Raising kids in a fear-based society

It was 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday night. John and I were working at our computers in an otherwise empty room. The curtains were wide open, allowing the living room lights to penetrate freely into the darkness outside.

light coming from open door at nightAnd then there was a knock on the door.

John opened the door and I heard, from the vantage point of the living room a few yards away, a young girl’s voice. “C-c-can I use yo-you-your phone?” she stammered.

John invited her in and handed the teen our phone. With trembling hands she pushed the buttons and, a few seconds later, I heard her talking to her mother. “Can you come pick me up?” she asked. “I ran out of gas and can’t make it home.”

“You just need gas?” John asked. “I’ve got some out in the barn. There’s no need for your mother to come.”

After John left for the barn I talked with the girl – as she trembled visibly.

“I was so scared,” she said. “I ran out of gas right in front of your house, but then I stood outside your door for thirty minutes trying to work up the courage to knock on the door.”

I was astounded. I didn’t think John and I looked THAT scary. I mean, the curtains were wide open and she could clearly see in. It was just the two of us quietly working on our computers. What was so scary about that?

What could possibly have happened in that child’s life to make her fear asking for help from a couple of perfectly kind strangers?

But then I read things like this and I understand why kids learn to fear others. The article was originally written by Jenna Myers Karvunidis’ for her blog on ChicagoNow, but has since been pulled. Several other sites reprinted it before it was pulled.

toddlers at a preschoolThe story goes that Jenna found a lovely little progressive preschool for her toddler. It was a perfect place and very tolerant of different races and beliefs. “This is a place where dads are made to feel welcome, where they are seen as equal and involved parents. This is a place where two-dad families are ushered in with open arms. Rad. I love the love.”

But then she discovered that daddies were helping her two-year-old daughter in the toilet. “For two-year-olds, that means a heavy hand in the pulling up and down of undies and the occasional wipe. That could be any assisting parent, like, say, a dad. Gulp.”

Horror! A strange male was helping pull down her daughter’s panties! What else might that man be doing in the privacy of the classroom bathroom? Fondling her? Sexually abusing her? “While I’m at home kicking it up over laundry, my daughter is a mile away MAYBE having some dude I’ve never met cleaning her butt.”

Surely that behavior had to stop!

The mother approached the school and informed them, in no uncertain terms, that she expected their irresponsible behavior to stop immediately. Henceforth only females would be allowed to help her daughter in the potty. If the school didn’t agree to her terms, she would pull the child.

In the end, the mother reported, she had succeeded. It was a proud moment for her as she was able to change the school’s policy and make the world safer for kids. Fathers would no longer assist little girls. “I’m so excited! I actually feel like I made a little difference in the world. High fives for mama bears, right?”

I was appalled.

What that mother had done was teach her daughter to fear men. She stated in her article that because “we don’t live in a world where child-molesting is equal-opportunity; 99% of sexual predators are men,” she needed to do what she could to keep men away from her daughter.

I think she’s barking up the wrong tree.

The statistic she needs to pay attention to is not how many child molesters are men, but how many men are child molesters.

It may be true that all squares are four-sided figures, but it is most definitely not true that all four-sided figures are squares. When dealing with statistics, you have to consider them all.

hands reaching out to helpA quick internet search showed me that in 1997, 1.7 children per thousand were sexually molested. 1.7! Don’t get me wrong – I think that number is entirely too high, but it’s still a pretty low number. If you dig a bit farther into the stats, you’ll see that the vast majority of sexual abuse cases happen within the family. In other words, the chance that the friendly daddy who happens to be volunteering in your child’s preschool will abuse your daughter is pretty darn low.

What really upsets me about this article is that there are many parents who agree with Jenna. There are parents out there who feel exactly like she does – that men are to be feared. We need to do whatever we can to keep men away from our children! Be scared children, be scared!

It’s a sad commentary on society when people feel they need to fear 50% of the people around them. And it’s sad when men feel limited because of that irrational fear.

John Higham, author of 360 Degrees Longitude told me, “It irritates me to no end that just because I’m an “X” and a “Y” that makes me guilty of being a perv. Unfortunately, it is the default setting in our society.”

