Restroom Laws & Child Safety: The Wrong Conversation

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photo by khairul nizam

Let’s talk frankly about keeping our children safe. As a concerned mom I feel compelled to share some uncomfortable facts to ground the tornado of misinformation spiraling through the Internet about transgender restroom use, and the apparent portal it has opened up to pedophiles.

I am all about the safety of my kids. I want them safe at school, at church, in our neighborhood, in our home, as well as in public restrooms. In fact, the public restroom might be a relatively safe place since sex offenders don’t typically linger around in trench coats waiting to exploit new bathroom laws. Unfortunately, statistics tell a far scarier story about sex offenders — they are already a part of our daily lives. We talk to them at work, at church, at the gym, our child’s school, at the neighborhood cookout, and at our family reunions. Unfortunately, they don’t resemble the police sketch in our mind of greasy loners waiting to pose as transgenders so they can get a glimpse of your child in the stall. If they were, we could easily spot them. Sadly, many confuse transgenders with sex offenders, so let’s let’s define each one:

  • A pedophile is an adult with a sexual preference for (but not limited to) prepubescent children. (Typically 13 and under). Not all pedophiles act on their urges, therefore aren’t child molesters.
  • A child molester is someone who acts on sexual urges for children, but is usually sexually attracted to adults too.
  • A transgender person is someone whose self-identity does not conform to conventional notions of male or female gender.

Here are some uncomfortable facts to consider about sex offenders:

  1. They rarely stalk restrooms looking for a chance encounter with our children. 90% of victims KNOW their offender. It's usually a gradual building of relationship.
  2. They are usually very ordinary members of the community. Almost half are or have been married. Only 7% claim to be attracted to only children. Pedophiles and child molesters can be your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or co-worker. You would be shocked at the amount of child pornography that is viewed on a daily basis by people you would never expect.
  3. Pedophiles and child molesters rarely use force. Usually they know the victim, so they use coercion and grooming tactics (giving gifts, spending time with children to build trust etc.) within a long-term relationship rather than through chance encounters.
  4. According to the Department of Justice, 3/4 of the violent victimizations of children take place in the child's home or in the home of the offender.
  5. A child molester will actually even molest a child in their home, while the parents are there! They know this decreases the chance someone will believe the child IF they report.

I have worked with women for over 20 years. In almost every tearful recounting of their stories the perpetrator was someone they knew. This was true for me too. And it’s not just women; it happens to boys as well. In fact, some data suggests that boys are actually victimized more often than girls, just far less likely to report. I once lived in a town that boasted about its safety for children. However, the news revealed that a pastor of the church less than a mile from our home was arrested and convicted for video taping women and children in the church’s restroom stalls. Around the corner at a local high school, a teacher was sleeping with a student. These scenarios happen all over the world, right under our noses within seemingly safe environments.

Churches (both Catholic and Protestant) have been wrought with rings of pedophilia and sexual abuse cover-ups. Churches are not accidental places for child molesters to hide their deviance, as many know church goers are more generous in their opinions of others. Maybe just not as generous towards transgenders?

The pubic restroom conversation might actually be a distraction from truly protecting our children since molesters almost always victimize children they personally know. Stranger danger is not the norm. So, let’s maintain more vigilance around those in our child's regular proximity, since detecting them is more challenging. Any axe you might have to grind with the "transgender" population, I encourage you to ask your honest questions, and thoroughly educate yourself. Some of the stones being thrown are hitting the children we claim to protect. Transgender adults and children are worthy of the same dignity and respect we hope to receive. Many once feared sharing restrooms with those of a different skin color, let’s not repeat this type of discrimination. The empirical research is clear; a gay or transgender person is no more likely to sexually abuse a child than a straight person.

The elephant in the room is that we have been sharing the restrooms with pedophiles and sex offenders our entire lives. And the sex offender registry does not keep us safe since most offenders are never caught. So, let’s educate our children about how to protect their bodies, and not instill fear in them about who to look out for. Because, the truth is, we don’t know who to look out for. You cannot identify a child molester by their looks or their sexual identity, but they hope you think you can. We are barking up the wrong tree.