If You Are Male, You Are Under Suspicion

Hi Folks — Two letters I got, two days apart:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I have always wanted to have something to share about my experience as a Free-Range Kid parent, but today I don’t get to do that. My story is of how the 9 or 10-year-old girl from down the street came over and said she can only play if my wife is at home. I said “Oh, really?” and marched her home and confronted her mom and sure enough, it’s not acceptable for me to be the only parent in the house when she over. “It’s to protect both her and you” she says. I guess we live in a world where all men are perps. – T.F.

And here’s Letter #2, from Nicholas Martin, executive director of the Consumer Health Education Council, who was at the beach with his 9-year-old daughter and two of her friends.

Dear Free- Range Kids: I took my 9-year-old daughter and two of her friends to  swim today at Brookville Lake, an Indiana state park. I was shooting them from the beach with a telephoto lens when I was approached by two park guides who asked if I was photographing my own kids or other people’s. I responded that I had the legal and constitutional right to photograph anyone. I asked if there was a complaint and a female guide responded that one beachgoer had motioned them over to question my picture taking.


The guide said that she was just ensuring the safety of the children. I said that it was ridiculous to think that a man shooting with a large camera and lens on an open beach was a potential threat to kids, and pointed out that probably hundreds of people on the beach had cell phone cameras that could take pictures without being noticed. The guides were unfailingly cordial and respectful and we bid each other a friendly goodbye.

Minutes later the ladies next to our beach tent pointed out the woman nearby who had made the complaint to the guides. She was with three other women, all apparently in their thirties and with no accompanying kids. Seconds later one of the four women lifted her cell phone and began taking pictures of one of her friends standing in from of the water. Or she could have been taking pictures of the children behind her for all I know. I approached the woman who had complained and asked if we should notify the guides about her friend’s picture taking. She responded by asking me if I would want a stranger taking pictures of my child at the beach. I said it would be fine with me since it presented no threat.
Later my kids heard some people in the water complaining about my picture taking. One of them said, “He better put that camera away.” It is not far-fetched to imagine a mob of people driven by a sufficient frenzy to inflict “justice” on a photographer at that beach. What if I hadn’t had any kids with me and was just shooting some beach scenes, with kids, adults, and lapping waves? The American mania regarding sexual predation is not to be toyed with. [NOTE FROM LENORE: Sure isn’t. A man on the sex offender list for having sex with his younger girlfriend as a teen was murdered by a vigilante last week.] 
Though they never should have approached me, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources guides deserve credit for acknowledging my rights and being pleasant in their questioning. In my view, this is another case of “guilty of being male.”  Perhaps area photographers should show up at the beach for a Photo Freedom Day to publicize and defend the right to do photography. – N.M.
Lenore here: I like the idea of organizing a Photo Freedom Day. I like the idea of organizing any kind of “Return to Normalcy Day” (like my “Take Our Kids to the Park…And Leave Them There Day”) and alerting the press. 

What kind of creep took this photo? I see KIDS in it!

113 Responses

  1. This is one reason I make all my photos, including those with my son, ‘public’. a) it makes me stop and think about what I want to share, but more importantly b) I actively don’t buy into the fear that my child is somehow in danger because people can see pictures of him.

  2. When I was visiting Ottawa last May, I went to the local pool with my daughter and the three children she was looking after. I took my camera and started to take a few pictures of them having fun in the water, when I was stopped. I was told that there is a rule that will not allow any one to photograph in the pools in that city ( I think it is in the whole city) and if I wanted to take pictures of the ones with me, I had to ask a life guard to first ask the people around them if it was ok and then he would stand guard with his arms outstretched to protect the others in the pool from my camera.
    I really was not interested in shooting photos of other people but I was so shocked to have this happen. The parents of the children had been asked before I got there if taking photos with my daughter was ok with them and they all liked that idea.
    I am a woman in my early 50’s and have been a preschool teacher in my younger years.
    I am doing a photo project now about tourist places and like the man in the letter above, I am worried about taking photos with my big camera in a park or public place with out grandchildren in tow.

    I would love a Photo Freedom Day.

  3. I fear for the effect all this man=predator mentality will have on our kids. First, a rather large portion of the children on Earth are boys. Boys grow into men. What do we teach them when we treat every man as a threat? Second is my concern for children of single mothers and all children really. Growing up with a single mother I was blessed to have a number of positive male role models in my life and I attribute my healthy relationship with my husband as well as everyone in my life in part to their influence. All children need positive male role models, even kids with great dads in their life. We’ve scared men out of preschools, classrooms, church youth groups and the list goes on. Now we are trying to scare them away from public places. I can’t blame men for not wanting to put themselves at risk. I am angry that they are even put in the position of having to worry about false accusations. But more concerning is the fact that the “we must protect the children at all cost” camp has completely failed to recognize the real, long term harm they are inflicting on children with their all men are monsters attitude.

  4. Last year there was a message shared with members in my local mother’s club about a ‘creepy’ man taking photos of kids in the park. The police had been notified and we were to all “be on alert”. It made some incredibly upset when I replied that any person can take a photo of anyone in a public place.

  5. @Heather- Exactly this too! Are we teaching boys that they will grow up to be molesters and perverts? That they can not be trusted with children?
    My husband says that he’s always on alert when he’s around kids. He takes our boys to school in the mornings. He used to play with the boys before the bell and other kids would join in. But he felt the need to stop all together when some girls started playing too and would try to hang on his arm. So now he drops them off and leaves. Sad really.

  6. Several years ago, when my daughter was about 4, my wife and she went to a nearby water park. A day or two later, while surfing the web on some completely unrelated matter, my wife found a picture of our daughter from the trip to the water park, taken by some complete stranger! She got in touch with the photographer, mostly to remark on the coincidence, who turned out to be a woman who just happened to think our daughter was beautiful and would make a good photograph subject. I can only imagine how some people would freak out seeing a picture of their precious little snowflake on someone else’s Flickr account. We thought it was terrific, and a wonderful coincidence that we should stumble upon it like that.

  7. The guy I’m dating is a single dad. A lot of his daughter’s friends are not allowed to spend the night at his house. Whenever she wants to have a big slumber party (birthday, etc.) his sister had to come stay at the house in order for some of the kids to stay the night. I personally think it’s silly.

  8. It’s funny you should post this today, because I was just thinking about this last night. I saw a news story about a little girl in China who was hanging from a balcony by her head (high above the ground), and a complete stranger (male), who was in town for a job interview, climbed up and held onto the side of the building (risking his life) and held her feet up so she could be safe until rescuers freed her. (Did anyone else see that?) I just kept thinking what a contrast that was from the usual image we have of men in connection with little girls not their own. You know, maybe, just maybe, men care about little kids too. I had an impulse to post the story here, but it didn’t fit under any of the recent posts.

  9. For the first – I would tell the mother that obviously you have a guilty conscious, so my child is never allowed in your house.

    For the second I carry a copy of the photographer’s bill of rights http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf with me.

  10. I did forget to mention my third fear that the man=predator mentality will inflict on our children. REAL predators and REAL threats will be lost in a sea of false accusations. Resources are finite. Children who are victims of real monsters won’t get the attention they need and deserve if we waste all our time and resources treating men who aren’t threats like they are.

  11. I believe I am a full fledged Free Range Mom (sweetie is not so much a free range dad, but he tries), however, the first story here struck a note with me.

    Our daughter (12) quickly made a friend in our new neighborhood.. We soon got to know the entire family and liked what we saw, until we found out that “dad” did not supervise / or interact with his wife’s older daughter (11) our daughter’s friend. huh??

    So, Sweetie told daughter to just check in periodically please, just as if they were out roaming the neighborhood. And no sleepovers unless her Mom would be home…. so there would be supervision in case of emergency.