“I considered becoming a teacher which I personally think I would be very good at,” said Colin Burns, who is traveling around the world with his family. “Ladies like Jenna are the exact reason I won’t. I have never done anything inappropriate and never will but already doubt is cast over me due to my gender. It is disappointing they can’t differentiate that most males are great and loving fathers.”

Talon Windwalker, a former hospice chaplain and single father traveling the world with his adopted son, added, “Any man speaking to a child is automatically suspected of being a pervert. It has gotten to the point that in the States I am afraid of offering any help to a child who I see needs it unless I am with a woman or someone else who I believe will be believed if the police are called.”

I am thrilled that my sons have had the chance to see the good side of humanity – the side not portrayed on the nightly news. They’ve seen, first hand, that people are good, kind, and generous and will go out of their way to help others in need.

market in Central AmericaOne day we were walking in the market in Ecuador when Davy turned to me and asked, “Mom, why are people so afraid? So many people are afraid of others and think they’ll be robbed, hurt, or killed, but all I see are good, kind people.”

Why indeed? How is it that our American culture has degenerated to the point where women won’t let men help their children? How have we gotten to the point where men fear doing simple, everyday things like smile at a child in a supermarket?

“The other day a little girl said hi to me, so I said hi back.” Christopher Nalty told me. “Problem is, I could tell her mom had already dialed 9-1 and was ready to hit that last 1 if I even smiled crooked. As the father of three boys, I get that parents are protective, but have we gone so far off the deep end that we are no longer allowed to acknowledge each other?”

It is tragic that this is what our society is becoming.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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42 Responses to Raising kids in a fear-based society

  1. Renee October 22, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Great post, Nancy.

    What an appalling story about the mom who got fathers booted from preschool bathroom duty. No wonder she pulled it. I was raised by a single father so that kind of thing really bugs. I feel for the other fathers you interviewed as well.

    My husband, and incredibly sweet and friendly (and non-threatening) man, enjoys chatting with youngsters. Usually they they just stare at him in response, bug eyed and silent. And this is when he has a wife and child with him.

    The dads you interviewed have it right. In the U.S. today, men are suspect from the get go. It’s terrible.

    • Nancy October 22, 2011 at 8:45 am #

      Honestly, I was stunned when they started telling me how they felt judged before even opening their mouths. I’ve lived out of the USA for so long, I hadn’t realized how far down this country has fallen. It’s awful.

  2. Annonymous October 22, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    First of all, I personally know WAY more than 1.7 per thousand children (many of whom are now adults) who have been molested, and NOT all by family members. I would say it is closer to 20% just from personal testimonies of people I know. Sorry to bust your bubble.

    Second, I don’t see how anybody at all should be allowed to help little boys and girls use the toilet without a) express permission from the parents, or b) extensive paperwork, including background checks. This will still not prevent all abuse, but the story described above does sound like an extremely easy environment for abuse to happen without anyone ever finding out. This is not to point the finger at men, nor to say that only little girls ever get abused.

    As a mother and a former professional nanny, I am not only in favor of what Jena did, but I don’t think she went far enough. Yes, the way she went about it was pretty sexist. But I would actually go so far as to say that NOBODY should help my son or daughter go to the toilet without my knowing that person well enough to know if s/he is trustworthy. My children are way too important to me to not do everything I can to protect them. Which includes being extremely selective about babysitters, and not putting them in just any school. And personally, not putting them in daycare until they are old enough to handle their own business in the bathroom (3 or 4). I know not everybody’s work schedules allow them to stay home with their kids, but at least do specific screening about who you allow to be alone with your kids!

    And by the way, what was the connection between the teenager being afraid to ask to use the phone and the preschool toilet story?

    Besides, I live in a fear-based culture (Islam), though I am not Muslim. I can’t believe some people believe America is a fear-based society.

    • Annonymous October 22, 2011 at 9:48 am #


      PS I forgot to add that I am a total believer of giving my children LOTS of exposure to way more adults (including–gasp–men) than the average family. But completely unkown strangers alone with my children are a completely different matter.

