Why I’m Not Taking the Advice of an “Expert” on Child Molesting

A comment on my post, “Of Peanuts and Pedophiles,” included a link to a Salon story on child sexual abuse. Voila: http://tinyurl.com/cc2qys bithsndtbt

It’s a disturbing piece, by a guy who worked for a year in a treatment center for juveniles who have raped and molested other kids. Hearing their histories gave him a, “peek inside a dark world I never wanted to see.” A peek so disturbing, he wrote, that he never even hired a babysitter after that. “The risk wasn’t worth the reward of a night on the town or attending an event for my own enjoyment.” From his (tortured) perspective, he couldn’t trust anyone – even a 13-year-old girl in pigtails- not to be a sexual sadist.

The young molesters he was dealing with not only raped repeatedly, they were arsonists.  And, no surprise, they’d all been molested when they were younger, too. You just can’t t get sadder or more upsetting than that, which is why I must reject the man’s advice:

 “Don’t trust your children with anyone. .. Trust no one. No babysitter. No friend of your child’s. No adult. No kid. No one.”

Look, I doubt I’d be able to trust anyone, either, if I worked all day in a prison filled with rapists. That was pretty much the writer’s experience. In working with incredibly troubled youth – kudos to him – his outlook got seriously skewed. If you ate dinner every night, year after year, with Hannibal Lechter, chances are you would beg us, in desperate tones, “For the love of God, NEVER order the filet!”

Personally, we’d understand where you were coming from. We’d even appreciate – a little, I guess – learning about the darkness most of us never confront.

But then we’d have to discount your counsel, because your experience is so far removed from everyday life. What you think of as “common,” isn’t.  Most kids are not rapists. (And, for the record, most grown-ups are not cannibals.)

Naturally, many people who read the Salon piece will see it as confirmation of their worst fears. They will clutch their children even closer, because it fits right in with the stories we see on the news and on the crime shows about the worst of the worst. This steady diet of doom is warping our view of the world just as working with mini rapist/arsonists warped the author’s. It can get to the point where his advice sounds like just good ol’ common sense: Where your kids are concerned, trust no one.

“I hope it will make parents PRUDENT not paranoid,” he wrote.

But if we trust no babysitter, no teacher, no play date, ever, the only thing left is for us to watch our children 24 hours a day. Literally. Never let them out of our sight.

That’s not childhood, that’s lockdown.

For the kids who committed no crime at all.     

— Lenore

P.S. By the way, people who trust no one, ever, ARE paranoid. Not prudent.


43 Responses to Why I’m Not Taking the Advice of an “Expert” on Child Molesting

  1. Stephanie @ Faithful Follower of Christ April 6, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    I agree! Not only is it prison for the kids, but fear in itself is it’s own prison for the parents. Irrational fear is an enemy.

  2. Jeff Fecke April 6, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    And of course, in keeping our children locked in a protective bubble forever, we don’t let them learn anything. I’m all for being sane in who one leaves their children with, but I’m also in favor of letting my daughter experience life. Yes, my daughter could run into a child molester, just as I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Neither is a reason to barricade ourselves in our rooms.

  3. Carol April 6, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    When my son was 7 I dropped him off at the Opera, where he was appearing in a production of Turandot. I had a 2 year old, and no way was I going to sit in a drafty backstage for two to three hours watching. My mother freaked out, saying “he could get molested!”

    I explained to her that anyone that molested children and joined the opera choir to do so would have a very long wait indeed.

    It was a wonderful experience for him – he was treated with respect, and as a fellow professional.

  4. Robin April 6, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    I was raped as a child, and it wasn’t by a stranger. It wasn’t by a babysitter, or a friend’s father, or a teacher. It was by the people I was supposed to be able to trust the most: immediate family. While I certainly won’t let my children have any contact with the people who hurt me, am I supposed to bar them from ever being with any family member, just because some people are capable of hurting their own children?

    No. What my experience taught me was the importance of raising strong, confident kids who know that they can say no to an adult. Kids who feel like they have autonomy over their own bodies. Kids who are neither so starved for attention nor so conditioned to want to please that they ignore their own internal alarms. Kids who know that Mom and Dad will love them no matter what and will take their side against any other adult who tries to hurt or confuse them.

