It is becoming all too frequent these days and we must ask why.
Many of those whom we trust to be closest to our children end up being pedophiles, abusers, betrayers of the trust we vest in them.
The latest cases reported on CNN the past few days highlight this trend.
We have seen clergymen, teachers, coaches, police officers, day care workers...and now theme park employees betray the trust we place in them with our children.
Why has this become so seemingly prevalent?
First of all, it is probably not more prevalent today than in the past, but we have much more oversight today than in the past and more news media attention to make us aware of it. However, that does not make the situation any better, it makes it worse. The thought that these people would carry out their nefarious pursuits even in the face of detection shows how committed they are to their predilections. Complicating the matter is the overwhelming availability today of materials to feed their desires thanks to digital communications, social media and the anonymity of the web.
According to the US Department of Justice:
The Internet and advances in digital technology have provided fertile ground for offenders to obtain child pornography, share child pornography, produce child pornography, advertise child pornography, and sell child pornography. The Internet also has allowed offenders to form online communities with global membership not only to facilitate the trading and collection of these images, but also to facilitate contact (with each other and children) and to create support networks among offenders. Rather than simply downloading or uploading images of child pornography to and from the Internet, offenders also use current technologies to talk about their sexual interest in children, to trade comments about the abuse depicted in particular images-- even as images are shared real-time--to validate each other's behavior, to share experiences, and share images of themselves abusing children as they do so. (National Strategy Report, 2010, p.90)
Clearly, our legal and policing systems have not kept up with the explosion of materials and the ease of access that modern electronic communications have provided to those with a predilection to abuse children. Even those, who in the past might have kept their desires secret, perhaps unfulfilled, now have easy access and anonymity to pursue their nefarious course.
What can we do in the face of this onslaught? Here are three things:
- We must demand that our legislators and policing authorities become as sophisticated in technology as the "bad guys" are. This will take time and money. Sadly we seem to have plenty of money for things like prisons and prisoners but we seem to never have the money for interdiction. According to a study done by VERA in 40 states the average cost to keep a prisoner in jail is $31,286 per year while National Center for Education Statistics reports that we only spend, on average $11,184 to keep a child in school. Let's spend less on the prisoners and more on child safety and education!
- We as parents and guardians must become much more sensitive and aware of what our youngsters are doing with technology. We can no longer assume they are playing harmless games when they may well be the subjects or victims of "trolling" by those seeking vulnerable youngsters. As a parent/guardian you must be intrusive here and not accept "privacy" as an excuse any more. Moreover, as parents/guardians it is incumbent upon us to learn the signs and signals that predation throw off so we can be sensitized to them.
- We must require much more thorough employment vetting, especially for those with access to children. The "politically correct" approach just does not work here. I know we are not supposed to profile and we are not supposed to dig into people's personal lives...especially those with positions in religious organizations, the educational industry, etc. But if they have access to our children we must learn to be as disciplined and intrusive as they are. We should require full investigations of all people who have access to children, and just like security personnel, they should be subject to lie detector tests randomly applied to help root out those whose intent may well be nefarious.
None of this is an easy or sure fix, and it will not be accomplished quickly. However, we must start somewhere, and allowing the vastness of the changes proposed to get us into "vapor lock" is not acceptable. We cannot continue to wait and allow our children to be compromised like this. We must take more decisive action...and soon.