    • Nancy October 22, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Wow. I don’t even know where to start responding to this. I guess the only thing I can say is that I refuse to raise my children in a fear-based manner and I pray that they don’t become men who are feared as a result of their genetic makeup.

      Apparently, for that to happen, the world will have to have more people who want to abolish the unfair prejudice toward men and less people who teach their kids to fear. I’m not sure if that will ever happen, but I can hope.

      As for the connection between the stories – maybe I should spell that out. It appears to me that the teen girl was raised to fear. I can only hope we taught her that she need not fear everyone and she CAN ask for help when she needs it.

      I would love to see any stats you have that indicate a 20% rate of child abuse. Like I said, I only spent a few minutes searching for stats, but everything I found indicated a very low percentage. I will edit the article accordingly if you can find me more accurate statistics.

      • Anonymous October 22, 2011 at 11:54 am #

        And I truly pray that your children will be spared the experience that so many of my friends and myself had as children and adolescents. Honestly, this is not about “proving” you wrong. I really care about this subject because I know what it feels like, and have heard first hand from so many friends (normal middle-class Americans). You can’t un-do it once it’s done. I am still effected by what happened to me almost 20 years ago, and it was relatively minor as sexual abuse goes.

        I also think there is a way to shield your children when they are very young, and then teach them how to judge for themselves and follow their own instincts as they get older. This is not “fear-based”, it’s just responsible.

        My children are exposed to many men and women and we encourage them to build relationships with adults and children alike. But not with just *anyone*. I hope that helps to explain my position better. But even if it doesn’t, please don’t trust all statistics you read on the internet! Nobody ever interviewed me to show up in one of those “studies”. I can’t believe they tried to claim such a ridiculously low number as 1.7 out of a thousand when I know at least 15 real life people who were molested as minors. And those are only the people who have told me (i mean, it’s not really a common subject for small-talk).

      • Anonymous October 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

        Out of curiosity, I did a little search of my own and this was the very first article I opened. Again, as I said, you can’t trust everything on the internet. But it’s good to search a bit before you come to a conclusion about something so important.


        “Surveys of child sexual abuse in large nonclinical populations of adults have been conducted in at least 19 countries in addition to the United States and Canada, including 10 national probability samples. All studies have found rates in line with comparable North American research, ranging from 7% to 36% for women and 3% to 29% for men. Most studies found females to be abused at 1 to 3 times the rate for males. Few comparisons among countries are possible because of methodological and definitional differences. However, they clearly confirm sexual abuse to be an international problem.”

        • Nancy October 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

          Wow! Doing a bit more research certainly is an eye-opener!

          “An average of 5.5 children per 10,000 enrolled in day care are sexually abused, an average of 8.9 children out of every 10,000 are abused in the home”
          Source: Finkelhor & Williams, 1988 http://www.prevent-abuse-now.com/stats.htm#Disclosures

          Turns out you are more likely to be sexually abused in your home that at preschool – by a long shot. I think, if we feel a need to fear, we need to take the fear off random strangers and place that fear on our own family members. Granted, we all want to believe our own family members would NEVER do something like that – but statistics show it’s way more prevalent in the home than at school.

        • Anonymous October 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

          Did it every occur to you that preschoolers might not ever tell anyone something bad has happened? I could also list off the three articles I have read in the last 10 minutes, all supporting the 20% rate. But I can see you are convinced in what you are convinced so I am wasting my breath and will not do so anymore. May your children be protected by somebody else if you will not do it yourself.

          • Nancy October 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

            I believe in the goodness of humanity. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and will not allow the media to build up a deep irrational fear within me. I truly believe that the vast majority of human beings on this planet are kind, generous, giving people who will go out of their way to help a stranger in need. I will not fear them and I won’t teach my children to fear them.

            I am not blind to the point where I deny the existence of people who will do bad things. They are there. However, I believe in what the Dalai Lama said – the very presence of all the bad stuff in the media indicates its relative rarity. If it became the norm, the media would be showing us the good.

            The sad part is that many people watch the media and then come to the conclusion that people are nearly all bad – when that is not the case at all.