  5. ebohlman April 6, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    I think you’ve put your finger on a major source of today’s paranoid parenting advice: the media voices that tell us what we can expect from our children are increasingly those of counsellors or therapists who work with seriously troubled kids. It used to be that we heard from “country doctors” or, later on, child-development researchers. While they probably weren’t perfect devotees of the scientific method, at least they had the advantage of working with a representative cross-section of kids. Nowadays, we listen to the people who deal with the unusually vulnerable or the unusually vicious. It moves lots of boxes of Tide, but it gives us a kaleidoscopic view of childhood.

    Professionals who deal with troubled kids are almost without exception sincere and conscientious, but that’s not good enough. A few days ago, we remembered the assassination 41 years ago of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who once wrote that the two most dangerous things in the world were sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. He was right.

  6. Stuart April 6, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    The majority of child abuse of all kinds is perpetrated by family members or extended family – stranger danger is largely a myth (primarily perpetuated by the poor outcomes of such cases – basically, if your kid gets snatched off the street they’re dead). It’s one thing to shield your child from babysitters, it’s quite another to shield them from your spouse, your siblings, their siblings and cousins, their grandparents, and the list goes on.

    What is so wrong with due diligence? If you make all reasonable efforts to ensure your children’s safety, then what else are you supposed to do short of locking the kid in the basement lest they encounter another human being?

    It’s a poor approach to addressing the issue – if you really believe that the world is filled with paedophiles you’d be better off teaching the kids how to shoot and give them a 9mm.

    Yes, there are plenty of nasty people in the world, but they are a small fraction of it. Hiding away is as stupid as never going to the beach because there are sharks in the ocean.

  7. Catherine April 6, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

    As others have said, the other point to make on this is that most child abuse is commited by family members not people outside the family.

    This is so true:

    “That’s not childhood, that’s lockdown.

    For the kids who committed no crime at all”.

  8. Rob C April 6, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    I would rather put a pillow over my children’s faces while they sleep than bring them up like that man suggests.

  9. Liz April 6, 2009 at 6:58 pm #

    This reminds me of an incredibly frustrating conversation I had about men working in childcare. The opposing viewpoint was basically, “I would never leave my child to be cared for by a man, because there is only one reason a man would want to be a daycare or preschool teacher (or even an elementary school teacher): because he’s a pedophile.” Also, the implication or stated avowal that “My child’s safety comes first.” At least these maddening people were only writing off half the population as child rapists!

  10. knutty knitter April 6, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    We were in lockdown at boarding school. It wasn’t good. Those that had been there the longest were the least able to deal with the outside world. They were the ones who got into trouble because they never had freedom to learn. I was only there for a year and that was bad enough. I understood the necessity of being there but I never got used to it.

    Our kids are free range just as we were.

    viv in nz

  11. Stuart April 6, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    @Liz – this is merely a symptom of the larger trend of denigrating the role of men in raising children. Men are supposed to be so inept and disinterested in spending time with children (and only grudgingly with their own) that if that assumption were to be true, the idea of only paedophiles wishing to work with children would be equally so.

    The idea of men being incapable of traditionally pink collar professions is about as fair and reasonable as saying women can’t be doctors, lawyers, or scientists. In short, that way of thinking is both sexist and stupid.

    And once again, the idea that only men are child abusers is way off the mark – the idea that no men in childcare equals no abuse is laughable on statistical strength alone.

  12. ebohlman April 6, 2009 at 7:37 pm #


    The majority of child abuse of all kinds is perpetrated by family members or extended family – stranger danger is largely a myth (primarily perpetuated by the poor outcomes of such cases – basically, if your kid gets snatched off the street they’re dead).

    Not even that. Stranger abuse gets reported more than family abuse because it’s almost impossible to report on family abuse without revealing the identity of the victim, which reporters (quite properly) won’t do. As I understand it, the FBI would consider a year in which 10 kids sexually abused by strangers were killed to be an exceptionally horrible year. The average is something like 5 (still too many, but remember that we’re talking about something like one in five million).

    Liz: the anti-male attitudes you’re talking about come from a late 70’s-early 80’s version of academic feminism (i.e. professors who had to either publish or perish; coming up with “radical” or “shocking” ideas was a good way to get published) that was quite dominated by lesbian separatist ideology (contemporary feminism, academic or not, is no longer so doctrinaire and hasn’t been for quite some time). Unfortunately, there’s a tendency for the academic fads of yesterday to emerge, diluted, into the mainstream journalism of today.

