This is an interesting opinion piece out of Australia, one that I think we should think about more.
The Commissioners found, “There is no typical profile of an adult perpetrator”. They found that the strategies used to sexually abuse children would differ greatly depending on the context in which the abuse occurred. As a result, they stated, “Attempting to predict the likelihood of someone being a perpetrator based on preconceptions should be avoided.” The stereotype that most people conjure as an image when they think of a paedophile is simply not accurate. For the most part, child sex offenders look and act like everybody else – their only defining characteristic is that they sexually offend against children.
Now the opinion piece talks about how just “looking for potential offenders” is a poor way to prevent abuse in any organization that works with children, and I would agree. At best it should be part of a much larger plan, one that includes a very good look at how much time is spent alone with kids in one on one situations, the level of openness and trust between the kids and the staff overall, between the staff and parents, etc. Simply saying we checked the backgrounds and then not having an absolutely transparent organization after that is asking for trouble. We should have learned that by now.
But, the larger point here is that we don’t know who is going to abuse children, which is another lesson we should have learned by now. How often have we read about the serial pedophile who wasn’t socially awkward and creepy, but quite the opposite. How else do you think they gained the trust of so many parents? By being the opposite of what the parents were looking for in terms of abusers. Sometimes by being famous, well-liked, pillars of the community, and sometimes just by being female, they avoided suspicion.
Believing kids are safe because we have left them away from suspicious looking characters is failing in our duties to protect them.
We should know that by now too.