Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

So who is the child molester? He is just like you and me, at least on the outside. He is the ordinary citizen, he is also a human like you and me. And it’s hard to tell this person would harm any other being. Even the opposite-he is nicer than most people, always smiling and well respected in community. He is the friendly neighbor who is always available when you need someone for babysitting or to watch over your kids while you go away for an hour or two. He is the devoted teacher or coach who is always ready to help when your child struggles at school or needs help with the homework. He is the genuine priest who is always there when you need support. He is the one who is always there to listen to your problems and who is always willing to help you and your children in the church, and outside the church too. He is the smiling, funny uncle, relative or family friend who is always there when you need help at home or with the kids. He is the one who is ready to leave everything when you need his assistance and always brings a present for your child when he comes to visit. He is the lovely father or brother who loves his family more than anything and is always ready to spend some extra time playing with the kids. Who is he? Who is the child molester? He is one of us. He is the one you would never suspect. And eventually if someone tells you about his crimes, you would never believe that he is capable of such horror actions towards a child. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is why he is so successful in what he does. This is why most of his kind are never reported or even if reported – never convicted of the crimes they do. He relays on your trust and he relays on your good impressions about him. Then he knows he is free to do his thing not bothered by anyone. He knows he is a good manipulator and this is his power, this is his strength. Once you and the community are convinced that he is “a nice guy,” once he wins people’s trust – he is free to abuse children not worried about the consequences because he knows he will be never caught. This is why statistics show that: Male offenders who abused girls had an average of 52 victims each. Men who molested boys had an astonishing average of 150 victims each. Only 3% of these crimes had ever been detected. How do child molesters get into situations where they can exploit...

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The Boy Who Tried To Help

The Boy Who Tried To Help

When I was 12 years old, I was accosted by a group of teenage boys. It was a beautiful day and I was riding my bike with a friend on a country road, in my hometown, just outside of Montreal, Quebec. My friend sensed danger and got away. I did not. The boys formed an arc with their bikes across the road, blocking my path. The ringleader was a cocky kid who laughed and carried on as he instructed his friends to hold my hands behind my back. I was bewildered – not sure what was happening. I laughed with them, until I realized this wasn’t a joke. I tried to pull away and started screaming and crying but the boys held me while the others shoved their hands up my shirt. I remember there was a boy who tried to help. He yelled at his friends to stop and he tried to push them off me but he couldn’t.  He locked eyes with my crying eyes -and it was as if he was saying to me silently – this is wrong, I am sorry. I don’t know how long it lasted – 15-20 minutes. When I got home, my friend was there and my mother was frantic, on the phone with the police. My mother loaded us both into the station wagon and barreled down the road, the police car in hot pursuit. I have an image seared into my memory like a movie in slow-motion – our screams as we spot the boys, spitting gravel as our station wagon careens up their driveway, the piercing burst of the police siren, and the look of shock on the boys’ faces as they turn – slowly – to see their fate drive into view. I remember being red with tears and shame as the Police Chief asked me what had happened and clutching my mother’s hand tightly. I remember making a very clear request: There was a boy who tried to help. Please don’t let anything happen to him.  Even then, I sensed the importance of that boy’s actions. He had tried to help me. I wanted to be sure I did my part to help him. In the years since that event, I have thought many times about those boys and why they did what they did. I have wondered if they suffered anything stronger than a stern warning from the police. I wondered if they got married and had children – and if in having children, they ever reflected on their actions. I have hoped that their crime began and ended with me – that they didn’t go on to repeat those actions or do anything worse. I have wanted most of...

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Child Abuse: The Perfect Crime

Child Abuse: The Perfect Crime

In my work as a child abuse lawyer, I often come across the following questions: Why do abused children remain silent? Why do they not report to trusted adults such as their teachers or police officers what is done to them behind closed doors? First and foremost, sexually and physically abused kids are simply too fearful and powerless to help themselves. Untold thousands of these children will go to school today and tomorrow without telling their teachers the horrors visited upon them the night before. They will travel quietly through the day, passing police officers, neighbors and friends, never revealing the anguish of their existences. And if by chance someone asks them how they are being treated at home their response will be uniformly the same: “Okay.” As adults we expect all human beings to escape or at least want to escape when someone injures them, but for battered children, the reverse occurs. Perhaps the most insidious aspect of child abuse is that it binds the child closer to the abuser. The parents’ threats and intimidation engender in their children not only fear but self-blame and embarrassment – all of which turn a child’s survival mechanism topsy turvy. Love and violence become so inextricably confused that even when the abuse is reported, the children will often kick and scream as they are being removed from their draconian environment by a social worker. The other aspect that makes child abuse, especially sexual abuse, the perfect crime is that most adults continue to believe child rearing is a private matter and that adults in positions of trust such as religious figures, coaches or youth leaders would never harm a child. As a rule most adults don’t want relatives, friends or neighbors telling them how to raise their children, and in return they refuse to intervene or say something if they observe a problem with someone else’s child. While we all cherish our right to privacy, our devotion to this cornerstone of democracy is strangling the lives of thousands of children every year. Abusive parents and trusted adult leaders thrive on isolation, and that is exactly what society gives them. Daily, people turn a blind eye to the screams, bruises and frightened eyes of battered and molested children. Their reactions actively reinforce the offending parents’ omnipotence and send a message to the children: “You’re on your own, no one is going to help you.” By powerful social training, we are more likely to intervene on behalf of a dog being kicked by its owner than a child being mistreated by a parent. As Americans, we routinely gawk at the suffering of car accident victims but avert our eyes and ears when we see...

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