  13. Katie April 6, 2009 at 8:34 pm #

    While I agree that we can be overly cautious, I also think that you have maybe been a little too flip on this one. For once, you haven’t haven’t included statistics to back up your point.

    The statistics on this topic are frightening.

    One in three girls will be molested at some point in their childhood. Boys fare a bit better at one in five.

    For most of these kids, it won’t be the repeated, severe abuse that the author of the Salon article encountered. Much of it is done by other children, which makes it easy for some people to discount.

    As someone who was molested by another (older) child when I was very young, let me tell you–it doesn’t take a rape to severely effect a person’s life.

    I’m not saying that we should never hire babysitters or let our children play with the kids down the street. But we SHOULD make sure that we know the people we give our kids access to very well, and we should talk to them about what is and isn’t appropriate.

    And we shouldn’t scoff at the idea that it could happen to one of our kids because the babysitter didn’t light any fires while we were away.

  14. Uly April 6, 2009 at 9:30 pm #

    “primarily perpetuated by the poor outcomes of such cases – basically, if your kid gets snatched off the street they’re dead”

    That’s not even true, either. Most children abducted by strangers get back alive, and many of them come back physically unharmed… though I won’t deny that the psychological damage, even without rape, must be immense.

    “The statistics on this topic are frightening.

    One in three girls will be molested at some point in their childhood. Boys fare a bit better at one in five.”

    By whom? Largely, by their parents. The vast majority of molesters target their own children, and the majority of those who *don’t* still target family members – grandchildren, nieces, that sort of thing.

    I also would suspect that children molested by other children is something that happens more in foster care or institutional care (group homes, psych wards, boarding schools and the like) than in family situations like those described by the article. Why? Because there’s not enough oversight, and too many kids for too few families, most of whom (one can only hope, given that they’ve been taken away from their own families) have a higher chance of having issues than other children.

  15. Katie April 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm #

    No, Uly, not just by family members. Kids are much more likely to be molested by people they *know*–that includes babysitters, family, friends of the family…People get confused and assume that “not strangers” means “inside the home.” It CAN mean that, but it is by no means limited to just family.

    And, no, it is not just foster care or institutions. In my case (in a very stable family life), it was a family friend from church–who also had a very stable family life. But that kid had been molested by another kid, who had also been molested by another kid…It is a cycle that perpetuates. And too many people don’t take it seriously enough.

  16. Uly April 7, 2009 at 12:22 am #

    I never said it was *just* by family members. Does nobody have reading comprehension anymore?

    I said that the MAJORITY are done by family members – which is an easily verifiable fact.

    Again, I didn’t say that it was *only* foster care or institutions, which would be an absurd comment to make, especially combined with the “primarily family members” comment. I said – and I stand by this until I see some statistics disproving it – that I think that those numbers skew the percentages significantly.

    Please do not take my statements and then rewrite them to say things I never actually said.

  17. Nicola April 7, 2009 at 2:29 am #

    Oh no flames on here! We get enough of all that everywhere else on the web.

    Amen, Lenore. I also looked into this piece and didn’t even bother to finish once the guy announced his profession. It doesn’t take much to put two and two together – but it’s shameful how many people don’t.

    Kudos for the post!

  18. Tracy April 7, 2009 at 2:51 am #

    That’s not a Salon story. It’s a blog post at Open Salon. Salon doesn’t edit or endorse or otherwise vouch for any of the entries posted there, so calling it “a Salon story” isn’t really accurate.

  19. BMS April 7, 2009 at 3:04 am #

    A. Freaking. Men.

  20. Rob C April 7, 2009 at 3:34 am #

    – The opposing viewpoint was basically, “I would never leave my child to be cared for by a man, because there is only one reason a man would want to be a daycare or preschool teacher (or even an elementary school teacher): because he’s a pedophile.” –

    Really? That’s funny, because I worked in early childhood care for a couple of years, and at a high school for a couple of years after that (dealing mostly with the younger age groups – they’d be considered middle school aged in America, but we don’t have middle school here in Australia), and somehow I managed to defy my unnatural male lusts and keep my hands out of the children’s pants.