    I thought that was a little odd…. To this day, years later, I don’t really know what to make of it.

  12. These are always the saddest FRK letters. As a photographer, a mother and a human being, this stuff pisses me off to no end. Can we just stop with the insane paranoia now? I want to see dads playing at the park. I want people to feel free to capture memories with their cameras. I want boys to grow up in a world where they feel like being a father/caring for children is a valid thing to do. All this fear is just crippling humanity.

  13. My husband is a stay-at-home dad. We’ve not encountered these specific issues – but I see a real potential for conflict based upon these stories. More and more families are choosing to have the father as the parent-on-duty for more and more time (whether full time at home, work from home, or both parents working with dad handling some kid activities.)
    As those numbers increase, it appears some parents will simply have their children opt out of social events. Silly and sad.

  14. Re: letter #1

    If another parent did that, the solution is simple: that kid is not allowed in my house under any circumstances, whether my wife is there or not. If the parent is so paranoid and sexist to assume that I will hurt their child, then what’s to stop them from making up equivalent paranoid fantasies about my wife?

    If I am such a danger to children, then wouldn’t anybody that I would choose as a mate be just as dangerous?

  15. I can’t imagine how frustrating/ strange it must have been to hear that you were somehow not competent or “safe” enough as a single father to take care of your daughter and her female friends. That is offensive that you were told this really. 😦

    In response to the “mania regarding sexual predation is not to be toyed with” – sexual predation is an actual thing, serious and devastating for those involved. unfortunately multiple people close to me are survivors of this, some underaged when sexual assault by an adult occured.

    I do want to say that men as a group are NOT predators: that is absurd and a dangerous stereotype! People – women and men- who commit unwanted/ criminal acts against others are (feel free to pick my wording apart, im not looking for an argument, just trying to explain my thoughts).. That can obviously include women and unfortunately many victims of sexual abuse are from women too. I am just saying that this does happen, and although I want my future kids to be free-range, I will pay significantly more attention to their interaction with strangers and family and friends if I think there are signs of abuse.

  16. I was just at a management seminar. While most of it was the typical management seminar fluff, two things really stuck with me. Many of the speakers drew parallels between managing people and raising children, and much of that was outright freerange stuff: if you want creative, independent [ workers | children ] you have to trust them, challenge them, celebrate their successes and accept their failures.

    The other thing that really stuck with me was a statement by one of the speakers:

    “You get the behavior you recognize.”

    Not reward, but recognize. If you treat all men as criminals, then all men will be criminals, at least in your eyes, as you will look for the “criminal behavior” that you are certain is there. The most innocent action will become proof of their criminality.

    On the one hand we lament the lack of involvement by fathers in their childrens’ lives; on the other hand we see involvement by men in childrens’ lives as proof of their pedophilia.

  17. I’m just waiting for the day when there is an ACTUAL predator and the police take their time responding because they don’t take it seriously. I mean, if people ask the police to question every single male at the beach or park who are doing nothing wrong, what would you expect to happen?

  18. @Cheryl…You make a great point, although you don’t realize it. You were cautious NOT because the step-dad was a male, but because THERE WAS SOMETHING UNUSUAL going on! That’s the exact point, I think. We need to learn to recognize specific signs and trust our instincts and teach our children to do the same. If something feels ‘off’, then go with your gut. But clearly you didn’t have a problem with the man BECAUSE of his gender. Therein lies the difference between FR Parents and the paranoids!

  19. What exactly are we telling our boys today? Since he is a young male, he is automatically a pervert? All males are pedophiles until proven otherwise? Since he is a male, he can’t be trusted alone with females or young children, because something MIGHT happen? That basically, being a male is a life sentence to suspicion until proven otherwise, and because you’re a male, if your accused that makes you guilty? And, what are we telling our girls? That they should never trust a man or a male? Yes things happen, but rather than live in fear, that everyone is out to get you, why not live in empowerment and knowledge, know how to say no, know what to do if someone doesn’t listen to no? Why not? If you are a man and you are tired of the whispers behind your back when you walk through the children’s section of a store, or look at a child, or God forbid acknowledge a child and say hello, or are alone with children, take action, repost this, confront the people whispering behind your back, and the next time you see a woman alone with children or alone in the children’s section of a store, make sure to point it out to an employee and ask if that isn’t suspicious, because, “You never know”.

  20. @Cheryl – That situation is easy to explain. It sounds like a stepfather/stepdaughter relationship from your description. This would not be uncommon. Stepfamilies are difficult and the level of interaction between stepparent and stepchildren varies, even within families.

    I got along great with my stepfather. He and my mother divorced when I was in my late 20s but we have remained in contact through the years and my daughter calls him grandpa. On the other hand, my opinion of my stepmother varied from dislike to indifference, but was never warm and friendly. Your post describes our relationship perfectly. We weren’t hostile towards each other; we were simply indifferent to the others existence except as part of my father’s life. While we were very civil when together, we’ve had no desire to extend our relationship beyond my father’s death and she and my daughter have no knowledge of the others existence. My stepbrother seems to have felt the same about my father as I rarely saw them interact one-on-one.

    That said you could have let your daughter be at the house with just the stepfather. My stepmother and I may have had a mutual indifference for each other but she would have dealt with an emergency.

  21. Yep.

    My husband was with my daughter in the toy department while I was elsewhere in the department store. He was patiently wandering around behind her and she took her time looking at the toys.

    Sure enough, an employee started watching him to make sure he wasn’t Up To No Good.

    And it happened more than a couple times.

  22. Some people have suggested that I ban the girl from my house and that is exactly what I have done. It is apparent that I am already viewed with a suspicious eye and I refuse to expose myself further. It was a truly a humiliating and degrading experience. They rent and are looking to buy their own home; Godspeed to them. – T.F.

  23. Both these letters would make me laugh if it wasn’t so sad.

    I am German living in the UK and I have long since noticed how much more paranoid the UK and the US are in many respects, especially when it comes to raising children. Child leashes are just one of the many issues I take (and make fun of in my blog).

    I moved here about three years ago with my then 2 months-old to join his daddy. About 6 months later the 7 year-old daughter of a friend visited us from Switzerland (take note, she travelled unaccompanied on the plane!). One day I took the two kids to our local leisure pool. I had my camera on me as I wanted to take a few snaps of my baby’s first pool adventure. No sooner the camera was out than a life guard approached me telling me that taking photographs wasn’t allowed in the pool area. Mind you, it was a very slow day and in our special corner (the baby pool) there was no-one else around. I was so shocked I didn’t even discuss. Back home everyone is taking pics at parent and baby swim classes and no-one thinks anything of it!

    Outraged I related the story a few days later to some of my friends at university and two of the girls chimed in that they had had a similar experience at an ice rink a couple of days earlier. What on earth do people think will happen if two twens take silly pics of each other with completely dressed people in the background?!

    One of my theories is that the legal system in these countries makes litigation a profitable pastime, thus triggering careful-gone-paranoid general behaviour patterns. I therefore highly appreciate ideas and movements like the free range kids which aim to put things into the right perspective. Thanks guys.

  24. Recently I had a twitter discussion with a friend who has 4 kids. She said a male 20something who works with her at church offered to babysit for her on Friday night. Should she be bothered by this? I replied, would you be bothered if it were a female coworker offering? She didn’t respond to that part but did say that we’re talking about a 20 something on a Friday night, shouldn’t he be going out blahblahblah. I just replied since you work together he knows that you have 4 kids perhaps he realizes you and hubby don’t get much alone time together. She chuckled. Apparently that had never crossed her mind.

  25. @sillyandrea:
    That sort of thing happens to me occasionally in the Kids’ Section of the local Barnes & Noble… more so when I’m with our daughter than our son.

