Sexual Predators Are Thieves: Stolen childhoods can never be recovered | Consider This | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s not letting fear stop you. Imagine the courage it takes to sue an elite school. “My school took action years after they knew and years after they should have acted,” said Jane Doe*. “At the time, adults commented to me about being around this teacher. They made me feel like I was in the wrong when I was, in reality, the victim of abuse. This man took me away from my friends and family, and a community watched it happen and did nothing to stop it.” Jane will never get those years back. However, if justice prevails, her former school and the alleged pedophile who blithely and maliciously ruined her high school years will have to pay.

To put this in perspective, imagine a society where reckless drivers cause innumerable injuries to hapless pedestrians. The injured live in any town, anywhere, of any age and background. And yet, that same society refuses to acknowledge this threat or assist potential victims in preparing for what may happen, even though statistics show 1 in 3 pedestrians will be hurt by vehicles. The safety rules are infuriatingly simple: observe traffic lights; know the difference between red, yellow and green; walk defensively and look both ways, etc.

The metaphor of traffic safety is not perfect to describe avoiding danger from sexual predators, but it’s pretty close. The significant missing element of the analogy is that sexual assailants, especially pedophiles, groom their victims over a sustained period. Drunk and disorderly drivers don’t have an ongoing sustained relationship with the people who get in their way.

Here in 2023, there’s yet another example of the damage inflicted by a “trusted” faculty member. This time, it’s at Flintridge Preparatory Academy, located in the idyllic and upscale portion of the San Gabriel Valley, not far from Jet Propulsion Lab. It’s established by state and case law that educators and educational institutions have a duty to care for students. Edward “Toby” Wagstaff, a former staff member at Flintridge, faces a major lawsuit on behalf of our Jane Doe filed by the Pasadena-based attorneys at Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP. The suit, including a demand for a jury trial, was filed on Nov. 11, 2023, in Los Angeles. It alleges negligence in training, negligence in supervision of a child, failure to report suspected child abuse, child sexual abuse, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and sexual harassment. Jane Doe is ready to tell her story and seek justice for the abuse she faced as a child.

Most recent neuroscience shows that our brains are not fully mature until we’re in our mid-20s, the age Jane is now. One of the biggest problems with reporting sexual abuse while it’s happening is that people often don’t take a minor’s word for what happened. Concurrently, the minor who is being abused doesn’t know how to navigate the constellation of feelings that the pedophile uses to stun their prey: flattery, attention, threats to keep the forbidden relationship secret, and isolation.

I have been on a mission since my 40s to make empowerment self-defense available as soon as possible to as many as possible. I liken it to swimming lessons or traffic safety. Neither of my parents knew how to swim; they ensured that I learned early. That insistence paid off, as, 16 years later, I saved them both from drowning.

My “mothership” in the local empowerment self-defense world is IMPACT Personal Safety, and globally, it’s ESD Global Self-defense. When I was teaching, I taught empowerment self-defense to coed classes of children aged 5 to 12. One of the first things I’d ask in the introductory circle was, “How many of you know that there are mean people in the world?” They all raised their hands. “How many of you have tools to deal with mean people?” There might be a half-raised hand here and there. “You’re here because your parents love you and want you to be equipped to care for yourselves in case they aren’t there to protect you. Do you like that idea?” Emphatic nods all around.

Before we’d get into the physical aspects of self-defense, one of the existential questions I’d ask was, “If someone you know was trying to trick you, would they be nice or mean?” I would see flashes of “a-ha!” moments from the kids. Their initial answer was almost always “mean!” which quickly morphed into “nice!” The cliché “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” is apt.

The one thing we can’t teach is courage, although our tools help create it. Courage mostly happens in the moment. However, when you intentionally do things that take courage, a courage “muscle” is strengthened.

“For the past 10 years, I have been forced to hold a secret, and with it, immense fear, pain and grief,” Jane Doe said. “Had my high school, Flintridge Preparatory School, acted, I would not have had to carry that secret. My teacher stole part of my childhood, and my school failed to keep me safe.” Fortunately for society, brave people like Jane Doe stepping forward will help others in similar circumstances identify the wolves before they do any more damage to the flock. Thank you, Jane. 

* name withheld due to pending litigation

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