    I certainly took extra care than a female staff member probably would have felt necessary; I made sure to NEVER be alone behind a closed door with a child, for one. From the feedback I got my my childcare work, most of the parents were delighted that there was actually a man working in the field, and anyone who might have thought otherwise at least had the decency to keep their filthy suspicions to themselves.

  21. Karen April 7, 2009 at 3:43 am #

    How is it even possible to go through life without trusting anyone? And why only apply that way of life to your kids? Every person that you meet could be out to rob, rape or kill you. I believe in trusting people unless you have a reason not to, but also not being blind to any signs that a person shouldn’t be trusted. If my kids ever told me that someone messed with them, I would believe them, and they know it. I wouldn’t care if it was my parents, my best friend, the pastor of our church or anyone else who I would otherwise trust.

    And by the way, I am hugely suspicious of that “one in three girls are molested” stat. Doesn’t anyone think that seems a tad inflated – perhaps to include teenage girls who had unwelcome grabs by their boyfriends?

  22. Rob C April 7, 2009 at 3:46 am #

    I’d certainly like to see the definition of ‘molested’ that is being used by the people who develop these statistics before I accept them at face value.

  23. cd April 7, 2009 at 4:42 am #

    That’s not a Salon story. It’s a blog post at Open Salon. Salon doesn’t edit or endorse or otherwise vouch for any of the entries posted there, so calling it “a Salon story” isn’t really accurate.

    That’s somewhat true, but this was the top featured link in the “Open Salon” section on Salon’s homepage for the last few days, so they did endorse it to some extent.

  24. Uly April 7, 2009 at 4:47 am #

    Actually, Rob, while you have a point, that’s the one part of this that I have no quibble with. A quick survey of my friends generally reveals numbers that mirror those officially given, with stories that run the gamut from sad to outright terrifying.

  25. Kimberly April 7, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    I was sexually bullied (threats vivid threats but no sexual contact) by a classmate from Kinder – 5th grade. My uncles recognized some of the symptoms during the summer between the 4th and 5th grade. During the 5th grade, my parents got a lawyer and threatened criminal and civil action against the bully’s family and the school district. It stopped that day.

    They also got me help dealing with what happened.

    My fellow teachers and I are more informed and better trained than the teachers I had as a child. We take student complaints of inappropriate contact between students very seriously. If I don’t think a student understand what they are saying (picked up phrase from TV or older sibling) I will talk to the parents first.

    One time the word rape was being used as an insult by 5th graders. It started on a Friday. I contacted the parents of the boys involved and gave them an opportunity to handle the situation and explain the meaning in a way appropriate for their child. They did – I had a group of very contrite little boys Monday morning. They sincerely apologized to their classmates. (Their parents required the public apology not me)

    Sadly no-one got my bully help. He ended up in prison for rape.

  26. Katie April 7, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    Sadly, Rob, that goes to the heart of why so many molestation cases are not reported. When I tried talking about it as a kid, I was told that what happened didn’t really count as molestation (of course, I hadn’t shared the extent of what had happened and shut down as soon as I wasn’t believed). It is an uncomfortable subject so people tend to try and minimize a lot of things. The statistic, though, are talking about molestation–not just “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” kid stuff.

    I did some searching on additional statistics:

    1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18.
    1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
    1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the internet.
    30-40% of victims are abused by a family member.
    Another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.
    Approximately 40% are abused by older or larger children whom they know.
    Therefore, only 10% are abused by strangers.
    Over 30% of victims never disclose the experience to ANYONE.

    I took these statistic from http://www.darkness2light.org/KnowAbout/statistics_2.asp but you can find them consistently throughout other places if you search (my original statistics were based on Department of Job and Family Services research). The statistics on the number of boys and girls is actually a little better than I had originally said (based on the classes I took on sexual abuse about seven years ago), so there appears to have been some progress. But, if you notice, there is a greater percentage of abuse by known people from outside of the family than inside. And a very high percentage by other children, as I said before.

    Again, I’m not saying that I agree with the assessment that we should trust no one like was apparently suggested in the Salon piece. I’m just saying that we tend to minimize the problem and don’t give it nearly the attention that it should have. This is one case where I think that caution is definitely advisable (but neurosis is not).

  27. Rob C April 7, 2009 at 11:13 am #


    Thanks for the extra information. I certainly wasn’t trying to downplay or dismiss the problem, although I can see how I might have come across that way.