  26. A pity but as a male I realise that our society views me as inferior to women, a potential criminal simply because of the shape of my genitalia. (And now through the techniques pioneered by the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Genetics in Los Angeles, it may be possible to do away with males altogether.) Its true: being a man means being careful, or false assumptions of guilt can lead to loss of job, jail time, and even loss of life, since “he MUST be guilty if he’s accused: he’s a man after all!” Males must walk carefully to avoid a false accusation leading to the hell of our American Prison System. Being a man in our culture feels much like being a member of the resistance in Nazi occupied France.

  27. Just speak to a black male if you want to know where all these suspicions are headed. My black friends tell of people clutching their purses as they walk buy (professional, suit wearing types, I might add), or crossing the street all together; then they turn and frighteningly look back, etc… That’s where this is headed. Usually when I’m with my daughter or son alone in a dangerous place, like a book store or a park, I’ll always make some prominent display of my wedding ring when looked on with suspicion.

  28. When my daughter was about two, we were in a public garden where there was a music concert. Always a ham, my child stripped down to her altogether and began serenading the turtles in the pond with her own version of the songs being played. Yes, it was distracting, but not in a noisy way. Just in a “fairy nymph come to life in the garden” kind of way.

    Someone complained. Not because she was causing a ruckus, but this someone thought that someone might be looking at her. You know, *looking* at her. And might even take a photo. And that would just be, you know, *wrong.* And the fact that I didn’t care in the least who might be looking at her or *looking* at her, or taking a photo of the spectacle, I was a lousy parent.

    Heck, I thought I was being a great parent, letting my girl do her part to make the garden scenery that much more mystical and fabulous. 😉

    Anyway, the park staff came and asked us to leave. Escorted us out. We were chucked out on our ear, because the baby went streaking. Not shrieking, not squeaking, just… streaking. And that’s just not “on,” I guess, in this proper British town in British Columbia.

  29. @mollie I presume they were “Not Amused!” 🙂
    Oak Bay can be particularly snotty.

  30. The photo story… I’ve been warned plenty of times in a very dramatic way to not post any pictures of my daughter online because pedophiles might perv on them. How is that any of my concern? It’s just a picture of a child, like there are millions on the internet. So why would it all bother me if some stranger would take pictures of my child at a public place? I just don’t get the logic behind this and it seems to be just an excuse for some women to feel superior and make themselves look important.

  31. Here’s a ridiculous one for ya, Lenore…


  32. Last year I took a bunch of crowd pictures during a local herb festival, intending to forward the good ones to possibly go on their website. When I was looking through them later, I found one with a woman glaring into the camera. Didn’t notice her at the time, but apparently she was not pleased with my activities!

  33. My husband had somthing similar happen when he was photographing ouur kids (and every other kid in town) while sledding on the town sleddiing hill. Only, in his case it was the KID who complained! I think the child was around 9 or so (I don’t remember the gender, it wasn’t an issue). The complaint was that “he could be sued, the police called”–which must be the parents’ refrain….So sad. We live in a pretty small community where this is actually *not* the norm.

  34. Rich, OMG, yes, it was Oak Bay!!!! But only *just* over the border from Fairfield. 😉

  35. So awful. such crazy stuff.

    Our civilisation is going down for the count.

  36. I’ve seen “The Photographer’s Right” document before and I’m wondering if a passionate attorney would be able to re-word it to serve other purposes; kids rights, parents rights, single adult male rights.
    Could be handy to have.

  37. I’m utterly speechless… I’m aware I don’t have to befriend the parents of my kids’ friends to let them play together (if I had to, then they’d probably wouldn’t have much of a social life). But if ever one of them dared to be SO rude as that lady, I think I would raise hell! How dare she!!!
    If my husband were in that case, I bet he would force that mum to explain to both girls exactly why they can’t play when he’s in charge. No, really, lady. I don’t get it, so I’m unable to explain this. You try to explain to my daughter (very courteously, I’m sure) that I may have twisted instincts I’m unable to control. But only when I’m home alone with them, otherwise my wife can hold me back quite safely.
    I think the girls would conclude it’s HER house they wouldn’t want to play in, ’cause the dirty-minded lady would give them the creeps!

  38. Which is why I avoid contact with unrelated children. Sorry, but the end result of this doofish paranoia is that no sane person will want to volunteer to have anything to do with children. The only people left will be the very monsters who will prey upon your kids. So think of that when your church no longer has VBS or the park district no longer offers those neat programs for kids in the summer. Forget about scouting, too. That is a whole other can of worms that no one is going to want to go near.

    At some level, people have to understand that just because some monsters are people doesn’t mean that all people are monsters.

  39. I have several single-Dad clients. I hear similar stories all the time. As the hockey/soccer/pick your sport coach, they do fine. But at the beach, the park, the pool, the bookstore, they have all run into trouble at least once. When my husband was on parental leave, he was once asked (sweetly and kindly, mind) if the kids were his. To be fair, not every man in his 50s takes parental leave to care for his toddler and infant. And the ladies were being sweet, not angry. But still, no one has EVER asked me if any child in my care is mine. Like another poster, I worry about the messages my son is getting from all this paranoia.

  40. The strange man, perverted photographer stereotype has got to stop.

    I’m always reminded of the soccer game a few years ago when the gaggle of moms I was sitting with stopped to point out an old man with a tripod and big lense taking pictures. The talked about him with suspicion, so I got up and walked over.

    I introduced myself. I asked him if got any good shots. He did! He told me he loves taking action shots of his granddaughter and her friends- he said one of them always sticks her tongue out when she shoots on goal and makes the best faces.

    I knew exactly which girl he was talking about- mine! I told him I have a crappy camera and the shots in the middle are always blurry. He said he has some great ones of her and would get them to me.
    He prints the pictures for me on his own paper. They are some of the best shots of her- sheer determination and a tongue sticking out. I see him at other sports throughout the year. He almost always has new photos of her, and now some of her younger sister and (quite a few of the other kids on the team). I try to reciprocate with cookies and small tokens but he likes the compliments and feedback. He is a talented photographer.

    It’s been a few years now and I am so glad I met him and that he shared his photography. He’s complained to me about being asked to leave and not take photos. He said it’s usually the referee or a coach, never the mom with paranoia. He is a Vietnam vet and usually stands his ground. He didn’t risk his life to have his freedom restricted because of stupid paranoia.

  41. I am a social worker in CPS, I live in small community where crime is not that bad. We do have sex offenders, murderers and child abusers just like any other community. HOWEVER, I am a free-range parent. Just yesterday I had the joy of “teasing” my boss. My kids aged 8 and 11, catch the bus to my job after school a few days each week and yes they walk from the bus stop which is about 4 blocks, alone as they are in 2 diff. schools and get in town at diff. times. So they were here bored and wanted to go out for a snowball. The snowball shop is 1 block away but on a “bad” street i.e. drug dealers nearby. In my free range thinking I let them go alone. My boss comes to my office to talk to me about something, i had early talked to her about the FRP website and could tell that she is not ready to even get on the fence. So I say: ” Well here is FRP at it’s best, I sent my kids for a snowball” She says by themselves. I say “Yes, and you better not report me to CPS” LOL

  42. @ mollie, Sorry this happened to you. As a CPS worker I am very familiar with many of the perpetrators in my area. I live in a beach town and whenever I am at the beach with my kids, children are often seen running around naked. I have no problem with this UNTIL I see a known child perpetrator on the beach. What I do is gently approach the child’s family and inform them who I am and that there is a perpetrator on the beach (without pointing the person out) and that they might want to cover the child up for the moment.

