Last week, Tim Challies posted some reflections entitled An Inflated Predator Panic? He reviewed some of the current anti-male hysteria: some airlines will no longer seat unaccompanied children next to men, child advocates advise parents not to hire male babysitters, sports leagues advise men not to touch children under any circumstances, etc.
Tim then asked whether we're being fair to men and posed some questions to his readers. Ultimately, he concluded that we're being entirely fair to men as he stated that he'd never allow another man to babysit his children under any circumstances. A distressingly large number of Tim's commenters agreed that it was never ever safe to allow a man -- any man -- to babysit or be alone with their children. Many of these same commenters proclaimed that their policy wasn't born out of an unreasonable fear of men and that they wanted their children to have a healthy attitude towards men.
What follows is an edited, reworked version of several comments that I left on Tim's post.I'm a 26 year old male. I got married when I was 23 and I now have two young daughters (2 years old and 8 months old). As a young dad, I'm very sensitive to the "I don't trust any man with my kids!" line.
So, to answer Tim's questions:
1. Would you leave your children with male babysitters?. Yes.
2. Would you allow your teenage boy to babysit other children? Assuming he liked kids more than I do, yes. (I don't understand kids that aren't my own. They have weird language and habits.)
3. Are you immediately hesitant or nervous when a man shows friendly interest in your children?. No, not really. I'm actually more nervous around teens or other kids. They're not fully mature yet. Who knows what they'll think is a good idea.
4. For the men: if you saw a child standing alone and crying in the mall, would you stop to help the child? If so, would you do so with confidence or with some level of fear? I probably wouldn't. I'd be afraid of what other people would think. I'd be petrified that the child's parents would see me with their child and totally freak out. I'd be afraid of getting a bogus conviction as a child molester and having a judge forbid me to even see my own children.
Let's move on to the substance behind the questions though. So far in this conversation, I'm seeing a lot of blanket statements and few actual statistics. Statements like "the fact remains that the vast majority of predators are men" or "After all, the vast majority of children are molested by men whom they know AND trust."
This is, sadly, pretty common. And I wonder how much of those statements are driven by sensational news coverage and not by actual truth. So, I went looking for some statistics. They seem to be hard to find. 30 minutes with Google hasn't turned up much. Here's what I have seen, from the U.S. Justice department:
Currently, it is estimated that adolescents (ages 13 to 17) account for up to one-fifth of all rapes and one-half of all cases of child molestation committed each year (Barbaree, Hudson, and Seto, 1993)
By 1997, however, 6,292 females had been arrested for forcible rape or other sex offenses, constituting approximately 8% of all rape and sexual assault arrests for that year (FBI, 1997). Additionally, studies indicate that females commit approximately 20% of sex offenses against children (ATSA, 1996).
This looks like females and other children commit a significant number of sex crimes. Now, I'll look at the numbers another way. Rounded off, there are 500,000 sex offenders in the state registries. There are 119,566,275 men aged 15 and up in the U.S. I'll round that to 119,500,000. Now, assuming that every single registered sex offender is male (not true), that means male sex offenders are .4% of the total male population. Note that's point 4 percent, not 4 percent.
Put differently, assuming that no women is every guilty of molestation, only 1 out of every 250 men is a risk to your child. How many men does your child even interact with on a regular basis? And the odds are even lower than that. Women can -- and do -- molest children. Why are we so intent on punishing so many men for the sins of so few? With odds this low, why do I have to worry that anyone seeing me carry my daughters around or hold their hands will assume I'm a predator?
Abigail, your comment, in particular, saddens me immensely. You wouldn't let any male babysit your children. You won't let your own son ever babysit anyone's children. You believe that any trusted male is a potential predator. And then you say that you're not telling him that all males are bad. How is he supposed to believe that?
To everyone who feels that way, how am I supposed to believe that? Given that you would never, every allow a man to babysit -- solely because he is a man -- how should I or your children believe that not all men are bad? Eventually your children will notice that mom and dad are okay with them being alone with women but not with men. What kind of a signal will that send to them?