  28. AmyAnne April 7, 2009 at 11:17 am #

    That poor man. He has locked himself inside a horrible perception of the world. I will not let fear rule my perception of my child’s world.

    In response to men in childcare:
    At the same time we see posters up reminding Dad’s to “be a parent” we are judging men who try to enter into the childcare industry. Our children need to have the opportunity to engage in healthy relationships with men outside of their family, just as they do with women.
    During college my husband and I both worked in summer camps and after school childcare. His plan at the time was to become a teacher. Sadly, the judgment and overall treatment he received from parents steered him away from that career choice. Absolutely ridiculous.

  29. AmyAnne April 7, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    Oh, and thanks for the statistics Katie.

  30. esther April 7, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    I noted you put the word “expert” in quotes, as if he isn’t really an expert. But of course he is. He is an expert on severely disturbed people. Not on raising kids.

    His expertise is useful for dealing with those disturbed cases, but not for dealing with normal cases. The normal case being that you want your child to have some skill in choosing when to trust people and when not to trust them. And how else are they going to be able to get that skill than by trusting some people and finding what happens?

  31. Will April 7, 2009 at 9:53 pm #

    “Kids are much more likely to be molested by people they *know*” — which is a great argument that kids should be raised by people they don’t know.

    “criminal and civil action” . . . And why didn’t you just bloody the little twits nose?

    I too am curious the definition of ‘abused’ or ‘molested’ – what does that encompass? Slap on the ass? Guy staring at a 16 yo girls chest?

    It’s interesting – in most of the comments here the people are looking for reasons to continue to be afraid, to continue to find reasons to not trust, to live their lives and their kids lives in constant paranoia.

    I think I’ll just be reading the articles and leave the comments in the cesspool.

  32. Lola April 7, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    Now, these posts are soooo disturbing… I almost wonder if I had a normal childhood, because I was never solicited, molested, assaulted, abused or anything. Yet I was very aware of those possibilities ever since I had some intuition about sex, even before I was taught all about it by my parents.
    Now a thing comes to mind… When I was about 14 or so, going home on the crowded subway, a sweaty, disturbing man stuck too close to me and began to make strange movements. Of course, I deduced what he was up to, so my reaction was to say in a too-loud-voice if something was wrong, would he mind taking a step backwards, please. Everyone stared at me (surprisingly, not him), so then I knew I was safe. When I came home, I told my parents about it. They were as disgusted as I was. But my mum answered that yes, there were that kind of people around and HER mother taught her to carry a safety pin on herself (I bet it was originally a hat pin) to stick it whenever an unwelcome stranger stood too close to her.
    So, times haven´t changed that much after all, have they?

    And about prevention, I wonder if Massai people keep their children barred in a safe hut, for fear of a lion attack? If I were Massai, I would make my children aware of lions as soon as possible, so they could keep their distance…

  33. Marvin Merton April 7, 2009 at 11:14 pm #


    Could you cite the sources of research, with references to the methodology used, for the statistics you cite? Thanks.

    This quote matches my general experience in trying to find data that is truly useful on this matter:

    “Researchers find it difficult to estimate how many children experience CSA. Among the challenges in data gathering: Surveys show that only a fraction of cases – 30 percent or fewer – are ever reported to authorities; states use different definitions of CSA; and states may assign CSA cases to their criminal systems, so they may not be counted in child welfare data.”

    That is from: http://www.journalismcenter.org/jcommunity/articles/childsexualabuse.htm#stats

    Anyway, I have yet to see a valid study that backs up the frequency claims in your post above.

  34. Marvin Merton April 7, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    This topic certainly led to some limbic excitement. As I noted above, I am not particularly impressed by the “statistics” about frequency of child abuse that are pushed by advocacy groups. While I generally support the work of those groups, the data they use is based on far too many assumptions, and seems to be used with the aim of forcing attention on the issue.

    What this does, in my experience and judgment, is lead to anxiety in the audience, which may actually be self defeating. A brain in a state of anxiety is not going to take in the information that follows. The information that follows is what is most important. Teaching your children how to remain open to the world, while knowing when an adult is not acting in their best interests.

    In graduate school, I had a fellowship at an assessment center for child abuse. I worked in the support side, helping children and parents through recovery of abuse. This agency is where I learned to be suspicious of the “data” on child abuse. The clinicians there were no more impressed by the usual cited statistics than I am now. At the end of the day, such “data” didn’t help anyone keep any child safer, after all.

