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.