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"The soul that can speak through the eyes, can also kiss with a gaze."
~Gustav Adolfo Becquer

Perceptions and Book Cover Judging.

>> Saturday, June 17, 2006

Headed out to Pratt's Falls with a friend today to do a little hiking. I was happy that most of the walk was through the woods...and shaded. I don't think I had been there since I was in my late teens. There was only a few people out there, so it was quite peaceful. While walking, we ended up catching up with an older man and with him a very young little girl. I was bothered by this chance meeting of these two and subsequent thought process. I may need to preface this with a little background info. My friend used to work with me at a different agency in Madison County. She also is an MSW, though had left that position a few years ago to become a Probation Officer in Onondaga County. So, with the exception of N. now being a P.O., we share similar education, training, and work experience.
Anyway, here we are, doing a little hiking, and we come across this man and very young little girl. She couldn't have been more than 5-6 years old. We both did a quick greeting and then N. and I passed them. As we continued to walk, I had taken notice that N. and I were both lost in thought for a couple minutes, as each of us walked in silence. After a few minutes, N. broke the silence with one single statement:
"I hope that guy was not a pedophile."
We each had been quietly determining that likelihood, independent of the other. When N. had given voice to that concern, I had stopped dead in my tracks and just stared at her, with this "I can't believe you were wondering the same thing" kind of look. This had become the crux of our conversation for a good deal of the walk ahead. I was bothered by this on a couple different levels. N. and I mulled over all the little things that apparently sparked our radar: walking in the woods of a park that didn't have many people there. The little girl was dressed in her finest...very frilly dress, with flowers and bows, lace around her ankle socks with black-patent mary janes, and a bow in her hair... she looked like the poster child of Sugar & Spice and Everything Nice. She was dressed more like a confection of sweet fluff, and was suited more for a fine wedding than a hike in the woods. (Think Jon Benet Ramzey sans the makeup)
As femininely and delicately dressed as She was, the man she was with was just as slovenly attired. The only thing missing was the
'wife-beater'....and GOD....I HATE that description for that style of undershirt! Ugh!
Another thing that had sparked my radar besides the fact that he had a tight hold on to her hand the entire time, was that she was of Asian Descent, he was definitely Caucasian, it didn't appear that he was her biological father.
Anyway, as N. and I approached the two, our immediate silence was the only clue that betrayed us as we each, unbeknownst to the other, did a quick assessment of this:
~He did not appear frightened, worried, or otherwise anxious as two women walked past and gave a quick greeting.
~Though he had a tight grip of her hand, he did not tighten it more or slightly pull back which could be a non-verbal warning to the little girl to keep quiet. There didn't appear to be any other non-verbal cues to be used as a warning to not talk.
~The little girl did not appear frightened, nervous, or otherwise uncomfortable, and was not trying to strain away from the man who held her hand. She had a smile on her face and was commenting about the caterpillar she saw on the ground.

This had taken each of us about 3-4 seconds to that very brief time period of passing them on the path. Had there been any doubts at that time, I know I would have opened up more than just a quick nod and hello as I passed them. I would have probably commented on her pretty dress and what a nice day for a walk, stalling for time to better determine if there's possible cause for police involvement.

O.k., fast forward to the mutual silence between N. and I and her statement of "I hope that guy was not a pedophile."

The other reason why this had bothered me was the sheer fact that suspicion had been quickly, and based upon a man taking a walk with a young child!! There can be sooo many other possibilities to that same scenario....she could be his adopted daughter, foster child or grandchild, or just babysitting her for the day! She could very well have come from a wedding, and didn't have a change of clothes more appropriate for a walk in the woods. She could be impulsive and likes to wander off a lot, meaning the adults may have to constantly hold her hand to keep herself safe.
Perceptions. I think perceptions play such a large part in anything we experience in life.
While I'm glad that I'm observant enough to my surroundings and through my training, education and professional experiences, am sensitive to the more subtler nuances of a child in danger, I also don't want to casually cast suspicion and doubt upon what was probably a very nice experience for that little girl and 'guardian'. I don't want to pathologize these experiences, just because there are a some pretty sick individuals out there who would groom and prey on these children. I have always had a soft spot for men who are incredibly gentle and exceedingly active and present in their children's lives. So, while I will continue to be mindful of those men who may do harm to the truly innocent ones, I hope to keep a balanced view of the beauty and tenderness of the Father/Child relationship and how rewarding it is for each.