    One thing that impressed me about the agency, is that clinicians worked no more than half time there. The agency knew the toll that such work could take on clinicians, and thus the part-time status was mandatory. Further, the agency made staff support a big issue. This included education lunches that reminded everyone that most parents and most people do not abuse children. Alas, I suspect that such practices are not as widespread as they should be.

  35. Denise Gonzalez-Walker April 8, 2009 at 3:35 am #

    To get back to Lenore’s original conclusion:

    “Look, I doubt I’d be able to trust anyone, either, if I worked all day in a prison filled with rapists. That was pretty much the writer’s experience. In working with incredibly troubled youth – kudos to him – his outlook got seriously skewed. If you ate dinner every night, year after year, with Hannibal Lechter, chances are you would beg us, in desperate tones, “For the love of God, NEVER order the filet!””

    This was absolutely my experience working for over five years in child injury prevention. When your days are filled looking at data, case studies, or actual kids (as the trauma docs did) who were hurt or killed in accidents, it skews your world view pretty significantly. Every time I see an above-ground swimming pool, the very first thing that comes to mind are drowning stats, along with a particularly sad drowning case a few years ago.

    Also, many top experts work in “silos,”–that is, their primary (if not only) concern is on their specialty, and they rarely consider a more holistic view of childhood. Their context is different than yours or mine.

    For instance, I’ve never seen injury prevention experts advocate for letting kids take risks, because risks mean potential injury.

    Never mind that one consequence of restricting and denying kids the chance to take more typical risks (like climbing trees), is that some will go off and surreptitiously do far more dangerous activities, such as the choking game.

    Likewise, while never letting your kid out of your sight will probably guarantee that he won’t be molested or badly injured, it will have other negative consequences that those experts probably haven’t bothered to consider since it’s not their area of expertise.

  36. Shannon April 8, 2009 at 9:04 am #

    Yeah, without a methodology provided or a description of how the studies cited above dealt with sampling or reporting error (it appears that they didn’t account for them at all!) I’m very ill-inclined to accept the validity of those statistics. They also just don’t jibe with reality. 1 in 4 girls? Really? I don’t know a single woman my age (26) who was sexually abused. And although I’m having trouble finding it now, there was a recent article in Slate refuting the 1 in 5 children propositioned on the Internet statistic, which should have failed the sniff test long before now. What do you mean by propositioned? Some 14-year-old drunk on peach schnapps who asks another 14-year-old if she wants to have phone sex? Does that seem like a real threat? And does it really make sense to any of you that more girls have been sexually abused than have received that kind of silly Internet proposition?

    I don’t want to dismiss the problems of those who really are abused, but in a curious way, these kind of statistics do just that. I remember a sexual harassment training course I attended once in which we were informed that sexual harassment could be anything from a look to an offer to exchange sex for promotions. By claiming that there was no difference between these things, the bureaucrats running it diminished the seriousness of the latter and made genuine sexual harassment out to be exactly what people who really commit it want everyone to think it is: a big acceptable joke, merely the paranoid hysteria of ball-breaking feminazis working overtime. I suspect that with the self-reportage going on here, a similar phenomenon is at work. Some number of children really were assaulted; some number decided that an unsatisfying backseat grope with a peer constituted abuse. Claiming that they’re the same thing may keep your sexual abuse hotline in business, but it ultimately diminishes the outrage at real sexual abuse and leads to exactly the sort of Boy Who Cried Wolf suspicion that I and other commenters are manifesting now.

  37. Stuart April 8, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    The difficultly with the stats re abuse is that it covers a spectrum. It’s exactly like the crime of assault – it’s under-reported because some of it isn’t worth doing so (which isn’t to say that it isn’t either a serious matter or a crime).

    If a drunk randomly punched me in the face on a friday night I would probably be pissed off, but I wouldn’t take it any further unless there was serious damage – and I also probably wouldn’t go around telling everyone I knew about it. It still happened but it won’t make it into the stats.

    Conversely, I know people who would take being jabbed with a finger as intent to kill and would take it as far as the supreme court if they had to.