  43. As a mom, I have had people ask me if my kids were mine. When we moved to CA, my 3 blondies with blue eyes were in a sea of dark hair. They look very much like their father, who is blond and fair. But, my hair has turned darker over the years, I tan easily, and my eyes are brown. The person thought that I was the nanny, not the mom.

  44. CPSLady, that is a very cogent approach.I wouldn’t be allowing a child of mine to be running around naked b/c of our modesty standards but IO appreciate your levelheaded take.

  45. #1 – I would not ban the girl from coming to my house. I would invite the entire family over for dinner. Perhaps a cookout. The men could bond over grilling, the women could have wine in the shade, and the girls can play in the sprinklers in their bathing suits (where everyone can see and everyone knows its not pervy). When the parents become your friends, the fear of who you are and what you potentially might do, evaporates.

    #2 – I’ve never understood the mindset that doesn’t want children photographed in public. Let’s take the “worst case scenario” that some pedophile really does want to photograph your little girl at the beach beause it turns him on. Then what? He takes the photos back to his dark computer room and looks at them for personal pleasure. Okay…so how does this hurt your daughter? Why do you care?

  46. #2 – I’ve never understood the mindset that doesn’t want children photographed in public. Let’s take the “worst case scenario” that some pedophile really does want to photograph your little girl at the beach beause it turns him on. Then what? He takes the photos back to his dark computer room and looks at them for personal pleasure. Okay…so how does this hurt your daughter? Why do you care?

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my thought. Best not to worry too much about it.

  47. “Okay…so how does this hurt your daughter? Why do you care?”

    It’s unthinking application of a concept that has been pushed strongly in recent decades.

    The anti-child porn lobbies have pushed the concept that child porn abuses children. And it’s quite true that the production of explicit child porn does involve the abuse of children.

    But the average person’s brain doesn’t quite apply it through to how the production of actual child porn hurts actual children. Instead, they make the connection that somehow the person viewing it is also hurting the children in some sense. Thus, a person viewing photographs not produced through the abuse of children is also “hurting” those children somehow. In some magical, karmic way or something. Because the slogan is that child porn hurts children.

    That’s where the use of slogans and cute little phrases in propaganda campaigns gets you. That is WHAT propaganda is supposed to do. It’s supposed to cause people to make illogical connections from A to B without thinking about those connections and considering them logically.

  48. Sorry, but the ban hammer will fall. It’s not that these people don’t know us…it’s that they HAVE got to know us. They’ve been here the whole school year and out children have got to know their child. They’ve changed their minds about me for some reason so no amount of BBQ is going to fix that.

    BTW I find it funny that I creep them out when we found the dad wandering through the house with his kid when no adult had invited them in. My wife was upstairs and had just come out of the bathroom in her bathrobe when she saw the top of his head through the spiral staircase. I can just imagine their reaction if I had done the same!

  49. […] Lenore Skenazy: If You Are Male, You Are Under Suspicion […]

  50. TF, maybe it is her own husband that she is afraid of doing something. If she bans her daughter from going over to your house she can ban other kids from coming to hers when the husband is home.

    But, really, I suspect that all kids are allowed at her house all the time.

    That guy is lucky your wife didn’t grab a phone and call the police on him.

  51. There is nothing worse in the USA than being a white man. If you are a white man, you are automatically assumed a racist, a misogynist, a sexist, and a pedophile.

  52. If you are a white man, you are automatically assumed a racist, a misogynist, a sexist, and a pedophile.

    Not my experience.

  53. @Cheryl maybe step-dad was afraid of what people’s reactions would be if he played with his daughter? He’s a step-dad, not the biological father. What would people thinking of him touching a young woman not his “real” daughter?? What if he felt even the least bit aroused? The self-loathing is easy to start: “I’m a pervert, so to save my daughter I must stay away from her.”

  54. Oh, and it’s not just photography of kids. It’s photography in general. Sometimes we railfans are told “You can’t take pictures of trains” (while on public property, so they’re 100% wrong.) So it may not be solely the “male = perv” effect in regards photography.

  55. If someone came up to me on the beach and said, “You might want to cover up your naked three-year-old because there’s a convicted child molester watching her cavort in the sand,” I would honestly feel disappointed. Like, TMI, lady, just leave us in peace! If someone is looking at my child and getting sexually excited, but they’re not conversing with her, I just. Don’t. Care. In fact, it sort of rains on our parade to have you point this non-threat out to me. If I’m right there, it’s as though you’re telling me that I’m not allowed to let my kid have a good time at the beach, that being naked as a toddler is “asking for it” or something. Naked, teeny bikini, what the hell is the difference? For many, it’s the teeny bikini that’s more exciting anyway.

    I object to the ban on child nakedness at beaches. Whether the social worker who can identify perps by sight is there or not, it seems like it’s become the general assumption that allowing naked children to be viewed by anyone, even when the nakedness is totally in context, is somehow bringing a hail of abuse onto the child. Come on! I think it does a world of good for a little one to feel the air on their skin, and that the freedom of occasional beach-nakedness is a good thing, regardless of who’s looking. Hell, it could be your own husband who’s looking— statistically, it’s more likely.

    I know this puts me in the minority of folks raising kids, but then again, I figured I was already in the minority these days for refusing to get hysterical about other non-threats to my kids as well.

  56. It’s sad and offensive all at once.
    My son’s school recently held an amazing day during reading month to promote “Males encouraging boys to read”. They invited fathers, brothers, grandfathers, uncles etc to come to school that day and participate in an interactive reading experience with the class. They brought their own books that they loved as kids and read to the class and discussed their reading experiences. The school did this because they found that it’s usually women who model reading to kids; moms, teachers, grandmas. Boys rarely see reading through the eyes of the male perspective. So it was really for the benefit of promoting reading to boys. Anyway, my father went to participate. My dad’s a ham and he had a great time with the kids. When he was done he gave my son (his grandson) a big squeezy bear hug. It’s bone-crushing and he used to do it to me as a kid and now does it to my boys. They love it and always ask for him to squeeze harder. So obviously my son was laughing and hollering at his grandfather’s crushing hug. What happened? The other kids were asking for the same! They all wanted to play and see if they could “withstand” the squeeze. So of course my dad played along and started hugging the other boys (and a few girls). And all I could think as he and my son were telling me the story was “Oh, no! I hope they don’t tell their parents about the grandfather dispensing squeezy hugs. They might go bonkers and think ‘pervy’ thoughts” How utterly sad that that was my first thought. Worry that my dad’s intentions could be misinterpreted.

    My hubby who has been coaching our boys hockey for 16 years just received a letter from our police to come in and submit fingerprints in order for him to continue coaching. The new policy requires this. Fingerprinting!! Never mind that we already have ‘safeguards’ in place. Each team has at least 3 coaches and there must always be 2 coaches present with the players at all times if parents aren’t there. Now they have to submit to not only a background check but be fingerprinted in order to ascertain that you haven’t changed your name after a conviction. What can you do? If you want to keep involved in your child’s sport you don’t have a choice.
    Sad that volunteers are under constant suspicion and offensive to have to be treated this way.

  57. Also, I wonder if this nonsense about fingerprints and background checks applies as much in traditional “girl” sports or activities? Do FEMALE ballet teachers and gymnastics coaches and hip hop dancers and figure skating coaches and drama teachers etc.. face as much scrutiny? I doubt it. It seems to really target male centered activities where the instructors are predominantly male.

  58. TF, I have to wonder if the mother is projecting issues with her creepy husband on to you. I used to live on a cul de sac where garage doors were left open to indicate “come on in and make yourself at home” (yes, we actually talked about it before we started wondering into each others homes) . Even in that neighborhood I can’t imagine anyone just coming in and wondering around without an invitation or signal. Lucky he didn’t pull that in my neighborhood. You won’t find warmer or friendlier people, but since much of the neighborhood is law enforcement there is a good chance the home owner is armed.

