What you don't know may be killing you. We all like to think we can spot a predator. I suppose we can catch the obvious ones, the ones who brag at parties or after they've downed a few beers and start talking about the underage girl they've taken advantage of. Gee, we can even scope the internet in our zip code and calmly pick out the ones who have been arrested. These are the ones who have pled guilty or been found guilty. So how slick are we? Does this give us too much confidence? Do we grab our hand painted sign and head out the door to picket the neighbor? If only it were that simple.
Probably number one, is quite simply that the websites on the internet only show people who have been convicted. I have met personally two people before they were found guilty of heinous crimes. I am sorry to admit I would not have guessed either one. Predators being predators don't advertise their perversions. The two I met were well employed upstanding citizens. Both seemed friendly, funny the kind of guys who not only liked kids but liked people. One of them was even married. If it hadn't been his own wife who told me what happened I might have thought he was being framed.
We met at a barbeque. Our children were small and close to the same age. They were a handsome couple. He was ten years older than her, yet at 24 and 34 that didn't seem absurd. They were both the biological parents of both of their children. They were kind to each other and kind to their kids. If I noticed anything it would have been that their older daughter, still a pre-teen was dressed in short shorts that were overly sexual for a girl her age. Nonetheless, her clothing was a matter of taste. I supposed I was merely more conservative than my friends.
Two months later, after the husband was arrested for molesting his two year old daughter I realized a very different picture. The wife admitted she had met her husband when she was just 14 and he 24. In her mind the relationship was consensual. To her parents and the state of Florida is was statutory rape. Her husband did some time. Upon his release, as an adult she sought him out. Their reunion was in her mind romantic, a Romeo and Juliet finding each other braving the complaint of her parents. She married him.
In time she caught him molesting their first child. Horrified and feeling betrayed she left him. He begged and pleaded for another chance. She was flattered. In addition she was broke. She was finding it difficult to support herself and her child with little education and no family support. After a show of resistance she took him back. They produced another child. According to her older daughter he molested the child every time she went out. This time the mother had the wherewithal to press charges.
With that amount of back story I didn't have a problem believing he was guilty. I felt sad in fact, that his young wife was so emotionally ill prepared to see what he was capable of. He was probably the only man she had ever known. His manipulation of her was complete. She blames herself as if it were true the first relationship was consensual. I disagree. She was a child, 14 at the time, and hardly able to understand why her boyfriend was taken away. Filled with romantic fantasies she seemed cheerfully unaware she had been used. What bothered me more was my own inability to pick up on his evil. This couple looked like ANYONE. Without her information, I would have never guessed he what he was capable of.
At least now he would appear on a sex offender website, however those sites rely mostly on the self reporting as to the whereabouts of the offenders. In my neighborhood some of them rent a room in a house thus avoiding any paper trail associated with utilities or leases.
Another problem is even the guys who have pictures posted may not be guilty of what you think. If an 18 or 19 year old boy has been dating a 17 year old girl and the parents don't like him, he is found the same amount guilty as 37 year old man dating a 17 year old girl. Not exactly what the law intended to frame. Granted we have to have cut off ages, but one wishes the law could take into account the age difference as well as the ages involved. It would also be nice to know what degree crime was committed.
While I worked at our local high school I saw quite a few young teens eager to lose their virginity. Heady with romantic fantasies they would delude themselves into thinking men cared more about them if they wore thong underwear and revealed it. Plenty of them were forward in their intentions. They were in fact, more forward than any grown woman in a bar. Forty years of feminism has encouraged even stereotypically "ugly" girls to feel good about their sexuality. Figuring themselves "in control" armed with the pill or some condoms, these girls mean business.
That said, I would gather most people would see quite a bit of difference in a teenage girl proposing to an older man and a gang rape. We would worry more about the violent offender than the one who lapsed in good sense. It's very disturbing to not know who is alright and who is not. In my high school it was the teacher everyone loved, the one who socialized with the kids outside of school, took us on bike trips, who was advancing himself. He was so young and friendly and "good" with the kids, who would have believed it? Like any designing predator he picked the weak ones out of the herd, specializing in kids with checked out, alcoholic, workaholic stressed out parents. The kind least likely to ask questions.
My advice, ask away. What you don't know might be killing you.