It’s the type of headline we frequently see in the news. Popular teacher arrested on Suspicion of Sexual Relationship with Student. Music Instructor Accused of sex with Minor. Coach Arrested for Child Porn. What’s the common theme? A person in an official capacity – an occupation – preying on those he’s entrusted to supervise.
Our book discusses what we call Occupational Pipelines, the gathering of groups of prospective child victims by a person via a job which positions that person squarely amongst many children. An Occupational Pipeline molester can operate effectively for long periods of time for three main reasons which are all closely related and work in tandem to aid the offender.
The first reason is popular perception. Let’s say the offender here is a teacher. More often than not, the offender, pre-arrest, will be liked and respected by many. Perhaps he has worked at a school for twenty years or more and built a reputation amongst parents and administrators as a popular and capable instructor. A perpetrator can skate by on this deeply ingrained perception for many years. The offender in the recent Penn State scandal was respected and widely-liked, having set up a charitable foundation for disadvantaged youth and written a heartfelt book on his life’s work. Popular perception said this man was a very good man, and good men don’t molest children. Perception became reality for many people who eventually were given the grim truth.
The second reason is professionalism. Most often these offenders are great at what they do. A offending coach may be a brilliant game-planner; an offending teacher may be a phenomenal instructor; an offending music teacher may be wondrously gifted. This level of professionalism leads to admiration and can serve as impressive camouflage. It isn’t a leap for some to draw false correlations between highly developed professional skills and appropriate behavior around children. How can this be true – he’s such a wonderful teacher. The argument of course fails from a logical standpoint. The fact is, a sex offender can be a wonderful teacher, a outwardly compassionate clergyman, or an ingenious coach. This being said, their impulses may be no different from the dirty old man in the trenchcoat down the street.
The third reason why Occupational Pipeline Molesters are so effective is the numbers game. All of the four types of pipelines discussed in Chapter 2 of our book operate in the same manner – they draw in many prospective victims and only molest a small percentage of the potential victim pool. In the case of a teacher, the victim pipeline can easily number into the thousands. Out of those thousands he may have molested fifty students or he may have molested only five. From a fractional standpoint, the number of students in his pipeline versus the number he actually molested is minute, so ninety-nine percent of his students will not see him for what he is. If the unfortunate few are not talking (or being asked the right questions by family or friends), no one will know what’s really happening.
Lastly, a question: do all Occupational Pipeline molesters purposely seek out jobs to surround themselves with children, or do they start their jobs as “normal” well-intentioned people, only to later succumb to their deviant impulses due to opportunity? Either scenario could be true. The point is, don’t just look for frowning ogres when looking for this type of molester; instead give equal scrutiny to the charismatic and the popular, the admired ones who often seem above reproach. Some of the worst molesters among us hide in plain sight, casting a spell that can blind people for decades.