  59. Mollie – I couldn’t agree more. My kid is past the frollicking naked in public age, but it would really annoy me if someone came and pointed out that there was an offender on the beach and suggested I cover her up. It is really irrevelevant to me whether there is an offender in the general vicinity of my naked toddler. In fact, since molestation of children that young is the small exception rather than the rule, the odds of this offender being attracted to toddlers is small. Even if he is, so what? Does a bathing suit really make a difference?

    Now if you see a known predator of young girls talking up my daughter, that would be helpful to know. I don’t need to know if any sex offender is on the beach. Many are on the registry for things that have nothing to do with molesting young kids and I don’t need every dude who had consensual sex with his underage girlfriend or peed in public pointed out to me. But an actual child molester talking to my kid would be good to know, regardless of her state of dress.

  60. Agreed, Donna. The idea that someone THINKING THOUGHTS is somehow a threat to my child really bugs me.

  61. A classic case of ignorance and stupidity by people who don’t think before they speak. There are almost as many women charged and incarcerated for sexual assault, abuse, and even murder of children. Research say the numbers are probably even closer than that, but many “rapes” committed by women are hardly ever called in. Dumb thoughts come from dumb minds, and there are plenty of those people these days. I think a dummy is created everyday, because more and more people stop thinking for themselves, and use common sense. And as I’ve always said, perverted thoughts can only come from perverted minds. So one has to wonder about all these women thinking of perverts doing god awful things to children. THAT’s even more disturbing to know that even the anti-pervert people, are perverted themselves and they don’t even realize it. A “dirty time bomb” waiting to go off? Hmmmm.

  62. Perhaps it is an issue to those of us who have molestion’s occur to us or our children. So just because you all are comfortable running around taking photos of other peoples children pr people in general or sending your kids off alone with men does not mean everyone else should have to be okay with these things. our bodies our choice. Ask to photograph them or take one of yourself instead. Once a person has been victimized it is hard to see everyone as safe have some compassion and quit being so judgmental. Where is our personal rights to not be victimized again. Just because one is in public does not make them a public feature you are free to photograph.

    Also if men did not act like a bunch of sex crazed pigs then we would not have stereotypes would we. Men are the majority of rapists, molesters, cheaters, renters of porn, etc. If men do not want to be viewed as only wanting sex then quit acting that way. Treat women better. Boycott trashy movies that portray women and children as sex objects instead of flocking to go see them. Become real mean of value’s and moral’s again.

  63. Oh, is that the way I am suppose to act? I guess I have to go off and club a woman and drag her back to my cave now. Thanks for clarifying that for me. All the wasted years.

  64. “Just because one is in public does not make them a public feature you are free to photograph.”

    Actually, it does. If you are in public, and I can see you, I can photograph you. Period.

    “Also if men did not act like a bunch of sex crazed pigs then we would not have stereotypes would we.”

    Yes, blame the target of the stereotype for the stereotype. Your statement is no different than:

    If black people didn’t commit so much crime…
    If Jews didn’t horde so much money…
    If Asians weren’t so good at math…

  65. Curse you Y Chromosome for making me a total and complete waste of skin!

  66. And if women didn’t dress so provocatively… well, you know, they get what they deserve! What a bunch of baloney.

    What I was objecting to is someone throwing a towel over my kid “for their protection… because someone might look or take a photo” as if that’s a problem for me or my kid.

    Be fearful to your heart’s content; just don’t impose that on my sunny day at the beach, thanks!

  67. “Also if men did not act like a bunch of sex crazed pigs then we would not have stereotypes would we. Men are the majority of rapists, molesters, cheaters, renters of porn, etc. If men do not want to be viewed as only wanting sex then quit acting that way. Treat women better. Boycott trashy movies that portray women and children as sex objects instead of flocking to go see them. Become real mean of value’s and moral’s again.”

    a victim of sexual predators, I am sorry for what happened to you. But, you need more counseling if you think that all men are as you described above. And, you need to get out an meet more adult men, so that you can see they are not all that way.

    Not a single man that I associate with acts as you have described “all” men. All the men I associate with honor their wives, respect their children of both sexes, and don’t flock to trashy movies. I don’t know if they view porn or not, but I don’t really care as long as the porn is of consenting adults. (I know, that will make me seem sick in your eyes.) Sex is a normal part of life, and all the men I know can keep in their pants.

    Furthermore, your comments are a slap in the face of all the mothers and fathers who are doing a great job of raising their boys. You are telling me that my boys, ages 7 and 10 will become perverts. That they WILL treat women badly, that they will not ever be real men with values, because all men act like sex crazed pigs. Thanks a lot. As I said, you need to do more therapy because your views are lopsided.

  68. Um, I’d appreciate that CPS lady’s warning on the beach, assuming she was talking about a child sex offender. Then we’re not talking about someone who just has a different “sexual preference” or “feeling,” but someone who has a history of criminally acting against children. And yes, I believe nakedness may make a difference to someone wired that way.

    I wish we could all tell who the past offenders were, so that we could stop hearing how “anyone” could be a molester.

    I’m not a fan of naked little girls on the beach, but that’s more for sanitary reasons.

  69. What CrazyCatLady said.

  70. @CrazyCatLady, I loved what you wrote above. Loved it. But I do have a question, which I asked in an earlier posting but I think we’re all done commenting on that one.

    You wrote ” I told him to find a mother or employee, and to point at his arm” in relation to your son who is prone to go AWOL. I would like to know the reason he can’t find a father in this same situation; I have heard that this piece of advice comes from “Protecting the Gift” but I still don’t fully understand it.

  71. As a former stay at home dad I experienced this accusatory behavior several times. The most memorable was taking my 2 yo son to a local splash park mid-day a year ago. I was following him from the edge of the splash area while he played.
    20 Minutes after we arrived, I was approached by a cop who asked me for identification. After he ran my credentials he apologized saying that someone had reported a strange man ogling children at the splash park. I was the only male present.
    Shortly after that one of the women there asked me to leave so that they could allow their children to play in the water. She made a big scene when I told her that I would leave after my son was done playing in the water. The cop came back over and told me to leave as I was “creating a disturbance” by my presence.
    The city replaced the splash park with a skateboard park over the winter as it was costly and had attracted to much of an undesirable population. I wonder their basis for making that determination was.

  72. I told him to find a mother before we were free range. Now I tell my kids to find a parent with kids. Anyone would really do, but most of the time I was telling him this was at the Santa Cruz Board Walk and there are some strange people there.

  73. SKL – Why do you care if he is not near your child? Again, I would love a heads up if he were TALKING to my child. But ruining our day with fear because one is sitting on the beach that may or may not be noticing my child out of all the other cute kids on the beach? Why do I need to go there? What is going to be served? I can’t kick him off the beach. He will continue to think whatever thoughts he is thinking – the thought of which doesn’t affect my child in the least – unless I ruin our day and pack up and go home. He’s already seen my kid naked so it is not like now covering up is going to do anything.

    Most child molestations are still within the family. I have yet to see one who went from molesting his niece to abducting some strange kid on the beach.

  74. That came out bad as I was trying to eat, talk on the phone and type at the same time. Santa Cruz mostly has great people. However, there is a high population of people who use drugs who hang out at the boardwalk, (and tend to be younger without kids,) and a large population of homeless due to the warm climate, and a fair selection of gang members (not, that they would necessarily do anything bad either.) The board walk is billed as a family attraction, but it is not Disney Land. My son, as a youngster would willingly walk off with any one who held his hand. Thus, I tried to steer him to people I thought would be the most remote (in a remote possibility) to do anything other than try to get him back to me.

