Raye Bugnosen.
The key for predators is finding a woman distracted with work or finding work. "They're trying to get basic needs, food clothing shelter and so the attention of the child is what goes away first," said Bugnosen. That's when the perpetrator will swoop in. "They'll befriend moms that have daughters or children of an age their interested. Then they'll set out making them comfortable, making sure their defenses are dropped and then they'll hurt people," said Gill.
"They prey on women who don't have a strong support system," said Bugnosen. "The problem is people just don't know that it's usually someone you trust," said Gill.
The center has these tips for single moms: check the Megan's Law website and law enforcement for any violent criminal history the person you are dating may have.
Also pay close attention to your children's reaction. They can be your biggest warning sign. "Pay attention closely to your children's behavior, any type of change in behavior. If they act more withdrawn than usual, then you need to look at what's going on," said Bugnosen.
And keep an open daily communication with your children. "Ask them 'How's your day going?' Even a simple 'What was your day like today?' can clue a parent in on a child's psyche," said Bugnosen.
Most importantly, use your best judgment and go with your instincts. If you feel something is wrong chances are you're right.
If you have any questions about sexual assault, you can contact the alliance hot line 24 hours a day at 327-1091.
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