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Old 10-28-2007, 12:00 PM   #1
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Avoiding Kids: How Men Cope With Being Cast as Predators

These days, if Rian Romoli accidentally bumps into a child, he quickly raises his hands above his shoulders. "I don't want to give even the slightest indication that any inadvertent touching occurred," says Mr. Romoli, an economist in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.

Ted Wallis, a doctor in Austin, Texas, recently came upon a lost child in tears in a mall. His first instinct was to help, but he feared people might consider him a predator. He walked away. "Being male," he explains, "I am guilty until proven innocent."

In San Diego, retiree Ralph Castro says he won't allow himself to be alone with a child -- even in an elevator.

Last month, I wrote about how our culture teaches children to fear men. Hundreds of men responded, many lamenting that they've now become fearful of children. They said they avert their eyes when kids are around, or think twice before holding even their own children's hands in public.

Frank McEnulty, a builder in Long Beach, Calif., was once a Boy Scout scoutmaster. "Today, I wouldn't do that job for anything," he says. "All it takes is for one kid to get ticked off at you for something and tell his parents you were acting weird on the campout."

It's true that men are far more likely than women to be sexual predators. But our society, while declining to profile by race or nationality when it comes to crime and terrorism, has become nonchalant about profiling men. Child advocates are advising parents never to hire male babysitters. Airlines are placing unaccompanied minors with female passengers.

Child-welfare groups say these precautions minimize risks. But men's rights activists argue that our societal focus on "bad guys" has led to an overconfidence in women. (Children who die of physical abuse are more often victims of female perpetrators, usually mothers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)

Though groups that cater to the young are working harder to identify predators, they also ask that risks be kept in perspective. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America does criminal background checks on each of its 250,000 volunteers, and has social workers assess them. Since 1990, the group says, it has had fewer than 10 abuse allegations per year. More than 98% of the alleged abusers were male.

"If we wanted to make sure we never had a problem, one approach would be to just become Big Sisters -- to say we won't serve boys," says Mack Koonce, the group's chief operating officer. But, of course, that would deny hundreds of thousands of boys contact with male mentors.

The Boy Scouts of America now has elaborate rules to prevent both abuse and false accusations. There are 1.2 million Scout leaders, and the organization kicks out about 175 of them a year over abuse allegations or for violating policies.

These policies can be intricate. For instance, four adult leaders are needed for each outing. If a sick child must go home, two adults drive him and two stay with the others, so no adult is ever alone with a Scout. "It's protection for the adults, as well as the children," says a Scouts spokesman.

The result of all this hyper-carefulness, however, is that men often feel like untouchables. In Cochranville, Pa., Ray Simpson, a bus driver, says that he used to have 30 kids stop at his house on Halloween. But after his divorce, with people knowing he was a man living alone, he had zero visitors. "I felt like crying at the end of the evening," he says.

At Houston Intercontinental Airport, businessman Mitch Reifel was having a meal with his 5-year-old daughter when a policeman showed up to question him. A passerby had reported his interactions with the child seemed "suspicious."

In Skokie, Ill., Steve Frederick says the director of his son's day-care center called him in to reprimand him for "inappropriately touching the children." "I was shocked," he says. "Whatever did she mean?" She was referring to him reading stories with his son and other kids on his lap. A parent had panicked when her child mentioned sitting on a man's lap.

"Good parenting and good education demand that we let children take risks," says Mr. Frederick, a career coach. "We install playground equipment, putting them at risk of falls and broken bones. Why? We want them to challenge themselves and develop muscles and confidence.

"Likewise, while we don't want sexual predators to harm our kids, we do want our kids to develop healthy relationships with adults, both men and women. Instilling a fear of men is a profound disservice to everyone."


Article Category: General Youth Rights
Name of Original Publication: Wall Street Journal
URL for Original Article: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/...jAwMzYyWj.html
Publication Date of Original Article: 6 September 2007
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Old 10-28-2007, 12:23 PM   #2
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Excellent, excellent post. I was meaning to start a thread about this but I didn't have an article so we'd have had just me.

