People Who Love Children for the Wrong Reasons: Protecting our Youthful Participants and Profession from Pedophiles
Keywords:sexual abuse, pedophiles, staff recruitment, facility planning
AbstractIt is an unfortunate reality that the very nature of the recreation profession’s mission makes it very attractive to some individuals with undesirable missions of their own; namely, the sexual exploitation or abuse of children. This group of men and women known as pedophiles are attracted to professions and facilities that allow them to establish intimate contact with children and that allow them to establish trust relationships with children they perceive as being vulnerable.Recreation administrators and planners have both legal and ethical duty to take measures that will lessen the likelihood that such individuals will gain access to children in the recreation venue. The legal principles of “respondeat superior” and “in loco parentis” have repeatedly been upheld upon appeal in the federal courts and the absence of a specific law within a jurisdiction directing the screening of paid and volunteer staff does not exempt an agency from meeting this responsibility.The screening of employees and volunteers should begin prior to the interview process and when recruiting staff the best advice is to “play it close to the vest.” Namely, as much as possible the process should be contained within professional circles, child serving agencies, etc. Likewise, background checks should be in hand even prior to the actual interview.During the interview process, there are a number of characteristics administrators should look for in candidates. While desirable for working with all children, they are particularly critical for settings providing services for at-risk children and those that are attempting to recover from abuse and/or neglect.During the actual interview and selection processes, administrators need to take caution and not be swayed by some prevailing myths as to who will and will not abuse children. It is important to remember that anyone can be a pedophile.Another reality is that pedophiles look for victims anywhere there are children. Unfortunately, many of these places are recreation venues. While it is likely impossible to make sites entirely molester-proof, there are a number of measures that can be undertaken to make them far less attractive to sexual predators. While aesthetics will continue to play an important role in facility planning, the safety of children must be the primary consideration.A recent court decision suggests that responsible administrators will make children and their caregivers active participants in the protection efforts. Children need to be educated as to inappropriate behaviors, how to rebuke efforts of aggression, and how to report offenders.Finally, administrators need to act responsibly and enforce a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual abuse, as well as other forms of maltreatment. The preservation of the agency’s reputation should not be a deterrent to the immediate and thorough reporting of suspected incidences to authorities.
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