            I always had to laugh when people said, “I will go out and around a cyclist when I see them on the road, but what about THE OTHERS who won’t?” or “I will take care of you and protect you, but what about THE OTHERS who won’t?”

            I look at them and say, “You ARE the others – they are just like you. If I don’t need to fear YOU, then why should I fear THEM?”

      • A mother October 23, 2011 at 2:07 am #

        I believe the statistics are roughly 25% of girls. Most go unreported. Most occur before the age of 6. Most are from a family member or friend of the family. Terrible, huh?

  3. Jo @ Jo's Health Corner October 22, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    It is sad indeed. I’m European and I was quite surprised when I found out how it is here. I know several homeschool moms that would not go to a play date in a park, or at someone’s house if the dad is the only one homeschooling.

    In my home country it is common that the men take a few weeks of the mom’s maternity leave, since the government requires both parents to take responsibility. It is common to meet fathers with their children at various places. I never felt that I shouldn’t trust any of them.

    • Nancy October 22, 2011 at 10:17 am #

      @Jo @ Jo’s Health Corner,
      I’ve lived out of the USA the vast majority of my adult life, so am hopelessly out of touch with what’s happening here. Now that I’m back in my country, I am very saddened by how far its sunk. I refuse to believe I can’t trust people.

  4. Rachel October 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Very interesting article!! Everywhere we go on our cross-country trip, we hear the exact same thing: “BE CAREFUL!!! You never know who’s out there!” Just today, I thought a woman who overheard us talking about camping to someone was going to have a panic attack because we were so relaxed about doing it.

    But on another note, I find it incredibly interesting from a woman’s perspective to hear that men have a burden of suspicion cast over their gender. I don’t want to sound like I’m diminishing their complaints, but it was kind of nice to know they have this burden. As a woman, I constantly am eyed up, cat called, told to be safe, expected not to take risks, etc. It’s good to know that men have challenges and barriers to break down too.

    It feels like as long as we’re having discussions about all these things, then we can go far!


    • Nancy October 22, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

      Very true – on all counts! It is nice to know men don’t have a free walk through life and have issues they need to deal with! I truly wish none of us had to deal with those prejudices, but I understand that’s not going to happen in my lifetime.

      I think you are right that we need to keep talking about these issues – only through awareness and understanding can we do something about it.

    • Naomi October 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

      I’m a bit confused about this seemingly common knowledge that men are discriminated against for this reason. I have never witnessed that either in the USA or elsewhere. I asked my husband and he said he has never felt discriminated against, but even if it happened, he wouldn’t care because kids’ safety is more important that receiving an occasional dirty look from a paranoid mother. Maybe that mother is paranoid for a reason (aka, she or her child has been molested in the past). *Maybe* that has happened to the girl in the article who was afraid to knock…
      One of my brothers worked in a day care for young children for like 4 summers in a row and they all loved him, and my son also adores him. I would ask him to babysit any day. Too bad he lives in another country from us. But I probably wouldn’t ask either of my other two brothers to babysit except in an emergency (for other reasons). It depends entirely on the individual.

  5. Justin October 22, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    It’s the legal system I think. The fear of legal action in our country dictates such abrupt responses as you state above. It’s unfortunate.

    But I do have to say, I have no idea who is dropping off other people’s kids at daycare. It is not always a parent. Sometimes it is a family friend, a neighbor. I don’t care if it is male or female, I don’t want to open the door to strangers changing my son or daughter. I think it really depends on where you live or how well you know the families in your daycare or school. At my son’s daycare a 19-year old father of one of the kids in the daycare got into a fight with a neighbor because he parked in his driveway while picking up his son. The two were fighting in the street! The man’s son in the car, my son in the daycare, the police arriving. A rare incident, and we still attend the daycare of course, but do I want this guy changing my son??? Not sure about that.

    I run a program that must meet state policies to care for kids and I can tell you that it would never be acceptable to have parents changing kids. Not because we are scared of parents, but because we are scared of the one time IT happens and we get shut down and the legal system changes the laws for everyone. It’s not worth it.

