When you deal in fear mongering, it is only a matter of time before your response becomes completely unreasonable. Such is the case with Kasey Edwards’s reaction to all the hyperbolic concern over child sexual abuse.
No one can fault a parent for wanting to protect their children from abuse. However, Edwards’s method is pure stupidity:
When our first daughter was born my husband and I made a family rule: no man would ever babysit our children. No exceptions. This includes male relatives and friends and even extracurricular and holiday programs, such as basketball camp, where men can have unrestricted and unsupervised access to children.
Eight years, and another daughter later, we have not wavered on this decision.
Edwards argues that it is too easy for men and boys to lure her daughters away without being noticed. Never mind that the vast majority of men and boys are not child abusers. Never mind that despite all her efforts would not prevent a woman or girl from abusing her daughters. No, Edwards is convinced that men are a threat to be avoided.
To date, she has only allowed her daughter to one sleepover and only allows women to watch her daughter when she visits friends. Edwards notes:
As you can imagine, this was not an easy conversation to have. […] I am certain that some of my other friends and acquaintances would not react so graciously and would see my request as a direct attack on their husbands and/or their parenting choices. I am dreading the day when I have to have the same conversation with someone who will not be as understanding.
There is no understanding to be had. Edwards is a bigot trying to mask her fear and hatred of males behind the guise of protecting her daughter. If you do not think so, let us add an adjective in front of her statements:
“When our first daughter was born my husband and I made a family rule: no black man would ever babysit our children. No exceptions. This includes black male relatives and friends and even extracurricular and holiday programs, such as basketball camp, where black men can have unrestricted and unsupervised access to children.”
“When our first daughter was born my husband and I made a family rule: no gay man would ever babysit our children. No exceptions. This includes gay male relatives and friends and even extracurricular and holiday programs, such as basketball camp, where gay men can have unrestricted and unsupervised access to children.”
“When our first daughter was born my husband and I made a family rule: no muslim man would ever babysit our children. No exceptions. This includes muslim male relatives and friends and even extracurricular and holiday programs, such as basketball camp, where muslim men can have unrestricted and unsupervised access to children.”
That does not sound very reasonable. It sounds like abject insanity wrapped in bigotry and deep-fried in stupidity.
Edwards knows this and adds the usual weasel words to justify her stance:
To be clear, I’m not saying that all men are sexual predators. Nor do I think that men harbour predatory instincts that lie dormant only to spring forth at the first opportunity.
Yes, she does. If she did not, her overzealous reaction would make even less sense. However, these arguments inevitably come with a “but”:
But child abuse by men is so common that taking precautions to keep my daughters safe is a no-brainer.
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies the prevalence of child sexual abuse is 1.4-8 per cent for penetrative abuse and 5.7-16 per cent for non-penetrative abuse for boys and 4-12 per cent for penetrative abuse and 13.9-36 per cent for non-penetrative abuse for girls.
To put those figures into context, the “best case” scenario is that 1 in 20 boys are sexually abused. The worst case is that 1 in three girls are.
The research she cites does not specify what “non-penetrative” includes. One would need to check each study to see what makes up those numbers, particularly given how much could fall under the criteria.
Part of the problem, however, is that the cited numbers are not necessarily from a study specifically about sexual abuse. The topmost study listed is about the affects of child abuse on BMI.That does not make the findings invalid, yet it does demonstrate the problem with using statistics to justify fear.
Another problem is that the world simply does not work out in perfect statistics. Statistics are essentially proportional estimates. It is entirely possible, and indeed likely, to have hundreds of people in a room only ten of them experienced abuse. Simply because something has a statistical probability does not mean it has a realistic probability of playing out literally.
Of course, Edwards concern is limited to male abusers. She dismisses that women can and do commit child sexual abuse:
Yes, women can also abuse, but as the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ Who Abuses Children fact sheet makes clear, “Evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the majority of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by males.”
An Australian Institute of Criminology 2011 paper “Misperceptions about child sex offenders” shows 30.2 per cent of child sexual abuse was perpetrated by a male relative, and 13.5 per cent by the father or stepfather. A tiny 0.8 per cent of cases were perpetrated by mothers and stepmothers, and 0.9 per cent of child sexual abuse was perpetrated by a female relative. The other categories of perpetrators were family friend (16.3 per cent), an acquaintance or neighbour (15.6 per cent), another known person (15.3 per cent) – without specifying the gender split.
Yes, and if Edwards bothered to look up that study she would see that those numbers are based on reports to the police. Victims of female sex offenders are significantly less likely to report the assaults to authorities, so relying on that number is unwise.
It would also help if Edwards had noted that some of the numbers do not break down by the sex of the offender:
It should be noted that the perpetrator categories ‘family friend’, ‘acquaintance/neighbour’, ‘stranger’ and ‘other known person’ have not been disaggregated by gender. It is not possible to determine, therefore, what proportion of each of these categories is male/female.
It would be best to look at studies with reports directly from victims. Those studies show that women commit 20% to 60% of sexual abuse against boys. According to the CDC, women make up the majority of those who sexually at abuse boys. The numbers on female victims is unclear due to underreporting.
Edwards is simply wrong. Where she is correct is here:
Children are at far greater risk from relatives, siblings, friends, and other known adults such as priests, teachers and coaches.
The blanket rule against allowing our daughters to be in the care of lone male adults means that we do not have to make a moral assessment of every man. My husband and I do not want to delve into the characters of every man that we know and assess whether or not they are potential sexual predators, so we apply our rule to all men to avoid casting aspersions on people.
Well, not all men. One would presume that Edwards’s husband is allowed to be alone with their daughters. By her own admission male relatives pose the greater risk, and the father is the foremost male relative. Is her husband considered safe to be around their daughters? If so, how did they reach that conclusion? Could he not lie about his intentions and tell the girls to be quiet?
No doubt some people will call me a man hater and, just as we saw with the backlash against Tracey Spicer’s article as a couple of years back about not wanting her unaccompanied children sitting next to a man on a plane, people will react as if the protection of children is secondary to men’s right not to be offended.
“Would someone think of the children?”
That is a common excuse for justifying bigotry. Edwards is not protecting her daughters. She is accusing all men of being child rapists. She is also making the bizarre assumption that her daughter are so ultra-rapable that no male could resist abusing them.
While no one has the right to be thought well of, it is not unreasonable to want to be judged by one’s own actions, not the actions of one’s group.
But dismissing this as a hysterical reaction of a misandrist is not only incorrect, it’s also missing the point spectacularly. My husband and my decision is based on straightforward risk analysis: a cold, hard, unemotional reading of the statistical data.
As I noted above, that is not how probability works. It also makes little sense when you reverse the number. If one in three girls are sexually abused (which is an improbable number), that means that 7 in 10 are not. In other words, 70% of girls are never abused. The cold, hard, unemotional reading of the statistical data should lead one to be aware abuse could happen, yet realize that your child is unlikely to happen.
Paranoia about what could happen does not protect children. If anything, it makes them unprepared to deal with the situation should it occur. By isolating her daughters from men, Edwards teaches them to fear men. By ignoring that women commit abuse, Edwards makes her daughters easy prey for female offenders.
She may think that her stance “hurts people’s feelings”, but the real damage is that it paints men as predators. It paints the her male friends as threats. It shows that no one should allow their children around her, particularly not their sons, as this woman’s hatred of men and boys will likely lead to an abusive situation.