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"Where Were the Parents?" Delaware Pediatrician Victimizes Families

Earl Bradley, Accused of Abusing 103 Children

Earl Bradley, Accused of Abusing 103 Children

A Delaware pediatrician, Earl Bradley, was indicted this week for 471 counts of rape, assault and child endangerment on over 100 children, one as young as 3 months old.

Makes you gasp, doesn’t it?

And in the aftermath of these abhorrent crimes, there is another horror being perpetrated: Blaming the parents.

I love my sons’ pediatrician. I love everyone in that doctor’s office. But no, I never leave my children alone with anyone there. In fact, I only leave them alone with trusted friends. Much like you do.

But what I’m seeing time and again across stories on this disgusting abuser is, “Where were the parents?”

Stop. Blaming. The.  Parents.

When we blame the parents of this doctor’s victims, we are fooling ourselves. We’re patting ourselves on the back for being “good” parents who would “never let this happen to my child.” And indirectly, we are becoming apologists for the abuser.

This is the truth about abusers: they are called “predators” for a reason. Because they are manipulative. They are conniving. They make an art out of their need to fulfill their sick desires. They know how to take advantage of a moment of uncertainty or a moment unguarded. They don’t wear bells and whistles, no matter how creepy Earl Bradley may look in his mugshot. They don’t glow in the dark. Pedophiles, like all abusers, walk among us. But even worse, they hide among us.

The truth is, vigilance will not prevent abusers from our lives. Vigilance doesn’t keep 1 in 4 women from being raped. Vigilance doesn’t stop people from being robbed. Vigilance does not separate the “good” parents from the “bad”. Abuse happens across all social strata and backgrounds, and often is perpetrated by those we trust.

I would love to think  vigilance could keep us safe. And you, I’m sure, would like to believe the same. But when we turn to vigilance instead of laying blame where it is deserved, we are giving abusers a pass. And then we put more people in danger of predators by simple, willful ignorance.

Perhaps it’s the anonymity of the internet, but I even saw the same when I posted the NPR story on my Facebook page. Quotes like these, from the Huffington Post:

These children will never get over the trauma they have suffered because of some ass, and because of incompetent parents.


W…T…F…is wrong with the parents?

…There is a reason chikdrn [sic] have parents: they’re more experienced and that experience helps them to PROTECT their kids. People are creeps. Watch over your kids.


Really?! “Because of incompetent parents?” The doctor abused the children. The doctor did. At least once, right in front of the mother (see comments), who said she didn’t realize that he was going beyond the bounds of a normal exam until her daughter was questioned by the police.

This victim-blaming is symptomatic of what I saw time and again across the Web. And yes, the parents are victims, too. Would we blame the parent of a teen girl who was raped by her peers? Would we blame the parents of a child molested by a priest or coach? Doubtful. And if you would, perhaps you should look at your capacity for compassion.

This man is a predator. Frankly, he is a sick excuse for a human being. His abuse is his fault, his problem.

Should we hold some people accountable for not stopping him? Certainly. That includes his business partner and fellow pediatrician. His staff, which perhaps noticed his questionable practices. His office manager (and sister), who reported him not for sexual abuse, but for billing discrepancies. The Delaware medical board, which received reports of “strange behavior”. The police and prosecutors, which in 2005 received a report from a 3-year-old that the doctor had kissed her.

All of these people probably gave this creep the hairy eyeball at one time or another. Many were in contact with him daily and probably had suspicions about him.

But the parents? Though perhaps, *perhaps*, they let their guard down, Bradley’s abuse is not their fault.

Let us pray for peace and healing for the victims of this sick man… and their families.

Listen to the story on NPR’s All Things Considered.

I’m on Twitter here.


  1. It’s just horrible how some people go blaming the parents. I have no doubt the parents are doing a plenty good enough job blaming themselves, even though they don’t deserve it. A parent whose child goes through something so awful is going to wonder what they could have done to protect their child. They don’t need blame. The only one at fault is the abuser.

  2. I wish it were true that parents *aren’t* blamed in those other circumstances. They are. Blaming parents is in those cases as common as blaming victims. A very good but very disturbing documentary film, “Deliver Us From Evil” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliver_Us_from_Evil_(2006_film) , explores the life and crimes of one priest. The interviews with the priest himself are an unparalleled look at a sociopath. The interviews with the parents show how destroyed they are by the knowledge that their trust in this man is the reason their children were harmed and some committed suicide. But I still thought “how could they have let anyone spend so much time alone with their child?”

    But I agree, the focus should be on punishing the truly guilty. But we need to be sure we include all of them. I have no doubt we will discover that many people could have reported this man. We may discover that, as in so many cases of sexual assault, many already did report and authorities did nothing. We need vigilance AND accountability. And we need to hammer home that the vast majority of pedophiles ARE the people you know and trust.

  3. I can think of several times my parents left me alone with medical personnel.

    My whole family are frequent fliers in the ER. Most of them are daredevils as kids and I have potentially deadly food allergies. Everyvisit there was a time when our parents were told to leave and basically we were asked if we were safe.

    Our pediatrician, wonderful man, asked the same types of questions. He figure out I was suicidal because of being bullied at school and got me help.

    My thought when I heard the extreme young ages of some victims was did he manufacture emergencies where he could force the parents out of the room? Did he do it while children were hospitalized?

    My other question was were was his staff? Why didn’t people from the medical school and his colleagues pick up on this and figure it out?

  4. My name is Keith Smith. I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. It wasn’t a neighbor, a coach, a relative, a family friend or teacher. It was a recidivist pedophile predator who spent time in prison for previous sex crimes; an animal hunting for victims in the quiet suburbs of Lincoln, Rhode Island.