    I don’t know. I don’t feel scared at the playground to help out a kid that has fallen down. But pulling down some strange kids pants and helping him pee. Why the hell would I ever do that? That’s just weird. And what would my son think, who says he wants some stranger helping him pee. It’s kind of a private thing yes?

    I wouldn’t go to University and ask some students dad to come teach me and I wouldn’t want a patient’s untrained mother attending to me at the hospital. Daycare is a paid, licensed service.

    A child in Boston was just left in a transport van on the way to daycare and died. An HORRIBLE accident, but the daycare was way out of state compliance and not following the rules. The accident was preventable. The rules are in place for a reason, even though they often seem excessive.

    I am rambling. But I don’t think it is as simple as male and female. That said, I wish we were all a little bit braver!

    • Nancy October 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

      When my boys were toddlers they went to a little Ethiopian daycare. I have absolutely no idea if they had parent volunteers or not – both John and I were teaching so we couldn’t help out. I’m fairly certain that, if there were parent volunteers, taking kids to the potty would be one of the things they would do. It doesn’t take a trained teacher to help a kid go pee.

      I am very glad that we raised our children in other countries – the attitude is so much healthier than in the USA. In other countries it is assumed that people are good and kind – so they are. Apparently, in the USA it’s assumed that they won’t be – so some of them aren’t.

      In Ethiopia (and later Taiwan) we never had to worry about our kids being kidnapped or abused or whatever. Kids were very well taken care of and they truly did have the “it takes a village attitude.” It was wonderful.

      • Naomi October 23, 2011 at 6:25 am #

        “I am very glad that we raised our children in other countries – the attitude is so much healthier than in the USA. In other countries it is assumed that people are good and kind – so they are.”
        I have had the opposite experience, also living outside the US for most of the last 10 years. I find that people in the USA trust each other MORE than in other countries. I find it so refreshing to visit the USA and remember that people are really nice and trusting there. (But that is not ALL people, by any means). Isn’t it interesting how different people have starkly different experiences both overseas and back home?

  6. Justin October 22, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    Yes, I am sure that is true. But let’s remember that you were a foreigner, the rules are different. And I know for a fact that kids in Ethiopia and every country are abused. Actually, in many cultures it is so accepted there are no laws around to prevent it. But I do agree that the “village” you speak of is better represented in a country like Ethiopia. I would imagine nearly everyone in Ethiopia was raised and follows nearly all of the same traditional and cultural values, although I must say I am ignorant on this. As you know, this is not the case in the US. We have as much diversity as any place in the world, and what might be acceptable for one person culturally might not be for another. We can not assume that everyone feels the same, and so we are wary.

    I have often read that it “takes a village”, but the US is far from a village. It is the big city, full of many ideas, religions, histories, backgrounds, and personal beliefs. Here, your neighbor was most likely not raised the same as you. And if we seem a bit fearful as a culture, maybe it is because we just can’t tell where all our neighbors stand.

    I don’t know, I am happy no one can walk in legally and pull down my kids pants. That said, it was NEVER a concern for me and I’ll continue to not worry about it. I trust our crazy system, at least on potty training.

    • Nancy October 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

      I have no doubt that kids in Ethiopia are abused. I suspect it’s about the same abuse rate as we have in the USA – there’s a certain number of people who will get off on sexually molesting a child. It’s not a high percentage, but it’s there. We need to be aware of it, but not allow it to dominate our thoughts.

      • Justin October 23, 2011 at 6:06 am #

        @Nancy, Well, I can’t disagree with that. What a sad existence it would be for us and our kids if we always let fear run the show.

  7. A mother October 23, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    I read this with mixed feelings. Today is the anniversary of when my wonderful, amazing father got sick. My life turned at that point. The safe, secure world that I’d known for the first part of my life was gone. I was 12. I’d had an incredible childhood, but in a few minutes it disappeared.

    My teenage years were spent visiting my institutionalised father twice a week with my mother. As patients started proposing marriage and obsenities to me from the age of 13. I was raped in toilets. The nurses were only a few rooms away from me one Christmas when I was attacked, and despite my desperate screams I was left with a permanent bald patch before someone came to help me.

