Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Every Parent Should Read Gladwell's Article on Jerry Sandusky: Be Your Child's Advocate!

Malcolm Gladwell dissects the sexual molestation horrors perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky and his ilk here. It's astounding the degree of patient planning and trust-building to which these monsters devote themselves to gain the trust of their victims and their parents.

I am convinced this is not an isolated phenomenon. During her public school career, our daughter had two male PhysEd teachers who "creeped her out" with what she felt like inappropriate language and advances.

In each case, the perps claimed mystification at our daughter's reactions to their cleverly ambiguous attacks.

Nonetheless, we stuck to accepting our daughter's judgment in each case and I said that she had to be transferred out of their classes.

Subsequent events demonstrated that her wariness of the two teachers was warranted. Both eventually got caught up in scandals and were convicted of criminal charges for having sexual relations with underage students.

Reprehensible as these teachers were, the victims of their predatory behavior were not the kinds of kids Sandusky picked on. He liked boys, for one thing. He also tended to psychologically manipulate what, at one time, would have been called "at risk" youngsters.

But as Gladwell shows, while the MO of these sexual predators is similar, they all work assiduously at establishing the trust of their communities and good "youth advocates and friends" before starting to force themselves sexually on their prey.

Nonetheless, the moral of all these stories should be plain: If your child feels uncomfortable around an adult authority figure who seems to be making sexual advances, do not quickly dismiss your child's allegations. Believe them first. Few children are going to make up such personally-humiliating stories. Be your child's advocate! Presume that they are innocent and not gratuitous liars or participants in "mass hysteria."

Thanks to Samantha Ettus for tweeting about this piece and to two friends mentioning it as well.

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