How Did American Become The Home Of So Many Child Predators? ...by Bill Knell
During the late 1970s I sat in a New York City courtroom waiting to be a witness for a friend of mine who was involved in a tenant-landlord dispute. The location was Manhattan and the entire scene reminded me of what you see when you watch those courtroom scenes from TV cop and crime shows. It really did look just like what we all see on TV and that really blew my mind. However, what happened next really freaked me out and has stuck in my memory from then to now.
Being from New York City, I was used to waiting my turn for everything. It's always been just a part of life for the millions of folks that live in the Big Apple and surrounding areas. Court is no different. The only good news was that most of the judicial proceedings ahead of us that day were either short legal housekeeping sessions or prearranged plea deal sentencing hearings. It was like court on speed dial. After less than two hours there was just one case ahead of us.
As that proceeding started, a well-dressed business woman came forward along with her lawyer. I thought this was probably some building code violation or traffic offense. I was stunned to the core when the prosecutor announced that the woman had been charged with child molestation. The incident occurred aboard a commuter jet at a local airport. Due to in-climate weather, the aircraft was forced to wait for several hours before it was able to taxi to the deplaning platform.
During the delay, the woman allegedly molested a twelve year old girl sitting in a seat next to her. Only one witness saw it happen because the plane was mostly empty and the incident occurred late at night. If it were not for an attentive flight attendant, the incident would never have been noticed. She kept checking on the two because she though it was odd that the woman had invited the child to sit next to her. The attendant was walking past at one point and happened to notice that the woman had her hand stuck up inside the child's skirt. She alerted the flight crew and they notified the police.
Despite what I would think was the seriousness of the charges against her, the businesswomen had a wide smile on her face as her lawyer made an explanation for her behavior. The lawyer said that she was tired and stressed out from what turned out to be a long flight and an additional wait to deplane. The stress caused her to make a bad choice that she claims she did not even recall making. The child, traveling alone, later told her parents that she and the woman were just hugging to stay warm in a chilly plane.
In the end, the charges were dismissed and the well-dressed business woman walked out of the courtroom, free to molest again. I was stunned. So stunned that I'm sure I sounded a bit incoherent when my friend's turn came up. It took me hours to wrap my head around the fact that a woman was able to molest a young girl on an airplane at a major airport and simply walk out of a New York City courtroom with no consequences.
Things have changed quite a bit from those days. I'm almost certain that a scene like the one I witnessed in court back then would probably not occur very often in the now. However, the incident still sticks with me, not just because there was no penalty for the predator, but because the well-dressed business woman just didn't look like a typical child molester to me. I always pictured that kind of person as some nasty looking guy who bought pedophile magazines at some sleezy peep show parlor and hung around playgrounds looking for his next victim.
While I was growing up child predators were like town drunks. Lots of neighborhoods had one and your parents always told you never to go near that person's house for any reason. They were reluctantly tolerated because courts didn't want to send them to jail and no one else could figure out exactly what to do with them. I now believe that it was those many years of tolerating or ignoring these kinds of people that allowed their ranks to swell. However, the problem goes much deeper than that.
You would think that with all the laws that now protect kids from predators most anyone who had those kinds of sick thoughts swelling through their brains would not dare to try to act out their fantasies. The opposite seems to be true and the numbers don't lie. We have tens of thousands (or more) registered sex offenders here in the good old USA and their numbers are growing by the day.
Just recently a number of former and present Hollywood celebrities admitted that they had been molested, raped, abused or made to feel uncomfortable by failed attempts at those kinds of behavior by powerful people working in the entertainment industry. All of them say that this has been part of the status quo in Tinseltown for years. The only problem is that no one wants to name names. To do so, the celebrities claim, would permanently damage the industry.
The sad truth is that child predators are often protected by the very people they attack. Their victims just do not want to take them on for fear of embarrassment or public ridicule. There's also the chance the predator will be found not guilty or let go due to a lack of evidence. In many cases victims wait so long that legal statutes of limitations kick in and they cannot be charged under any criminal circumstances.
The recent allegations of child rape and molestation against figures in the sports world go to the very heart of the problem. The accused are married, have children and just do not seem to be the types of individuals that would commit these kinds of acts. These situations expose the best weapon that child predators have against being caught. They hide in traditional marriages, normal relationships and behind the facade of being successful and responsible community members. In short, they are wolves in sheep's clothing.