    Today, as the mother of two daughters and two sons, I try desperately to keep these prejudices at bay. I struggle. Part of me wants to scream that it’s not fair to treat men like that. Part of me wants to scream that it’s not fair to teach children to fear men. But the other part says my priority is to keep my kids safe. I could never forgive myself if something happened to them.

    • Nancy October 23, 2011 at 7:41 am #

      @A mother,
      I am so sorry you’ve had the misfortune of having to deal with that. I love that you’re at least trying to find a balance and understand that not all men are out to attack you. I’m sure it’s not easy.

  8. Naomi October 23, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    Um, ok. I think men are great people. I married one. I have three brothers. My dad is my preferred babysitter for my kids. Most of my male colleges and friends’ husbands are great guys and I trust them. BUT there is a balance. Nobody wipes my kids butt without me knowing him or HER well enough to know if they are trustworthy or not. And that’s not sexist, that’s everybody. I also know way too many people who were abused as kids to be so lax. I work in a profession where people tend to open up about these things (I am not a counselor nor a pastor nor a social worker, and they are just average people who I come into contact with). Not all of it was perpetrated by men, though most were. I have never asked if they reported their abuse, but I will start asking, because I can definitely say that the 1.7 out of 1000 statistic is grossly underreported. Let me make this clear: I am not afraid of every man I meet on the street and my two year old loves people. But I AM teaching him to not trust fully until the trust is earned—whether the person is male OR female.

    I live in Spain and I LOVE seeing how involved the fathers and grandfathers are with their children! My father was the same way, and my husband is working on it. =). But, other Spanish parents in my neighborhood don’t let their kids out of their sight at the playgrounds—they seem just as “vigilant” as Americans if not more so. It’s awkward to make blanket statements about Europeans vs Americans when there is so much diversity in the regions. I have also lived in Egypt, Cyprus, Malta, and Mexico, and travelled extensively in much of the rest of the world including Ethiopia. I can absolutely say that child sexual abuse happens in those places as well. Let’s stop being naïve about other cultures and saying that America is the only “baddie.” I appreciate the efforts in the USA to prevent child abuse, unlike in many other countries. The only thing that has gone too far extreme is that an innocent man accused of molesting a child can too easily be locked up.

    I would be concerned if I heard about a preschool that allowed any “volunteer” to help with toileting without being under the liability of the school. Is that normal in the USA? It does seem true that most abuse happens within the family. But if a parent is abusing his/her preschool child at home, what’s to stop him/her from abusing other children behind the closed door of a preschool bathroom? It’s not an issue of paranoia, but I would rather be over-cautious (if there is such a thing when it comes to such young children), than to be sorry. This is NOT a case against men; it’s a case in favor of taking precautions with strangers of either sex. Unfortunately, I think we are beyond the times of believing naively in the “goodness” of all people. Though of course most people are “good,” I have met way too many that are most certainly not. It’s not just in the media—it’s real life around the globe. Still it is saddening that the GOOD men out there—who really are in the majority (including my husband, father, etc)—have to suffer the consequences of the minority who ruin it for them. But it’s not the fault of the cautious families—it’s the criminal child abusers who are to blame. Women around the world have other nasty prejudices against them which they deal with daily. This is planet Earth.

    • Nancy October 23, 2011 at 7:43 am #

      I totally agree that we need to be vigilant for sure. We need to consider the individual – whether male or female. I still believe that the vast majority of people of both sexes on our planet are good.

      • Naomi October 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

        The majority, yes. But with 6 billion plus on the planet, that still leaves a LOT of sick-o’s running around. I want to point out that if the child sexual abuse is 20-25%, that does NOT mean that 20-25% of adults are doing it. One sick adult can molest 100 children (or even “just” 20). So the percentage of sick-o adults and older teenagers in the world may be less than 1% and still easily support a 20% child abuse rate. The point is, they are out there and the consequences are way too heavy for me to take any chances.