  75. WOW. I am amazed at how judgemental these comments are. How about promoting what you believe instead of bashing others? You wont change another’s viewpoint through mocking. Perhaps if you paused to think WHY someone is being ‘paranoid’ you could learn something.

  76. @victim of sexual predators

    As T.F’s wife, I find your comment that implies him, as well as other men as “sex-crazed pigs” to be highly offensive. I am a survivor of sexual abuse myself, but I don’t choose to give the man who did this to me the power to close me off to other men based on fear. It is a sign that you are not a survivor, you are still a victim. Until you can stop letting your fear of what happened in the past dictate to you how you react to men who had nothing to do with the abuse, your abuser is still winning.

    As to the dip dingle who felt entitled to go wandering through our home, let me just say this. It is a good thing that T.F. was in the house, because if it had just been me, the phone would have been the last thing I would have picked up. I’ll just leave that one at that.

    Up until his little snooping exploration through our home, I had maybe interacted with the father 2-3 times at most, and then in passing. It was normally the mother I interacted with, and here lately, she has been becoming more and more snoopy, asking little questions here and there to which the most appropriate answer would be, “none of your d#$n business.”

  77. And as in “here lately” I mean the past few weeks leading up to the incident.

  78. @Becky:
    “#2 – I’ve never understood the mindset that doesn’t want children photographed in public. Let’s take the ‘worst case scenario’ that some pedophile really does want to photograph your little girl at the beach beause it turns him on. Then what? He takes the photos back to his dark computer room and looks at them for personal pleasure. Okay…so how does this hurt your daughter? Why do you care?”

    I don’t agree with it, but what I’d ASSume people are so ‘skeered’ of is that the /next/ step is he sets up a photographic shrine* to your daughter and obsesses over her before abducting, molesting, and [finally] killing her. You know, just like in the movies…

    If it happens in the movies, I’m sure it happens often enough in real life that we should all live in fear of it. /sarcasm

    * (think Robin Williams in One Hour Photo)

  79. I found the policy of photo taking where my daughter plays netball very amussing. About 3 years ago my daughter was going to play her first game of netball. The area is very large with about 20 netball courts, all outdoors with a mesh fence sourrounding them. Just outside the courts is a natural reserve with walking and bike paths and on one side a public carpark. I wanted to take a photo and a short video of my daughter playing so I could send it to her grandparents. I was adviced I needed permission from all the players parents on my daughter’s and the opposition team, as well as the umpires and a wriiten permission form from the assosiation. I made a joke that I should just go into the reserve and take the photograph from there. I was told that is what other parents do because the organising committee cannot enforce their policies outside the courts as its public property. All I can think of is how this policy protects any child?

  80. * (think Robin Williams in One Hour Photo)

    A character who, it is implied, was molested by his parents as a child. His parents. Not some stranger.

  81. TF’s Wife, they sound really strange. I am glad that you have cut contact with them. I feel sorry for the girls though, but that is all on their part.

  82. Donna, I don’t know, maybe the same reason I don’t like low-cut blouses, short-shorts, and string bikinis. I don’t want ‘me & mine’ to be looked at that way.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t be in that situation since I don’t sent my kids out to play naked.

  83. An exchange from a site called “PhD in Parenting” from a few years ago, in response to a post about children and nudity:

    Jackie July 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm
    This is an interesting post. I have been contemplating this topic lately. My daughter is not a toddler yet and while I have no hang ups about nudity, I am concerned about predators. I would love to be able to relax about this, but the thought of some disturbed person looking at my baby is upsetting. I want my daughter to feel free with her body and to enjoy how wonderful it feels to be naked, but at the same time I feel very strongly about protecting her from perverts, so it will be difficult to navigate around once she starts requesting to be naked. I am curious about how others handle this dilemma?


    21 phdinparenting July 7, 2009 at 7:43 pm
    @Jackie: I think as long as your kids are still at the age that you or another trusted family member is always with them and able to protect them from predators, then you are fine. There are predators that love the look of little girls in frilly dresses and that will turn them on more than a buck naked baby, so IMO keeping clothes on your baby isn’t going to keep a creep from thinking creepy thoughts. Once your kids are old enough that they are venturing into the world on their own, going alone on play dates, etc. then I think you need to have a talk with them about not showing other people their private parts and not letting other people touch them. I don’t know that our son, 4 years old, is completely capable of understand that yet and that is one of several reasons that we have said no to sleep overs at friends houses.”

    I like this response, pointing out the difference between a child who is being directly supervised by a parent and a child who is “out in the world,” and the fact that you can’t ever know who is thinking anything, and why obsess about it? Background check or not, we just can’t know what someone is thinking. But I can decide what I’m thinking about, and I’m definitely NOT thinking that it’s my job to shield my children from the leering eyes of imaginary “perverts” who might be “looking at” them.

  84. I belong to several parenting forums and it has been suggested that during a slumber party I actually ask my teenaged son and my husband to leave for the night…because they are male. This has yet to happen in real life, but still….why should they leave their home for some other kid to enjoy the comfort of the home? One of my oldest daughter’s best friends is the child of a single dad who is also a police officer. He has never taken issue with his daughter being here with my husband. I really don’t understand this mindset….

  85. People get looked at “that way” every day, bathing suits and low cut shirts notwithstanding. We are a sexual species. Thinking that you can control someone else’s sexual thoughts and putting that responsibility on the ogled rather than the oglers is why some women in the world are forced to wear in burquas.

    That said, that isn’t even really the entire issue. There is always some risk that a kid naked in public will be ogled by a pedophile. If that bothers you, don’t let your child frolic naked in public. But what does knowing that a pedophile is present who MAY have seen your child and MIGHT find your child sexually appealing contribute to you? Nothing. You can’t keep your kid away from the pedophile as you don’t know who he/she is. Your kid has already been naked. The pedophile has likely already seen. If your child is one he/she finds sexually appealing, he/she already has enough information to have any sexual fantasies he/she wants for a lifetime. The only thing CPS woman has done is make you lose sleep over the possibility that some pedophile saw your child naked and is now thinking about her while pleasuring him/herself. A scenario that doesn’t hurt your child in the least and that you could have lived your entire life without picturing.

  86. T.F your neighbours are obviously insanely paranoid idiots… Why say to protect you? Has the kid lied about men touching her before?

  87. kd, I certainly wouldn’t make the male household members leave the house if I was having a sleep over, nor would I expect that to be the norm when my daughter was sleeping over.

    That said, I will not let my kids (male and female) stay at certain houses. These are houses with lots of people dropping in at any time, people without noticeable jobs, that do a lot of couch surfing. Unfortunately, my instinct has been right on in these cases, finding out later that there was meth being used/made and in one case, the resident child sexually abused by some of these “family friends” in the other.

    Most of the people that my kids are friends with, I know the parents, and I would say if my husband and I were to die tomorrow that my kids could live with them no problem.

    Mostly, I feel sleep overs are overrated and try to avoid them if I can. Most of the other parents that we are friends with feel the same way. Play all day, come back tomorrow for more if you need to. But everyone gets uninterrupted sleep.

  88. A proper response to the woman in the first letter might be along the lines of “I’m sorry, but because you assume that all males are sexual predators, I would prefer if my child not come over to your house, no matter who is at home. Your fear and automatic assumption of guilt in men make me feel that you’re not an appropriate role model for him/her.”

  89. Donna, there’s a distinction between pedophile and child sex offender. The latter has proven he’s willing to act on his fantasies.

    Just because the likelihood is low that my kid will be his next victim does not mean I need to keep feeding his fantasy. Honestly, I think some people here are being idealistic and would actually act differently if they were in that situation. I mean, if you sense someone looking at your chest or rear “that way,” don’t you have an impulse to adjust your clothing (if not leave outright)?