What really mystifies me is how we got to this point? Why are there so many child predators and molesters out there in our society? I believe that the answer lies in the fact that the entertainment and fashion industries have helped to fuel that fire without accepting any of the blame. It wasn't that many years ago that you could go to the movies and see naked children on the screen or walk into a book store in most any mall and buy books filled with nude photos of kids. All this was excused in the name of freedom of artistic expression.
Even today with far less nude scenes involving kids under eighteen in films, many movies still feature children involved in all sorts of sexual situations. Ads with kids acting or dressed in provocative ways still permeate society. However, those creating these kinds of films and ads are not the only offenders. At some point we have to blame ourselves because those kinds of films wouldn't be made unless people went to see them and those kinds of ads would not be out there if people refused to buy the things being hawked by scantily glad children and teens.
Don't misunderstand me. I fully understand and appreciate the fact that you cannot legislate morality. Lots of towns closed up their x-rated theaters and threw the pornography shops and peep shows out of town. It made things look better, but now all that any of the people that patronized those places have to do is go online. If you try to restrict pornography online (apart from child porn), you run the risk of starting politically-motivated social witch hunts. Every time some government agency restricts what we can do or say for what they claim is our own good, we end up losing valuable and irreplaceable freedoms.
I have a better idea and believe that one of the greatest weapons we have against child predators is personal responsibility. It's about protecting our kids. Parents and relatives must act in a preemptive way to keep their kids safe. If that means keeping them from being alone with people that we're supposed to trust, than that's the price of keeping them safe. Remember, child predators gravitate to employment and volunteer situations that give them the opportunity to be alone with and molest kids.
I have often wondered why, in the times we live in, any adult authority figure would be allowed to be alone with a child or teen. It's time to consider the use of paid or volunteer chaperones for situations that require kids to be alone or in close quarters with adults that might pose a threat to them. Yes it would cost something, but I wonder what the final bill will be at the universities where people have been recently accused of abusing and molesting kids on campus? I'm sure that the lawsuits will go on for years and end up costing tens of millions of dollars.
It's all well and good to pass laws and jail offenders, but the jails in many places are busting at the seams. None of this has done anything to stop not yet identified predators from harming children. We have to stop thinking about solving the problem after it has already occurred and start protecting our kids from situations that they may be intellectually and physically unable to deal with by being proactive. Let's not allow them to fall into the hands of predators to begin with.
We have to do more than lecture children about stranger danger. We have to look for the signs that a predator may be in our midst. Here are a few of the danger signals:
- An adult frequently wants to be alone with a child.
- An adult invites them over their house for extended periods of time or sleep overs.
- An adult readily and willing offers to babysit for a specific child on a regular basis.
- An adult gives money or gifts to a child without good reason.
- An adult offers to have a child do work for them regularly at a high rate of pay.
- An adult spends time with a child on their computer showing them unusual web sites.
- An adult shows a child or teen naked art, child pornography or films with nude children.
- An adult has too much physical contact with a child (frequent hugs or play wrestling).
- An adult regularly encourages a child to remove any part of their clothing for any reason.
- An adult offers to take a child on an overnight trip or camping for days at a time.
- An adult allows neighborhood kids regular access to his or her home as a meet up or play place.
It's not just adults we need to worry about. Many child predators begin molesting other children while they are kids themselves. Teach your children to watch out for kids that encourage their friends, playmates or peers to get naked in front of them or try to touch them in private areas of their bodies. These kinds of activities are likely to occur when adults are not around, so beware of your children playing over a house when no adult supervision is available. Kids that host what seem like a large number of sleep overs with many different friends or classmates should also be considered a possible threat. What might seem like innocent curiosity on the part of children can grow into something far worse. We have to make sure our kids do not do these kinds of things or allow themselves to be put at risk by other children that do.
If we all work together to take away the opportunity that predators have to attack kids, we cut off their supply of victims and begin to chip away at the heart of the problem. I believe that the number of possible child predators is growing because they have so many opportunities to attack and take advantage of kids. Take away these opportunities and at least some of these malefactors will think twice before acting out their fantasies.