        • Nancy October 23, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

          I’ve been doing more indepth research about the stats for another article I’m writing and it’s been very interesting. I found the official document from the US Department of Health and Welfare – http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm09/cm09.pdf

          There are hard numbers in there, but here are a few I found interesting. These are stats for all kinds of abuse – sexual abuse accounts for only 9.5% of all abuse cases.

          Victims in the age group of birth to 1 year had the highest rate of victimization at 20.6 per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population.

          Who abused and neglected children?
          For the analyses included in this report, a perpetrator is the person who is responsible for the abuse or neglect of a child. Forty-nine States reported case-level data about perpetrators using unique identifiers. In these States, the total duplicate count of perpetrators was 894,951 and the total unique count of perpetrators was 512,790. For 2009:
          Four-fifths (80.9%) of duplicate perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and another 6.3 percent were other relatives of the victim;
          Of the duplicate perpetrators who were parents, four-fifths (84.7%) were the biological parents of the victim;
          Women comprised a larger percentage of all unique perpetrators than men, 53.8 percent compared to 44.4 percent; and
          Four-fifths (83.2%) of all unique perpetrators were between the ages of 20 and 49 years.

          If you do the calculations, you can see that there were (in 2009) 170,935 perpetrators that abused people that were not in their family. Given that the population in the USA is 307,006,550, that means there is one abuser (all kinds of abuse – neglect, physical, sexual, emotional) for every 1796 people.

          Or, as I say, I don’t think it’s a number we need to live in fear of. Yes, there is a chance that we’ll meet that one, but it’s more likely we’ll meet the other 1795 people.

        • Naomi October 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

          I still believe all the sites saying 15-25%. I honestly can’t find a single one with stats as low as what you are finding. I don’t really know how internet searches work, but that is bizarre that we are coming up with such different results. Anyway, regardless of what the internet says, personal testimony of friends and acquaintances convinces me that the higher percentage is much more accurate.

          I am curious what your take on the Muslim terrorist threat is. Less that 1% of the world’s Muslim population are dangerous extremists. Given that tiny percentage, would you say that airport security should be thrown out in order to curb the unfair prejudice against the 99% of innocent Muslims?

          • Nancy October 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

            GAH! Don’t even get me started on the airport security thing! As horrible as 9/11 was, you have to give Al Queda credit for being outrageously creative. If they can think up something as creatively awful as flying airplanes into buildings, they can think up something equally as creative. And no – I don’t think they’ll use airplanes next time.

  9. Colin Burns October 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    My feeling on the topic is pretty evident from my comment in the story. The situation that men find themselves in these days is NOT ACCEPTABLE in any way.

    You might argue (and I am not disagreeing) that men are the most common perpetrators of sexual abuse. But when you look at the statistics there is always a lot more to reading them than what is at face value.

    For example, a situation where a 21yo male and an consenting 17yo female have sex, the male can be presecuted and classified as a rapist [please don’t argue with me about whether this is correct or not, please just wait for the full example] but in the reverse situation an older woman having sex with a younger man will often not be prosecuted or will get off and no conviction recorded. So the statistics of sexual abuse can often be skewed in the male direction.

    A case I heard about in Melbourne, Australia. A young girl (20+) provided alcohol to 4 young boys, ranging from 13-17 I believe. She got them drunk and had sex with all of them. She was let off with no conviction at all. If the genders were reversed what would the outcome have been? This is purely an example of how statistics can be skewed without you knowing it. Most statistics will only report convictions or alternatively they maybe reporting claims that may or may not be substantiated.

    A solution to the initial problem…

    To me, the best solution to the problem from the initial article would have been to ask the school to organise a meeting with all the parents who volunteer (both men and women) and all the concerned parents. All sit-down together, pay for a facilitator to moderate the conversation and talk about the concerns. The concerned mother’s (and father’s) would most probably see a loving caring father who wants to be involved in his own child(ren)’s lives and give back to the community through assisting at the daycare.

    Instead she jumped in with with RIDICULOUSLY UNFAIR PREJUDICES that teach men to not be involved with raising children. Leaving it all to the women. She is probably the exact same woman who complains that her husband/partner doesn’t involve himself with raising their daughter.