I'm not sure what the solution is, or if there's actually a problem. While it would piss me off beyond belief to have someone question me about my "behavior" with my daughter I'll deal with it, if it means the observer will finger the next guy that he/she thinks is acting oddly, who might actually be trying to abduct/molest a child.

Also we live in a world of fearmongering. In today's America every Muslim is a potential terrorist, every man is a potential child molester, and a black man might not be able to get a cab. Sad but true.
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Old 10-28-2007, 12:27 PM   #3
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Over reactionary and sad!
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Old 10-28-2007, 12:31 PM   #4
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Very sad that this is the case these days.

The overhype of the To Catch A Predator series can't have helped much, either.

One can never be too cautious in this day and age, sure, but when it gets to the point where a father cannot even spend time with his children by himself without passerbys getting suspicious is sort of crazy, if you ask me.

And, for the record, I believe that women should be held up to the microscope just as much as men have. Susan Smith/Mary Kay Laterno (sp), etc., anyone?
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Old 10-28-2007, 01:00 PM   #5
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Originally posted by LarryMullen's_POPAngel
And, for the record, I believe that women should be held up to the microscope just as much as men have. Susan Smith/Mary Kay Laterno (sp), etc., anyone?
Susan Smith may not be a good example. She was raped repeatedly by her step-father, a personal friend of Pat Robertson.
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Old 10-28-2007, 02:26 PM   #6
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This is really sad. I think Phil has to deal with it a lot, being an education major going into special education. He just loves little kids! He used to teach gymnastics as well, so big man + 3 year old girls in leotards can really turn heads, unfortunately.
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Old 10-28-2007, 06:32 PM   #7
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I find it absolutely ridiculous that a man might think twice about holding his own child's hand in public. That's not an unfortunate precaution based on the times, that's out and out paranoia.
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Old 10-28-2007, 08:25 PM   #8
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I dunno, I'd gladly let a guy watch my kid instead of someone like, say, Andrea Yates. When I was a baby, it was just me and my dad during the day when my mom was at work, so I can only imagine what some of these groups would've said about that had they been around then .

Wow. I agree with the others, that's really disturbing and sad. Talk about paranoia-those child advocates are going about it the wrong way big time. I'd say the best solution to this is to teach kids that there are good adults out there and there are bad adults out there. Let them know the difference between the two (and don't just assume one gender's worse than the other, 'cause that's just stupid and illogical), and let them know that if anything weird happens, they should find a trusted person to talk to about it. That's what I was always taught.

And as for adults, okay, a kid sitting on someone's lap is not automatically in danger. It might not hurt adults to get a refresher course on the difference between good adults and bad adults, too.

Angela
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Old 10-28-2007, 09:38 PM   #9
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Over reactionary and sad!


There's common sense and then there's this kind of knee-jerk hysteria. Let's just lock everyone up in a bunker and hide from teh big bad world!!1 Sad.
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Old 10-29-2007, 01:15 AM   #10
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Let's just lock everyone up in a bunker and hide from teh big bad world!!1 Sad.
That comment made me think of a discussion on Bill Maher's show last week-it dealt with other topics, but this can apply, too-we're a country who's living in fear now. Everywhere we turn there's always some story about something new we've gotta be scared of-some disease, predators, other countries, the environment, etc. Of course we should be on alert for real dangers, but my god, we've gotten so friggin' paranoid about every little thing. And at the rate we're going, it wouldn't surprise me if someday we did wind up in the scenario you described.

By freaking out over every little thing imaginable, we're not able to properly deal with the real threats. This is a problem we've really gotta start addressing.

Angela
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Old 10-29-2007, 01:53 AM   #11
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Originally posted by CTU2fan
Excellent, excellent post. I was meaning to start a thread about this but I didn't have an article so we'd have had just me.

