|Surviving the Lies
By Sharon Doty, J.D., M.H.R.
“People lie!” You have probably heard this many times in your lifetime. Although we wish it were not true, we encounter examples of it every single day—and we do it ourselves. “I wasn’t speeding!” “It was just a small bite of cake.” “The check is in the mail.” “You look great today.” These are all examples of the small and seemingly harmless lies that people tell every day. The problem is that even though we know it happens, child molesters lie to us all the time and WE BELIEVE THEM!
This was powerfully demonstrated in the news recently in a major midwestern metropolitan area. Headline stories on television, radio, and in print identified two different men who were arrested and charged with a variety of crimes against children during the same week. Although the incidents were unrelated, there were similarities in the initial reporting of the two stories.
For example, both men were identified as youth ministers, scout leaders, and coaches. After future investigation, however, it was discovered that both men lied. They lied to the children they were grooming. They lied to the parents and families of the children. They lied to others in the community. Neither of the men was ever a youth minister or a scout leader or a coach. They were able to talk intelligently about each activity and appear to be credible in each of those roles but they were lies. They never actually did any of those jobs.
People trusted what they said and were drawn into the lies. The success of these two men in their effort to break down the natural barriers of both children and adults reminds us of the need to maintain a healthy suspicion about adults in the environment and to pay attention to our own skepticism. Healthy suspicion and skepticism can make a difference in our commitment to a healthy, safe environment for our children.
We are not encouraging paranoia. However, we are asking that you err on the side of protecting children in every decision you make. There are some actions you can take when someone offers help.
Get details. When someone shares previous experiences of working with children or young people in any capacity, ask for details about the experience. Make sure that person provides you with places, dates, and the names of others who were part of the activity. If the person expects to be alone with your child, check the facts.
Make sure all the steps for safe environment are followed. If the person is applying for a position of trust with children, find out whether the screening steps were completed. Make sure that the programs he or she is participating in are monitored.
Make yourself available to participate in the activities with young people. Remember that one of the warning signs is people who always want to be alone with children in a secluded environment where no one else can observe what is happening. Offer to stay to observe or join in the activity in order to make sure there is no opportunity for the isolation or seclusion of the child.
People lie—and some are very good at it. Unfortunately, when predators lie and convince us, and our children that they are telling the truth, the costs are too high. Remembering that just because someone represents him or herself as someone who is trustworthy does not make it so. Maintain a healthy suspicion about the people who interact with your children. Nurture a healthy skepticism about the representations that others make about their background. Ask questions, check facts, and act in a way that puts the safety and wellbeing of your children first.
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