    When I meet a mother for the first time I don’t immediately think that she is a bad mother who smacks her child and verbally abuses them. I have enough brains to realise that although some mothers do this, the vast majority of mothers are loving, caring people who shouldn’t be judged or feared based on a small minority of women who struggle with motherhood.

    So next time you are in a shopping center and your son or daughter says hello to a guy and he says hi back, take a look at his face and think about whether he is just being nice and polite to your child or if you are reverting to a highly like incorrect assumption about this person.

    • Nancy October 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

      @Colin Burns,
      I am so sorry you have to deal with this. If people would only see that the whole stranger danger thing is mostly a figment of our imagination, maybe we could move beyond it.

    • Naomi October 24, 2011 at 5:28 am #

      @Colin Burns,
      Yes, the justice system in this area is very unequal. I am hoping in the coming years that some truth will be shed on the female child abusers and they will start getting what they deserve as well.

      But that said, I can assure that *most* mothers are probably not automatically assuming you are a child abuser just because you are male… Speaking of paranoia. =)

  10. Sarah October 25, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    I often see cases of child molestation on tv. I would understand that people are doubtful about some men. It is important to take precaution and make an effort to always watch over our kids. Though there are good men, there are also pretenders who are good at gaining our trust.

    • Nancy October 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

      It is important that we remain vigilant, but not go over into paranoia.

  11. James October 25, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    I was driving to the supermarket one day a few winters ago. A child ran out into the street in just shorts and a tshirt, not even shoes. He started sprinting up the street, so I slowed down and asked him if he needed any help. He said no without slowing down, so I went to the supermarket. When I was returning home, I saw 3 sheriff cars in front of the house. I thought that I might have some information for the officers, so I stopped to tell them what I’d seen 45 minutes earlier. The officer listened to me, then went back to talk to her partners. She returned to tell me that the parents had reported a strange man talking to their son in the street and were worried that he might be abducted. The consequences of helping a stranger have become too great in our society, so now I try my best to suppress any altruism before it gets me in trouble.

    • Nancy October 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

      That is truly tragic. I don’t understand why we can’t help one another – seems to me that’s what we were put on this planet for.

  12. Burkey July 30, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    I came across this post in a totally random way, read the article you linked to, and followed the comments there with great interest.
    I agree with you that people seem terrified when it comes to kids. I was taking a train trip last December and I had a little tape recorder hidden in my scarf and was recording sound. A couple of little kids were in line and I asked them “Do you like the train” and they were like “Yeahhh!” And then they started talking to me, Where you from, like that. Just a two minute conversation, but then two ladies in the line were giving me hard stares, as if to say “You don’t talk to kids you don’t know. Not Right!”
    And, I’m a woman. A pretty normal looking woman who works in radio and is used to talking to strangers. The reactions of these women made me feel like I had done something wrong. It was sort of weird.
    So yeah, I do think there is some kind of fear afoot. Maybe it has to do with the news, or TV, which I quit watching in 89 because the view of the world it promotes is so darn strange. Just wanted to say your article was interesting and I found it poses good questions.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel August 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

      @Burkey, I can’t stand that aspect of American culture!! Seems to me that it should be normal to talk with kids and adults alike. I find it so sad that kids are taught to fear adults, and adults are taught to never interact with people they don’t know. I fear for where we, as a society, are going.

  13. Burkey August 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Yes. That’s what I got out of your post and I had been thinking the same thing. What’s really crazy is that stranger-danger is so overrated. I wrote news headlines for years here in Southern California and it’s really true, statistically, that harm to kids is actually more likely to come from those who are known and trusted. In particular there is so much domestic violence afoot, toward little kids, that it became very hard to keep writing those news headlines. After a while, hearing about the terrible things that do happen, is so hard to bear. It is outrageous that there is so much we have to take on, in the world, because it really can be such a brutal place, and that the kindness of strangers is so overrated and even unheard-of. My old boss at a public radio station, Ruth Seymour, used to talk about this all the time–that the ‘kindness of strangers’ is a real force for good that can be unleashed by those who understand its power.
    Unfortunately it seems like this is a message that’s not getting out there much lately.


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