    Abuse is a spectrum, and at the risk of setting everyone off, some of it isn’t that serious (to the individual). I’ve been groped by a paedophile as a child, and whilst I couldn’t say it didn’t bother me, I also didn’t do anything about it (beyond walk away) and it hasn’t scarred me for life. Nor do I ever really think about it. Objectively, the biggest problem in that situation is that I didn’t say anything about it – it wasn’t a problem for me (as an individual) but now that I’m old enough to understand the implications of my actions I can see that it could have resulted in problems for other children (who knows what he did after that day to other children?). Once again, it never made the stats.

    This is always going to be an area where reliable stats are non-existent.

  38. MarvinMerton April 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm #


    This piece deals with the claim that 1 in 5 kids are approached by online predators, giving it the context you read about at Slate.

    Predator Panic: Reality Check on Sex Offenders:

    From the same site, here is another example of how data can be skewed by the media to hype a story, er push an inaccurate story.

    Girls Gone Bad: Statistics Distort the Truth:

  39. greymaiden April 9, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    I find it useful to let my children believe that adults are cannibals. This way, they behave if I tell them I am going to EAT THEIR FACE.

    Or they giggle hysterically.

    There may be better behavioral control methods, I suppose.

  40. sa rah April 10, 2009 at 1:32 am #

    Something I see missing in all of this discussion is the acknowledgment that there is a spectrum of molestation. I think we can all agree that getting groped by an old guy on a subway is disturbing and falls on the spectrum somewhere very far from being sodomized by a neighbor. I apologize for the graphic terms but coming from someone who had more than one molestation incident during early childhood, I think it’s worth mentioning. It’s not all 5-alarm fires and the emotional fallout is not the same. So, what I wonder is, is the manner in which these incidents are dealt with or not dealt with or sublimated in later life really one of the most important issues about sexual abuse? For one, it’s something we can actually do something about as parents (beyond due diligence as another commenter suggested which I can do, I refuse to lock them down and never bring in a babysitter or send them to day care)? Isn’t it really how we frame sexual experience for them that has the most far-reaching effects? I guess I’m kind of of the mind that something* at least somewhat ‘sexually off’ is probably going to happen at some point in their lives. Whether it’s a handsy date or something more serious. I don’t want them to be conditioned to automatically feel vicitimized. i don’t want them to wander the world feeling that they are just one step away from being victimized either. At least in this arena, I’m a believer that a general sense of empowerment will take them farther than ‘good touch/bad touch’ any day.
    I just wonder when parents react to this information with dismissiveness (clearly that’s a terrible reaction) or with an overreaction of taking the kid immediately to therapy and STD testing regardless of any cues from the child … my gut tells me that is ALSO a terrible reaction with some long-term effects in and of itself.

  41. Jennifer April 10, 2009 at 2:58 am #

    I agree with Shannon, Stuart and Sa rah. If someone asks me if I was ever abused, I would say no. But here’s what’s actually happened to me: I’ve been groped at 12 by a 19 year old while he made disgusting sexual comments (not too serious groping, only on the butt and thigh). I was “tricked” into kissing a teenage boy as a little girl (it was a “game”, ha ha), and though I didn’t want to do it, I felt I had no choice because I was only 8 or so and he was much older. I was propositioned by an adult store clerk at 13 (I said no way!). An old man once stopped in his car as I walked home from school and yelled at me to “come here!” ( I ran).

    I’ve never really told anyone about these, simply because I don’t feel victimized or ashamed. I just chalk it up to the sometimes-ickiness of childhood and move on. Can’t say the same if I’d have actually been raped or something awful like that.

    This is why I never believe stats outright, What sort of experiences are they counting?

  42. Donny May 12, 2009 at 2:29 am #

    considering they make up onyl .52% of the population f the entire freaking world, we sure do spend a lot of time worying about pedophiles.

    There are 293 of them in my town – of 128,000 people. Most of them are miserble people that simply want to be left alone. This is backed up with their incredibly low recidivism rate.

    They need help, not demonizing – they are a symptom of our society at large. Honestly, I think thats why they are so hated. They are the shadowy reflection of the society we used to be, where incest was common, and what happened on the farms, stayed on the farms. That was only 50 years ago folks!

    I think it is sick that we have more sympathy for a junkie that has an 82% chance to fall off the wagon and waste more of our time and money than we do someone who actually wants our help.

    we can make up all the bogeymen we want, but the stats don’t lie. Our kids deserve better than that.


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