    As for the attire issue, I never have completely bought into the argument that women / teens should be able to dress any way they like and there is never any link between attire and sex crimes. It’s just not reality. It’s not an issue of fault, it’s an issue of being safer so that you’re not a target in the first place. If your car is full of valuables and you need to park and leave it on the road, do you leave the valuables in plain view with the windows down? Do you deal differently with this depending on the type of neighborhood you are in? (For example, hiding anything nice out of view in a high-crime area)? Why do we take protective measures with material goods and then argue that the opposite thought process should apply when it comes to a woman/girl’s body? Or maybe you don’t believe that some clothes are designed for the specific purpose of piquing sexual interest.

    Besides, even if I 100% trusted every man in my neighborhood, I would still find it wrong for a woman (or man) to parade in attire that says “look how sexy I am. I am a sex object.” (Not that this has anything to do with a naked baby.)

  90. Anyone who initiates non-consensual touching of another is putting their need for power or pleasure above the needs of the person being touched. Whatever someone is wearing or not wearing is not the issue, in my view. We would no more blame a child in a shorts and a t-shirt for triggering a sexual assault than we can blame a woman who wears a miniskirt and a halter top and high heels if someone touches her and she doesn’t want to be touched.

    I’m not on high alert to scan the horizon for folks who might be leering sexually at my kids. That’s probably a good thing for them, and for me. It means that I can be relaxed, friendly, sociable, and joyful, and operate under the basic assumption that my kids are safe in their community, even though freaky things happen sometimes. I am pretty oblivious about someone ogling me; I don’t “feel” eyes on me (perhaps there never are! LOL).

    God help the person who reaches out and touches me or my kids in a sexual way without our consent, though. And God help the person who blames us for being touched that way because we were wearing the “wrong” clothes, as though the person doing the touching “couldn’t help it.”

    Why, if that were the case—that men in particular can’t help touching women in “provocative” dress—then every stripper at the club would be so mobbed by men that she’d be unable to do her pole routine properly.

    I was assaulted in a parking lot once. A guy stuck his hand up my skirt and grabbed my vulva. When I reported it to the police, I was asked how short the skirt was. I felt crushed, as though there were no responsibility placed on the man who had done the grabbing. No, it was my fault. I wore the wrong thing, and got what I deserved.

    As long as we imagine that we carry responsibility for what others think, say and do, we will blame ourselves for their actions, that we “made them do it.” I don’t see this as truth anymore.

  91. Mollie, (sigh) although there are stupid people who use language like “she was asking for it,” that is a completely separate issue from what I’m talking about.

    No, dressing like a sex object does not equal giving anyone permission to touch you.

    However, it is increasing your risk that someone will target you and take liberties with you.

    These are two completely separate points. They are not dependent on each other at all.

    Is there really any comfort in the thought that you’ve been violated but it wasn’t your fault? I’d rather think of ways to reduce the risk in the first place. If you can prove to me that I am statistically equally likely to be assaulted regardless of what I’m wearing, please do so. Until then, I prefer to play it safe and I’ll teach my daughters the same.

  92. (***sigh***) Many people here have managed to illustrate the basic problem being addressed here. Our society is so bent on protecting our children and ourselves to such an extent that we’ve for all purposes become to some degree or another, suspicious shut-ins. We’ve decided that there are too many boogie men, when there are fewer now than ever before. Nancy Grace and twenty four hour news have convinced us that our children are in clear and present danger. We are convinced that our children are best kept close to our sides because there are wolves in the woods. Instead of learning to take precautions to protect out children as best as we can we’ve thrown up our hands and decided that the risk is just to great and we sit and wait it out, making sure that we and our children making safely to the end, never mind that they we are missing all the stuff in the middle. We are all seemingly too busy to do the things that make our children as safe as they can be while still doing anything at all, other than stay indoors at home where it is safe. We decided that worst case scenario thinking is our best course of action. We decided that because anyone could be a murderer, or a thief or a rapist that we might as well take the guilty until proven innocent route without having any idea how we get to a point of trusting that anyone is innocent.

    I spent my childhood roaming the neighborhood and not once did I run into a situation that I found dangerous and creepy because of an adult and it’s not because times have changed, it’s because it doesn’t happen as much or in the way you’ve been taught that it does. The news media makes sure you hear about it every time is does happen and makes sure you know every gory detail. And the facts don’t change when someone says, “hey! but it happened to me, I was attacked by a neighbor/stranger” because they are the exception not the rule. The fact is most of us were not attacked by neighbors/strangers as children.

    As for my kid, I want her to dress in a way that shows the world who she thinks she is. Sometimes we don’t agree on what that looks like but I am the parent and get the final say. One of the biggest safety actions I take is to actually listen to her. For example, there is a person we know who has offered, along with his girlfriend, to watch the kids from time to time. My kid has been emphatic that he creeps her out. Can’t people tell when there children are uncomfortable going to someone’s house? I know for a fact that the child who is now banned from my home clamored to come over. My kids knows about strangers just like I did. She knows how to stay on busy streets and how make a commotion when she feels threatened. That is the best I can do for her. I CAN NOT make her 100% safe. I can only give here the tools to deal with the wolves as best she can. I have not met some of the relatives of friends she visits. What difference would that make? I don’t have a special spidy sense that goes of when I meet a creep. My kid is a way better judge of that than me.

    I personally would rather take the risk and raise a child who has actually lived rather than a girl in a plastic bubble.

  93. TF, I’m not sure if your comment was directed at me or not. I too had a free-range childhood, for which I’m very grateful. But my parents didn’t buy me clothes that guaranteed that the underwear would show above the hemline of the pants, etc. (Or the fad in those days – see-thru blouses.) As I developed, my girl parts were considered something to cover, not to display. (They still are.) Being covered and being free-range are completely different matters. If anything, it’s easier to be confident about sending a conservatively-dressed tween/teen out into the world. In my own opinion, of course.

  94. SKL says, “If you can prove to me that I am statistically equally likely to be assaulted regardless of what I’m wearing, please do so. Until then, I prefer to play it safe and I’ll teach my daughters the same.”

    Here is what I found for you:

    “Most sexual assault victims are wearing regular clothes like blue
    jeans or pajamas when they are assaulted, not provocative clothing.”


    And this:

    “Utah State University Sexual Assault and Anti Violence Information

    Myth: Rape victims provoke the attach by wearing provocative clothing

    – A Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only
    4.4% of all reported rapes involved provocative behavior on the part
    of the victim. In murder cases 22% involved such behavior (as simple
    as a glance).

    – Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims were wearing.

    – Victims range in age from days old to those in their nineties,
    hardly provocative dressers.”

    Just like “stranger danger,” it would seem that the idea that what you wear makes you more of a target for assault is an outmoded one.

  95. No, Mollie, I’m talking about people who were raped by strangers after being targeted in public places. Your statistics are obviously much broader than that.

  96. I guess I see a parallel here between the prevailing ideas about child abduction, that it happens in public places and that it is rank strangers doing the abducting… and prevailing ideas about rape and sexual assault, that it happens in public places and that it is rank strangers doing the raping… this idea that we are somehow so vulnerable to those we DON’T know, when in reality, we are far more vulnerable to those we DO know, whether we are children or adults, and it doesn’t seem to make any difference what we’re wearing.

    Rapes by strangers, statistically, are RARE. Very rare. Just like abductions by strangers. I guess my policies around dress code and nakedness are guided by something other than the fear that a stranger is going to do me or my children harm. It just doesn’t seem to bear out that there is somehow more “risk” associated with certain ways of dressing, or allowing your little ones to be naked at the beach.

