So I’m Obliged To Tell You I’m A Registered Non-Offender.

I’ve mentioned a couple times before that  I used to work in child care many years ago, mostly with school aged children ranging from 5 to 12 years old. What’s not commonly known about that industry is that I was in the minority as the overwhelming majority of employees in that industry are female with only a small percentage being male. That’s pretty much why I got the job in the first place as many childcare organisations try to keep a balance of numbers but the cold hard fact was that despite the near guarantee of a job for any male applicant few choose to take it up. Indeed many of my male friends ended up working in childcare for a stint since it was relatively easy work for good money but we were always outnumbered by the females working there by at least 2 to 1.

Now I don’t have any hard and fast numbers to throw at you as to why this is but I can tell you what all of us felt what the problem was. There’s a rather unfortunate perception from parents, not all of them granted but a majority, that males are somehow more inclined to molest children than a female would be. Whilst the numbers support this view it doesn’t take into account that most incidents of abuse come from family members and known individuals with the smallest population being unknowns. Childcare workers do fall into the known category but that’s still behind family members, but you don’t see everyone hiding their kids from their uncles now do you?

You can imagine then that the recent story of a man who was told to move seats on a Virgin flight due to him sitting next to 2 unaccompanied minors hit home for me. The policy itself is outrageous as it treats all men as if they’re sex offenders regardless of whether they are or not. Virgin might try to write this off as them just having the safety of the children in mind but I fail to see how that justification holds true without painting all male passengers with the same brush. If I was sitting next to a child with my wife on the other side would it be an issue? Or is it just men travelling by themselves that are a risk? However you slice it we men are seen as being a danger to children but everything would be fine if we were some how related to them (even if that meant we were more likely to molest them, go figure).

I was willing to let that go, I mean its one airline’s policy and they’re no longer my choice after they screwed me no less than 3 times in 3 flights, but it seems that this policy is commonplace as another man was subjected to the same treatment on a recent Qantas flight. The article also mentions that several other airlines have the same policy and one, British Airways, was forced to change it after a customer sued them under the sexual discrimination act. That doesn’t seem to have signalled to other airlines that it might be a good idea to change the policy so we probably need some more drastic action in order men to not be looked at as child molesters in waiting.

I figure something like a Registered Non-Offender database would do the trick. All you need to do is undergo a psych test to see if you’ve got some kiddy fiddler traits in you and should you pass the test you’ve got yourself a free pass to be near children without people judging you. Airlines then only require you to enter in your Non-Offender Number when you book your ticket and then you won’t need to worry about being embarrassed should the airline seat you next to an unaccompanied minor. Hell you could even use it when you apply for a job that involves kids and I could even see it being a requirement down the line

I hope my brutal sarcasm was obvious in that last paragraph.

Airline policies like this are really just a symptom of a larger problem: that single, unknown men are perceived as being a risk to children at large. This is just simply not the case and the real threat, which falls behind many other tragedies that can befall your child, most likely comes from someone who is known to the child. What is required is for us as a society to move on from the idea that all strangers, especially men, are in some way out to get at our children. This kind of paranoid state that we’re in isn’t doing us any favours and its about time we moved on.

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  1. I remember a male friend of ours who worked at the same centre telling me a story about going shopping one day when one of the young kids who he cared for ran up to give him a hug. He received a look from a female shopper that clearly said that she did not approve and was concerned for the child’s safety.

  2. It’s really upsetting and I’m very sure its the number one reason why you don’t see more men in childcare. We’d all be a lot better off if we realised that people like that are in the very small minority and getting all paranoid about it isn’t doing us any favours.

    Lenore Skenazy did a much better job of capturing the core issues than I did in this recent piece from her: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703779704576073752925629440.html She’s also the woman who let her 9 year old catch the subway. He, surprise surprise, came out of it with nothing but good things to say but that didn’t stop the US media from branding her all sorts of things.

  3. The fact that of all known cases, the relatives or known individuals make up a large percentage of the offenders, does not mean this group has a higher likelihood of molesting. The concept of ‘conditional probability’ and ‘prior odds’ apply here.

    Note that I am not saying it is the opposite. I am just saying it does not follow as a direct conclusion.

  4. Indeed I agree with you on that point Chrisada. I was attempting to highlight the disparity in people’s reactions between the use of one statistic (most offenders are male) and another (most offenders are known to the individual). Neither are a sufficient enough to warrant these kinds of policies when there are far more clear an present dangers that children face every day. This is despite all the sexual discrimination legislation and codes of conduct which, you’d hope, would stop this kind of thing in its tracks.

    It seems that in some cases, usually ones that involve children, we throw rationality out the door in favour of pandering to popularist ideas that often have no basis in reality. This is one of them and it really saddens me that we keep falling prey to the age old line of “won’t someone think of the children?”. We are, really we are, and I find it incredibly offensive that all us males are painted with the same brush.

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