Are Parents To Blame When A Kid Gets Molested?
Should parents be blamed -- or even prosecuted -- if they allow their child to go on an overnight where he ends up molested?
Yes, says the head of the Boy Scouts council for Portland, Oregon. No, says me. No more than parents should be blamed if they send their kids to church and they get molested there, or at camp, or at grandma's house. Blaming the actual victim is taboo. But these days, it's all the rage to blame a victim's parents.
Jaycee Dugard is snatched from her bus stop? Her parent should have been with her! Oh, he was? Well, he should have been closer! Somer Thompson is kidnapped on her way home from school? That'll teach her mom to let her walk home! A boy is molested by his scout leader? It's all the parents' fault.
Remember how we used to say rape victims were asking for it? "She wore her skirt too short!" It was our way of feeling safe: If she brought it on herself, then we're safe because we're not like her! Then finally we realized: No one asks to be sexually assaulted. We were blaming the innocent victim. We stopped.
And then we turned around and started blaming victims' parents.
When my friend's daughter broke her arm, the local moms pounced. "Where was her mother?!" Uh, her mom was pushing her on the swing. The kid fell off. These things happen. Why were they so eager to blame the mom?
Same reason we used to blame rape victims: We're terrified something bad will happen to our kid. If we can distance ourselves from the parent of a victim, we can reassure ourselves that it won't happen to us! We care more. We are better.
Except sometimes bad things happen to good kids with good parents. This latest case takes place in Portland, Ore., where a former assistant scoutmaster has admitted molesting a Boy Scout back in the 1980s when the boy came to his home for an overnight. The now-grown victim is suing the Mormon Church, which chartered the troop, as well as the local Boy Scout Council for $29 million. The Council's defense?
"His parents should have known better." That's literally what the head of the council, Eugene Grant, told the jury.
Well, if his parents should have known better, I suppose I should, too. I'm the parent of two Boy Scouts who regularly go on overnights with their troop. True, these trips are out in the woods, but anything could happen there, too. And anything could happen at a piano lesson. Or Sunday school.
The best way to keep our kids safe involves teaching them about good touch/bad touch, telling them they can always say no to an adult, and adding that they can and should tell us about anything creepy, even if a (creepy) adult tells them not to.
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, those lessons keep kids safer than new sex offender laws. They certainly keep kids safer than pointing fingers at the people who are saddest of all when a child gets hurt.
Related: New Study: Parents Stink
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.