Sexual abuse may seem like never-ending story especially when it comes to education and religious institutions. The truth is however the rate is actually decreasing as the these horrible stories get public attention. Such trend is secured in two main ways, one is deterrence, heavy attention means that an offender is unlikely to run away unpunished even if he or she comes from a position of power because of wealth or authority status. Two, many of these occurrences trigger a change in regulations and procedures. Sadly it’s a similar situation as with the airline industry; harm has to be done in order for new regulations to be introduced.
Warren county, New Jersey, small town of Philipsburg has just been a scene of an incident involving a person with a sex offender record hired to work with youth. Lehighvalleylive reports that Burton James Miller was keeping score in a youth game while was not allowed to. http://www.lehighvalleylive.
One of the actions to address concerns past the incident surfacing was to require all youth sport volunteers to wear an id badge that positively identifies them and the organization they are with. Identification and transparency are both very important measures in providing safe and abuse-free youth environments. As mentioned above religious and youth organizations remain among high profile targets for sex predators and they allow to deal with young individuals from the position of authority such as leader, coach or spiritual guide. All these functions require certain level of trust in order to be successful with reaching the goals among the minor population. The trust however might turn against the kids and be subject of abuse leading to criminal behaviors and often irrecoverable damages to individual mental health and well being.
Background checks are usually required for most regulated positions among youth leadership positions such as scouting and coaching. Philipsburg case fell through the cracks of interpretations. Keeping a score during a game is not actually a leadership position and doesn’t involve one on one situations with minors. Since it’s a more of a public voluntary function that’s often picked up at hoc and served in front of the public the risk seems minimal. This is most likely the reason that the incident was viewed by some more as a political matter than the actual threat for youth. Also the prosecutor’s office decided against pressing the charges in the case saying “There is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against any member of the organization at this time,”.
Parents remained alerted and concerned about the situation however. While the prosecutor office may not have found enough evidence to proceed with a charge an incident might have had potential to result in a crime. Since most coaching positions require background checks that would obviously reveal any sex related misconducts potential predators may seek another way to get closer to the youth. Voluntarily keeping the score in a minor sport game is indeed a low risk event when it comes to a sex abuse. It almost always occurs in front of the parents, guardians and strangers while sex offense incidents usually take place in a secluded space. The concern is however that such innocent behavior might be just the beginning of the problem. Let’s assume a potential offender keeps the score for an extended period of time, maybe more than a season. In such time a coach might change, maybe even more than once and the perfect stranger score keeper becomes more familiar with the minors all of the sudden. While remaining stealth in terms of background check a potential sex predator might get dangerously close to those who are vulnerable so dismissing parents and community concerns seem premature and not well thought in this case.