I'm not sure what the solution is, or if there's actually a problem. While it would piss me off beyond belief to have someone question me about my "behavior" with my daughter I'll deal with it, if it means the observer will finger the next guy that he/she thinks is acting oddly, who might actually be trying to abduct/molest a child.
I do think that in the case of a man who's uncomfortable holding his own child's hand in public, the paranoia is likely more on his end than anyone else's. But it's undeniable that for men who work as teachers, coaches, camp counselors etc., times have changed and employers now strictly impose rules that didn't exist 25 years ago--always leave the door open when talking with a student, always have at least two adults present on field trips or scouting excursions, and so forth. For the most part, I have no problems with such rules, and think they represent a good compromise--from a parent's and administrator's POV they add an important safety buffer against a dishonorable adult's taking advantage of total privacy; from a kid's POV they're simply The Way Things Work, and they don't typically reflect much on it, or perceive such precautions as last-ditch protection from something imminently menacing.

That said, in more informal situations I have personally experienced or heard secondhand of some (IMO) overreactions/discrepancies that bothered me quite a bit. Examples:
--At the park or playground, mothers freaking out and running over to yank away their children when a father who's e.g. spinning his own kids on the carousel asks their (eagerly watching) kids if they'd like to get on too, while having no such problem with another woman doing so.
--Parents refusing to allow their kids to spend the afternoon playing at the home of friends (i.e. other kids) where a stay-at-home dad is the sole adult present, whereas they have no such hesitation with stay-at-home moms.
--Parents who don't bat an eye when a female neighbor they know, walking by, stops to chat with their kids for a few minutes, but make a point of coming outside and adopting an "I'm-watching-you" stance anytime a male neighbor whom they know is walking by and stops to do the same.
--Female babysitters' parents calling the mothers of kids their daughters babysat for to complain that their husbands, rather than the mothers, had driven their daughters home and that was a priori "inappropriate."
--And along the lines of one story mentioned in the article, parents complaining about fathers (but not mothers) who'd volunteered at their kids' nursery school or day camp having held their children's hands (along with other kids' hands) or allowed them to sit in their laps (along with other kids) in ordinary situations, i.e. with the regular teachers or camp counselors being present.



What kinds of experiences have you had that led you to think about this, or were you more responding to news stories and things like that?
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Old 10-29-2007, 04:42 AM   #12
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very sad, but i see it all the time with male teachers - making sure never to be alone with a female student etc

children can be sly today as well,t hey know the panic buttons to press!
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Old 10-29-2007, 07:41 AM   #13
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In the line of personal experience, a guy I used to work with at my first job (during high school) was later accused of molesting a child. Of course, I don't know all of the details, but from a mutual friend who was there, it sounded more like a misunderstanding between the girl's parents and the guy. He was very outgoing, very affectionate. Actually, he was my favorite supervisor to work for at my job. Anyways, like I said, I can't know for sure his guilt or innocence, but I do know that the accusation and the subsequent gossip and publicity pretty much ruined his life.
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Old 10-29-2007, 09:16 AM   #14
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That's extremely sad, especially considering the lack of male influence and/or fatherly influence in many kids' lives. I don't mean that in any derogatory way towards single mothers or lesbian couple parents, because kids can be fine and much more than fine without it. But it is important to have any other positive influence, and the fact that men are excluded from that for this reason is so wrong-and people will regret it.
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Old 10-29-2007, 12:27 PM   #15
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this thread makes me so sad.

looking back, i've had tons of physical contact with kids aged 3-8, but gosh, being a preschool teacher and a swim instructor, it's kind of hard to teach the kids to do a backfloat when you don't put a hand in the middle of their back and say, "okay, head back, arms out, look at the sky, chest up, deep breath, and now .... float!" or when a 3 year old wants to sit in your lap and read a story, or when a 4 year old simply grabs you in a big hug because he needs some kind of reassurance.

i guess it's better to instruct from the deck of the pool or to rebuff a child, perhaps we could institute a new rule in the pre-school, "it's fine to hug Miss Young, but we don't touch Mr. Irvine, that's against the rules."

and after seeing "Gone Baby Gone" this weekend -- which is rather well done, and massively depressing -- i'd just as well not bother with kids anymore. if people are going to be watching me like a hawk because i'm not only a male, but a gay male, and the straights need as they do another party to blame for their failures, then is my mere presence doing more harm than good?

i suppose i should just remove myself from the situation.
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