A Critic at Large – In Plain View
How child molesters get away with it.
by Malcolm Gladwell September 24, 2012
In a 2001 book, “Identifying Child Molesters,” the psychologist Carla van Dam tells the story of a young Canadian elementary-school teacher she calls Jeffrey Clay. Clay taught physical education. He was well liked by his students, and often he asked boys in his class to stay after school, to do homework and help him with chores. One day, just before winter break, three of the boys made a confession to their parents. Mr. Clay had touched them under their pants. The parents went to the principal. He confronted Clay, who denied everything. The principal knew Clay and was convinced by him…..
“We weren’t really prepared to call the police and make it into a police investigation,” one of the mothers told van Dam. “It was an indiscretion, as far as we were concerned at this point. It was all vague: ‘Well, he put his hands down there.’ And, ‘Well, it was inside the pants, but fingers went to here.’ We were all still trying to protect Mr. Clay’s reputation, and the possibility this was all blown up out of proportion and there was a mistake.”
The families then learned that there had been a previous complaint by a child against Clay, and they took their case to the school superintendent….
The allegations against Clay, he thought, were simply the result of the fact that he was “young and energetic.” Clay threatened to sue. The parents dropped their case. Clay was a man repeatedly accused of putting his hands down the pants of young boys. Parents complained. Superiors investigated. And what happened? The school psychologist called him a victim of hysteria…..
We now know what Sandusky was really doing with the Second Mile. He was setting up a pipeline of young troubled boys. Just as important, though, he was establishing his bona fides. Psychologists call this “grooming”—the process by which child molesters ingratiate themselves into the communities they wish to exploit. “Many molesters confirmed that they would spend anywhere from two to three years getting established in a new community before molesting any children,” van Dam writes. One pedophile she interviewed would hang out in bars, looking for adults who seemed to be having difficulties at home. He would lend a comforting ear, and then start to help out….
The pedophile is often imagined as the dishevelled old man baldly offering candy to preschoolers. But the truth is that most of the time we have no clue what we are dealing with. A fellow-teacher at Mr. Clay’s school, whose son was one of those who complained of being fondled, went directly to Clay after she heard the allegations. “I didn’t do anything to those little boys,” Clay responded. “I’m innocent. . . . Would you and your husband stand beside me if it goes to court?” Of course, they said. People didn’t believe that Clay was a pedophile because people liked Clay—without realizing that Clay was in the business of being likable….
This is standard child-molester tradecraft. The successful pedophile does not select his targets arbitrarily. He culls them from a larger pool, testing and probing until he finds the most vulnerable. Clay, for example, first put himself in a place with easy access to children—an elementary school. Then he worked his way through his class. He began by simply asking boys if they wanted to stay after school. “Those who could not do so without parental permission were screened out,” van Dam writes. Children with vigilant parents are too risky. Those who remained were then caressed on the back, first over the shirt and then, if there was no objection from the child, under the shirt. “The child’s response was evaluated by waiting to see what was reported to the parents,” she goes on. “Parents inquiring about this behavior were told by Mr. Clay that he had simply been checking their child for signs of chicken pox. Those children were not targeted further.” The rest were “selected for more contact,” gradually moving below the belt and then to the genitals….
Sandusky started with wrestling, to make physical touch seem normal. In the shower, the boy initially turned on a showerhead a few feet from Sandusky. Sandusky told him to use the shower next to him. This was a test. The boy complied. Then came the bear hug. The boy’s back was touching Sandusky’s chest and his feet touched Sandusky’s thigh. Sandusky wanted to see how the boy would react. Was this too much too soon? The boy felt “weird” and “uncomfortable.” Sandusky retreated. The following week, Sandusky showed up at the boy’s home, circling back to test the waters once again. How did the boy feel? Had he told his mother? Was he a promising lead, or too risky?….
Horsing around in the shower? That was Jerry being Jerry. It did not occur to them that the goofy, horseplaying Sandusky they thought they knew was another of Sandusky’s deceptions. Those who put all their ingenuity and energy into fooling us usually succeed. That is the lesson of a world-class swindler like Bernard Madoff, and of Donald Silva, in his parents’ bed with a ten-year-old boy and the woman he later married—not to mention Jeffrey Clay. Clay, van Dam writes, got his teaching certificate reactivated. He went on to teach the handicapped and take foster children into his home. “Needless to say,” she adds, “his expertise, enthusiasm, and exceptional generosity to those who are needy has been very much appreciated by the community in which he now lives.” Tim Curley and Gary Schultz currently face criminal charges. Graham Spanier was forced out of office last November, a few days after the grand-jury indictment of Sandusky was released…. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2012/09/24/120924crat_atlarge_gladwell
Child Abuse Concerns Spur Federal Takeover at North Dakota Indian Reservation
September 17, 2012 by Sarah Childress
The Bureau of Indian Affairs said Monday that it will take control of social services on a North Dakota reservation, amid concerns from federal officials that the tribe’s mismanagement of the agency led to the abuse of children on the reservation.
The reservation, home to the Spirit Lake tribe, a group of roughly 6,600 people living in a remote area of the northern United States, has been under scrutiny since August 2011, when federal officials from the bureau began working with tribal authorities to improve child safety after the local BIA office reported “serious deficiencies” at the agency. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/biographies/kind-hearted-woman/child-abuse-concerns-spur-federal-takeover-at-north-dakota-indian-reservation/