MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Tuesday, September 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. If you have young children around, you may want to press pause for this commentary. It’s about predators.
Awareness of sexual predators is quite high these days: the names Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, and Larry Nassar have assured that. We don’t hear about the many other perpetrators in our midst, though, or their victims.
BASHAM: Victims of sexual assault obviously suffer most, but the damage goes far beyond the individuals involved.
Here’s WORLD Radio’s Les Sillars.
LES SILLARS, COMMENTATOR: Recently I viewed some training videos on how to spot sexual predators. All the ministry leaders and workers at our church have to watch them.
According to this organization, Ministry Safe, there are 730,000 registered sex offenders nationally. I checked, and the Virginia registry listed 168 in our county of 100,000 residents.
Only three percent of offenders will, quote, “encounter the criminal justice system.” That means 97 percent don’t, and therefore will pass a criminal background check. Among convicted offenders, 85 percent are married and most have children.
In one clip an offender—a normal-looking guy in his thirties—estimated he’d molested twelve hundred boys over a 20 year period. And the videos described the strategies predators use to groom both victims and the adults who are supposed to protect them. Some predators said they would do anything to get people to trust them. “The best way to fool people,” one said, “is to help them.”
Those training videos scared me half to death. I am responsible as an elder for the safety of our flock. We must not allow wolves among the sheep. I guess “awareness” is a good start.
The videos taught me another lesson. It was only later that I connected the dots. My wife and I took my daughter and granddaughter to a park recently, along with their new puppy. Rudy is a three-month-old lab mix, really cute. I took Rudy on a leash for a walk, and we passed by some kids by the monkey bars. “Do you want to pet the puppy?” I asked. I thought they would enjoy it and I hoped to socialize Rudy a bit. But they hung back. “No,” they said, and edged away. I was puzzled. What kind of kid doesn’t like puppies?
We heard later that some public schools teach kids that predators often use puppies as bait. And there I was, an unshaven, middle-aged guy in shorts, approaching children on the playground with a puppy.
So now I’m going to think twice before saying anything to any child I don’t know. And what is “awareness” doing to the culture of our children’s ministries? Youth ministries? Our church as a whole? What are we losing if we create a culture of suspicion? What if something Christ commands us to have—a servant’s heart—is the very thing that generates suspicion?
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do what’s necessary to protect our people. Quite the contrary. My point is that what sexual predators do is so unspeakably vile that its effects leach into the culture and our communities like toxic waste. In protecting the most vulnerable among us, we end up eroding the trust between us. One day God will judge the perpetrators and bring justice to their victims. But until then there’s just something unspeakably tragic about the whole thing.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Les Sillars.