    I was able to identify the guy and the car he was driving. He was arrested and indicted but never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in Providence before his court date. 34 years later, no one has ever been charged with the crime.

    In the time between the night of my assault and the night he was murdered, I lived in fear. I was afraid he was still around town. Afraid he was looking for me. Afraid he would track me down and kill me. The fear didn’t go away when he was murdered. Although he was no longer a threat, the simple life and innocence of a 14-year-old boy was gone forever. Carefree childhood thoughts replaced with the unrelenting realization that my world wasn’t a safe place. My peace shattered by a horrific criminal act of sexual violence.

    Over the past 34 years, I’ve been haunted by horrible, recurring memories of what he did to me. He visits me in my sleep. There have been dreams–nightmares actually–dozens of them, sweat inducing, yelling-in-my-sleep nightmares filled with images and emotions as real as they were when it actually happened. It doesn’t get easier over time. Long dead, he still visits me, silently sneaking up from out of nowhere when I least expect it. From the grave, he sits by my side on the couch every time the evening news reports a child abduction or sex crime. I don’t watch America’s Most Wanted or Law and Order SVU, because the stories are a catalyst, triggering long suppressed emotions, feelings, memories, fear and horror. Real life horror stories rip painful suppressed memories out from where they hide, from that recessed place in my brain that stores dark, dangerous, horrible memories. It happened when William Bonin confessed to abducting, raping and murdering 14 boys in California; when Jesse Timmendequas raped and murdered Megan Kanka in New Jersey; when Ben Ownby, missing for four days, and Shawn Hornbeck, missing for four years, were recovered in Missouri.

    Despite what happened that night and the constant reminders that continue to haunt me years later, I wouldn’t change what happened. The animal that attacked me was a serial predator, a violent pedophile trolling my neighborhood in Lincoln, Rhode Island looking for young boys. He beat me, raped me, and I stayed alive. I lived to see him arrested, indicted and murdered. It might not have turned out this way if he had grabbed one of my friends or another kid from my neighborhood. Perhaps he’d still be alive. Perhaps there would be dozens of more victims and perhaps he would have progressed to the point of silencing his victims by murdering them.

    Out of fear, shame and guilt, I’ve been silent for over three decades, sharing my story with very few people. No more. The silence has to end. What happened to me wasn’t my fault. The fear, the shame, the guilt have to go. It’s time to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family. It’s time to speak out to raise public awareness of male sexual assault, to let other survivors know that they’re not alone and to help survivors of rape and violent crime understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.

    My novel, Men in My Town, was inspired by these actual events. Men in My Town is available now at http://www.Amazon.com

    For those who suffer in silence, I hope my story brings some comfort, strength, peace and hope.

    For additional information, please visit the Men in My Town blog at http://www.meninmytown.wordpress.com

  5. I think there’s a difference between blaming parents and trying to stamp out the kind of circumstances that lead to a predator having this sort of access to kids. Obviously the guy is a shitheap and should be shot. There’s no defense for his actions at all. But it’s still important to say, “Wait a sec. How exactly did that happen?” — which is what… See More I think most people are saying, as opposed to actually blaming the parents (though some are doing that, too).

    I’ve never taken my daughter to a doctor’s appointment where I wasn’t in the room with her the whole time. I’m curious to know the circumstances where a physician ends up doing these things. Is it common practice at some hospitals/clinics for kids of a certain age to be alone with a doctor? Is this a case of one savvy monster asking parents and other staff to leave the room, and they listened? Were parents right there most of the time, and didn’t realize what was happening?

    You can say “He’s a predator, blame him,” and it’s absolutely right. But if you say “He’s a predator, blame him, end of story,” then it’s not raising the issue of what parents should or shouldn’t accept as normal, or what hospitals should be doing to prevent this sort of access. For as awful as this case is, it should have us thinking not vigilance (which alone is useless, as you say), but actual policy change and education. Parents need to be able to say, “Hey, this hospital doesn’t permit a doctor alone in a room with a patient under 18. Red flag.” Or, “Wait, doctors in this practice aren’t allowed to examine X, Y, or Z without a nurse present. Red flag.” That’s how you catch a monster like this before he damages 100 kids.

  6. George Kuboaa says:

    As much as I understand and empathize with the anguish these parents must be feeling, there can be no doubt that they are indeed deserving of blame. My children never leaves my sight unless I make that decision and feel confident that they are safe. My pediatrician would never be allowed to take my child to a basement, as happened on numerous occasions in this case. My pediatrician would never be allowed to “examine” my child without me present and fully in agreement with the process and objectives of the examination.

    Several parents have described Earl Bradley as amazing with children but awkward with parents. Wake up, parents! That’s about as clear a signal you can get that something is wrong. Maybe not necessarily a pedophile, but there can be no doubt that your pediatrician is not a professional. Communicating with parents is at least as important, if not more so, than building rapport with your child.

    In the end, I suspect that most parents are simply too lazy, uninformed, or intimidated by doctors to take charge of their child’s care. When it comes to raising children, don’t defer to anyone! It is YOUR responsibility to ask probing questions and demand appropriate answers. If you don’t get them, take whatever action is necessary to protect your child. This what I call common sense.

  7. Do not blame the parents.

    I thought my daughter was safe with my husband’s parents.

    Years later I learned, my father-in-law sexually abused my

    handicapped daughter with my mother-in-law turning her head.

    My father-in-law was a Columbia University graduate with his

    doctorate. He taught at a university. Who can you trust?

    It is years and years of pain for the victims and the parents; I know!

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