I ask that as a young, Christian male who desperately wants to be a man that children can look up. I want to be a man that young women see as a model of manliness and a model of what to look for in a husband. I want to be a man that young men see as a model of manliness and a model of how to treat women and children.
But I know that you and other mothers like you are in my church. Women that look suspicious every time I go to the nursery to pick up my daughters. Women that give me strange looks when I take my daughter to the park without taking my wife along. Women that stop whatever they're doing to continually watch my interaction with my children.
How am I ever supposed to have any confidence that I can be a role model if half of the adults in the room cringe any time I happen to pass near their child? How can your children ever begin to look up to me and trust me when their mother so clearly fears me?
As a man, I'm very grateful for the parents who have said that they would use a male babysitter. I'm heartbroken over the parents who categorically reject the option. To explicitly say that one person is more trustworthy than another -- solely on the basis of gender -- is extremely discriminatory and discouraging.
I am a parent. I feel a great weight of responsibility for both of my daughters. What really concerns me is the attitude expressed by "E" and several others today: "I must say though, that generally speaking men are perverts and predators and deserve the stigma."
That attitude is entirely offensive, untrue, and demeaning. I will not raise my daughters to believe that every man but me is suspect and dangerous. I am pleading for the opportunity not to be viewed as a potential predator first and a person second. I am pleading for the opportunity to be seen as a Christian, a fellow brother in Christ, a mentor, a friend, a husband, a father, a loving son, and a faithful employee. Instead, I've felt that stigma of being a potential predator. I've walked into the church nursery -- alone -- to pick up my daughter and seen people look at me suspiciously. I've taken my daughter to the park -- alone -- and seen mothers view me with suspicion and a little fear.
Yes, I will protect my daughters. I will raise them to know that men view sex differently than women. That men are more visually oriented. That they should be careful with how they interact with young men: don't be flirtatious or unknowingly seductive. Men view these things differently. I know.
But many, many men are trustworthy and honorable. Many young men are worth of respect in their interactions with young women and children. And we insult and cripple these men if we're collectively telling everyone to be very, very careful with letting their children be alone with men or emotionally close to men.
For me, this goes back to a particular, peculiar, Christian view of sex. Many church youth groups tell their teens to avoid sex until marriage. They explicitly or implicitly tell them that sex is dirty, disgusting, and embarrassing -- so you should save it for the one you love. Are we -- as a society -- giving our children the same view of men? Are we telling our children, our daughters, that men are typically vile, evil, and dangerous; and that it's best not to get too close to them? Are we telling them that all men are predators and therefore you should love, honor, and cherish one as your husband? Are we implying to our sons that men are inherently untrustworthy and then expecting our sons to grow up and suddenly act inherently trustworthy?
People will live up -- or down -- to the expectations that are set for them. If the expectations are negative, well, why try to hard? After all, everyone expects you to fail. We can complain that people should be better than that. We can proclaim that one should always live right no matter what the expectations of others are. But, realistically, most people don't work like that. So, what kind of expectations are we setting for our sons?
Are we telling them that they're sex obsessed predators just waiting for a private moment to commit a crime? Are we telling our sons that they can never be trusted with anyone's children? Are we giving them expectations to live up to or expectations to live down to? Our young men will take their cues from what we say. But they'll also take their cues from how we treat other men and how much we trust other men.
So will our daughters. If we never fully trust any man other than our fathers, if women never fully trust any man but their husband, how can we raise our daughters to trust their husbands? If they grow up believing that most men are predators how can they trust even their husbands? Will they ever be comfortable leaving their children alone with their husbands? How many future marriages are we poisoning today?
Speaking for myself, I will raise my daughters to know what a trustworthy, honorable man looks like. I will raise them to give a trustworthy man the trust he's earned over a lifetime. I'll raise them to know the signs of an untrustworthy man (or boy) and avoid him. But I will not raise my daughters to instinctively distrust men simply for the crime of being male.
I will not discriminate against 50% of the population solely because of their gender. Will. Not. Happen.