Just as my son entered his first year of Boy Scouts, another scandal broke out about sexual abuse within the organization. The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of files previously in the sole custody of the Scouting administration, and news sources quickly noticed. I carefully read the articles relating to the files, some from 30 years ago. Surprisingly though, it lessened my anxiety about having my son in Scouting. I'll tell you why: The abuse stemmed from situations where parents are too trusting.
I am not a trusting parent.
One of the larger Scouting scandals from the
file release was from the mid-1970s, allegedly done by Rodger Beatty. According to the allegations in the files, Beatty would invite boys over to his house, having them spend the night before an outing the next day so they could get an early start. He'd also be alone with them on camping trips. The boys from the files alleged some pretty heinous stuff, although none of it was ever reported to the police.
I'm not here to fault the parents who trusted this scoutmaster back in 1976, because one of the admissions from the purported victims -- men now in their 50s -- say they grew up in an area where you could keep the doors unlocked throughout the night. My, my, my Opie, but times have changed.
I'm also not here to discuss any thoughts about wrongdoing on the part of the Scouting administration, although I will say I still uphold that Scouting is a good thing for a boy. What I want to discuss is the time and place we live in now.
I'll say it again: I am not a trusting parent.
So you, a scoutmaster, coach, neighbor, even pastor or priest, want to take my son on a camping trip? Hold on ... let me scoff at the absurdity, talk myself out of screaming at you, and then I'll remind you that my boy won't go on any camping trips unless his parents are with him. And a sleepover so you can leave for a hike at the crack of dawn? Um, no. I'll see you at dawn with my child in tow and my own hiking boots on.
If I can't make the trip, then sorry, child o' mine, your new highlight of the day will be making a jaunt to Costco with mom. You can be mad at me if you want, but I only have one shot at getting you safely to adulthood, and if that entails you being mad and calling me a meanie-pants-momma ... eh, you should hear what some people call me in court.
I've told my sons that until they're big enough to fight off an attacker, I'm their ever-present wart. I've inherited this over-protectiveness from my mother. She never allowed me to spend the night at someone's house unless she really knew the parents. Even then, she'd give them a tight smile and convey a not-too-subtle message with her eyes, especially to the fathers: "I will gut you, so help me I will gut you, if you touch my child."
So, yes, she taught me well, and no, I won't be apologetic about it if you disagree.
While a part of me tries to rationalize that our society isn't as trusting as we once were in 1976, and there are far fewer parents today who would let their sons spend the night at a scoutmaster's house, the truth of the matter is if even one parent is that trusting, it's one too many.
Yet the reason I believe there are still parents who are too trusting is that I see kids walking alone from the bus stop, sometimes going into empty houses. We're talking 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds. Don't those parents see the risks of having their defenseless children walking even a block by themselves?
Didn't anyone else read about Jessica Ridgeway or Jaycee Dugard? Those were two abductions and one death that could've been avoided if a parent literally took those few extra steps to ensure their child got where they needed to be.
My 9-year-old says he's too old to have an escort from the bus stop and it isn't fair. Fair? Trying paying an underwater mortgage or having the metabolism of a middle-aged woman, then you can talk about fairness.
So no, this isn't 1976 anymore and most of us know that monsters live in suburbia, bring their trashcans in, say how do you do, and what's your name little girl. But, do we really? Or, is it sometimes more convenient to blindly trust and then hope our children make it home safely anyway?
Broken record here: I am not a trusting parent. I hope you aren't either.
Scouting isn't the problem. Pedophilia is. Let's stop making our children readily available to its sources. Eyes on them. Always.
-- Heather Ijames is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian. You can send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week: Inga Barks.