These two stories in the Oregonian shows how child abusers can be anyone, and that they love to infiltrate places where they can appear trustworthy.
Jon Patrick Wheat is already a registered sex offender, but still was able to gain access to and some measure of control over a 6 year old girl at a church in Oregon City.
Wheat’s story follows closely on the heels of another church abuse case, that one from Salem, where Peter James Bass pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree rape of a girl under 16.
So, why do child molesters gravitate to institutions of trust like churches,schools, Scouting, LDS missions, mentor clubs, and youth ministries? To paraphrase John Dillinger, that’s where the kids are. But it’s more than that. These organizations are trusted in our society. When a molester gets into the organization as a volunteer or employee, he (usually, but not always a “he”) gains a small part of that trust just by showing up. Trust is the key to a child molester’s method. If a child trusts an adult, even a little, that trust can be expanded upon and exploited to move the child down the path of grooming to abuse.
A lot of people are concerned about the stranger in the park with puppies. And it’s right to be concerned about that. But the number of stranger-danger assaults pale in comparison to those committed by trusted friends, ministers, volunteer leaders, or even family members. Child molesters don’t look like misshapen Quasimodoes shuffling around with their pants down. At least not the successful ones.
Remember the basic rule: if an adult is interested in spending time alone with your child, they should be considered guilty until proven innocent, and you should educate your children to recognize warning signs and get away, then tell you about it.
We have rules in criminal cases in courts of law that say that everyone is presumed innocent. As a legal matter, that is fine. But you don’t have to live your life that way, or risk your children’s long term health and safety because of it.