  97. OK, Mollie, so I guess there probably shouldn’t even be a section in the penal code for rape, since it’s a figment of my imagination. Nobody is ever in danger walking down any street at any time in any attire. Awesome. And everyone who claims to have been sexually assaulted by a stranger is a sensationalist fear-monger.

    I don’t see what’s so terribly restrictive about covering your thighs and boobs. But maybe I’m the crazy one.

    By the way, the idea of dressing modestly for personal safety is hardly new. Can’t blame that one on Nancy Grace.

  98. Oh, forgive me if I “just say no” to the burka and prefer to dress as I please as a free woman. No one can rape me with their eyes.

    Historically speaking, the more repressed a society is, the more prone to acts of sexual violence they are.

  99. “OK, Mollie, so I guess there probably shouldn’t even be a section in the penal code for rape, since it’s a figment of my imagination.”

    My intention is to suggest that rape by strangers is far less statistically common than rape by someone known to the person who is raped— not that rape in any form is a figment of your imagination.

    “Nobody is ever in danger walking down any street at any time in any attire.”

    I would venture that time and place is more important in terms of personal safety than attire. When I was assaulted, it was in a parking ramp at night. It was one of those times when my gut told me I was not safe, but the friend I was with insisted that we were. It was an important lesson—not a lesson about what to wear, but about honouring my own wisdom regardless of what someone else says.

    “And everyone who claims to have been sexually assaulted by a stranger is a sensationalist fear-monger.”

    As I said above, I myself was sexually assaulted by a stranger. I don’t think of myself as a sensationalist fear-monger, I think of myself as someone who understands intuitively a lot about human nature, and I care about everyone’s needs being met.

    “I don’t see what’s so terribly restrictive about covering your thighs and boobs. But maybe I’m the crazy one.”

    What I’m hearing is that you feel more comfortable wearing clothes that cover certain parts of your body, and you encourage your kids to do the same. What I want to suggest here is that our choice of attire will not protect us against sexual assault any more than insisting that children never talk to strangers will protect them against sexual molestation. What will help protect all of us, in my view, is to listen to that inner wisdom that tells us when we are not safe, and then take action, whether we are wearing a halter top or a nun’s habit.

  100. Well, said, Mollie.

  101. It’s nice to talk about “caring about everyone’s needs being met,” but I strongly feel that it’s unfair to youngsters to teach them that attire is not linked to risk.

  102. I feel it’s unfair to claim that attire *is* linked to risk, without any evidence that it is.

  103. We need to teach our daughter to distinguish between:

    a man who flatters her
    and a man who compliments her,

    a man who spends money on her
    and a man who invests in her,

    a man who views her as property
    and a man who views her properly,

    a man who lusts after her
    and a man who loves her,

    a man who believes he is a gift to women
    and a man who believes she is a gift to him.

    And then we need to teach our sons to be that kind of mine.

    (Sent to me as part as an email of quotes.)

  104. A colleague of mine once told me that his eldest daughter started wearing revealing clothes as a teenager. So one night he drove her down a road with lots of prostitutes on it, and explained to her who they were and why they dressed the way they do. Then he asked her if this is the image she wants to project of herself.

    His focus was not the danger of getting raped, but having self respect. This is what I will teach my daughter. However, I do realise that it has to do with value systems and that other people might see nothing wrong in showing more of their bodies in public. I live in a country with extremely high rape figures and frankly I don’t think what you’re wearing makes all that much difference in whether or not you are targeted.

  105. Oh dear, sorry, I just spotted the typo in my post about sons and daughters. It should of course read

    And then we need to teach our sons to be that kind of MAN.

  106. SKL-I’m not saying that I wouldn’t cover my child up if told there was a child sex offender on the beach. I’m saying that I don’t want to be told there is some unidentified child sex offender on the beach. I already know that there is some possibility of that. Since CPS lady only knows an extremely small subset of child sex offenders, SHE could be surrounded by them without knowing it.

    Again I’d like to know from anyone if a child sex offender was INTERACTING with my child. But if he is not interacting with my child, what does the information do except make me uncomfortable and probably cut short our beach day? There is no indication that this person is interested in my child or even finds her sexually attractive. Even if he does, he isn’t doing anything about it and is highly unlikely to do so on a crowded beach. So what have I gained by changing my thoughts from there is possibly a child sex offender on the beach to there is definitely a child sex offender on the beach but still not knowing who it is or where, in relation to me, he might be?

    Stranger rape is indeed extremely rare. Not unheard of, any more than child stranger abduction is unheard of, but a very small portion of rapes. There is no evidence that stranger rapists choose their victims based on the sexual nature of their clothing. In fact, rape is about power, not sex. The main thing a rapist looks for is someone weaker than them, not clothing. Stranger rape is often a crime of convenience. Drunk coed gets in your cab, window on this house broken, this woman answered the door to a stranger, this woman is walking down the street/jogging alone and nobody else is around. It is often random. I am going to break into this house to rape for no particular reason other than someone is home. It is very occasionally planned and that is usually based on some twisted fantasy towards the victim or some characteristic of the victim that reminds the rapist of someone he wants to have power over.

    So, I will teach my child that people judge you based, in part, on how you dress and dressing like a prostitute will get you the respect of a prostitute. And if your “assets” are out for all to see, you are going to attract men interested in your “assets” and not you. I’ll never tell her that dressing provocatively leads to rape or makes her more of a target for rape because that isn’t true.

  107. And I can see a real danger in emphasizing dress as a risk factor for rape – something that there is no evidence to support. There are legitimate risk factors for rape. Alcohol consumption being the main one, across the board – stranger, date or acquaintance rape. I want my daughter and her friends to understand the true risks and not be confused by side issues that have no known basis in reality, particularly when they will eventually be dealing with the pull of alcohol consumption that is rampant in college. I never want her to be able to equivocate and say “well it’s okay that I get drunk off my ass at this frat party because I’m wearing baggy shorts and a tshirt so nobody will find me sexually provocative.”

    That does not mean that everyone should dress like prostitutes. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to not let your boobs and butt hang out. There is just no evidence that rape risk is one of them.

  108. “That does not mean that everyone should dress like prostitutes. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to not let your boobs and butt hang out. There is just no evidence that rape risk is one of them.”

    This sums it up for me, Donna. I can see lots of needs met through choosing to cover certain parts of one’s body: comfort, ease, privacy, integrity. But safety? Maybe in the case of sunburn, but not rape.

  109. There seems to be a need for a “parenting while male” offense. How is that not sexist?

    About not permitting visits supervised by dads, I wonder what the case would be if it’s a gay couple with no mother in sight. Would that be twice the risk or none at all?

  110. […] If You Are Male, You Are Under Suspicion (freerangekids.wordpress.com) […]

  111. I was at a design show with my wife last weekend and as we were walking by a hanging chair display, I noticed two little girls playing on the chair – their parents were not paying attention to them. They rocked it so enthusiastically that it fell over. I caught them in time to prevent any injury. Their parents did not notice. I had to warn the girls and their mother.

    I guess I am lucky that no one accosted me for talking to the children.

  112. Read this in the news today: http://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/camper-rescues-missing-child/article_7b5b7102-c2fb-11e1-86b2-001a4bcf887a.html A child wandered away from a public beach into the woods by about a mile and a half. She was missing the better part of the day. Rumors of a potential kidnapping by a mustached out-of-stater turned out to be unfounded. But what KILLS me is that, despite being scared and scratched up, she didn’t respond when she heard her name called because it was being called by MEN and she was afraid. This is what we’ve done to our kids.

  113. […] Airway’s policy that NO man traveling alone can sit next to a child he does not know.  Examples #3 & 4 (in the same blog post) a 9 year old’s friend is only allowed to play at her house if the mom […]

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