I initially hesitated writing about this experience due to tomorrow being Father's Day and not wanting to mar this day with talks of possible male sexual predators.
But then I realized, the contrast between those male pedophiles and some of the incredible fathers out there, is enough.
What will I be doing??? My own father had passed away when I was teen. I miss him. I think I've been blessed tho, in many ways. I still have the wonderful memories of him, and I also have something that none of my other six brothers and sisters have of his.
I have his green eyes.
Happy Father's Day Dad
And Happy Father's Day to everyone else! :)


18 Reflections:

likegoodstuf 2:33 PM, June 18, 2006  

it's good that you worry. and what a nice father's day note.

gabriel 9:53 PM, June 18, 2006  

ZZ - You're not alone in the worry department, I think more of us are becoming aware and watchful. I and my female friends certainly just is not a safe place out there anymore.

GreeneyeZZ 6:14 AM, June 19, 2006  

Thank you LGS.

Gabriel - The world needs more people like you. You're right it is not a safe place. It just sucks that one of the reprecussions of this is a knee-jerk reaction to be suspicious of men with young children.

Hey guys - what are your thoughts on this??? Does it bother you about the suspicion? Ever have anyone question your integrity as a parent, or felt people's watchful eyes on you...just because you had your young son or daughter with you?

gwen 6:48 AM, June 19, 2006  

Tell me how would you get their name were you more sure of something being amiss? What could one do?

I've had experiences where I was nearly sure something has or would happen, but how do you go about getting a stranger's name? There has been times when I see a man and girl and think nothing at all. Other times I am nearly SURE based only on watching them.

I love to watch people when they don't know it. You pick up all kinds of clues. There have been times I wanted to pull the girl aside and talk to her. But then you think, "what am I thinking?" and dismiss it, rationalize it, etc.

I think it is important to follow your instincts, although in the case of the girl and the man on the trail, I wasn't there, so it's hard to say, but sounds like it was ok, at least let's hope. :)

And I would not feel bad about thinking or judging strangers like that, I think it's a good thing. I just wanna know how you can find out more information about someone you happen upon.

Henry 9:04 AM, June 19, 2006  


A nice tribute to your Father. Your eyes are the window to your Dad's spirit. He lives in you.

JQP 10:05 AM, June 19, 2006  

It's good that there are people who are aware enough of the possibilities to look out for them... and it is sad that we as a "civilized" society even have to.

Your father would be very proud of you.

gabriel 10:49 AM, June 19, 2006  

ZZ, when my oldest son (23) was a baby (about 6-7 months) and learning how to pull himself up to stand, by holding onto things...he pulled a dining room chair down onto himself and gave himself a black eye. I rushed him to the pediatrician (an older man), he reassured me that it might be the first of many as he had raised boys. Later that week when I went to the grocery store with the baby, I can remember people looking at his black eye as he sat in the cart and then looking at me with accusing eyes. I felt horrible even tho I knew it had been an accident.

GreeneyeZZ 4:09 PM, June 19, 2006  

Gwen - If that child had displayed serious fear or worry and that man showed the slightest apprehension about someone seeing him with her, I would keep my eye on them while I called the police from my cell. I'd let them know I was a mandated reporter, and explain the situation. If they started to hem haw around on that, I'd probably be pretty firm when 'reminding' them that the NYS Abuse Hotline # "specifically" states that if the caller believes that a child is currently being hurt, to hang up and call 911. I'd also ask for the 911 responder's name. Hopefully that will be enough. I'll also stay on the cell phone to guide police to the exact location.

Henry - You made me choke up a bit. Thank you for your very kind words. That means alot.

JQP - "civilized society" got that right! Your kind words about my father is really appreciated! Thank you.

Gabriel - I'm sure you were feeling a bit paranoid. And soo many kids do get hurt and fall and scrape themselves. On one hand, it's good that others do take notice, but you're not the first person to have been made to feel like a criminal, when you are totally innocent! Quick story, When one of my neices was about 4-5 years old, she was being watched my a friend of my sister. She had told this woman that her mother (my sister) was hitting her. My sister's friend initially started to freak out, but quickly regained her composure when my neice went on about my sister....removing her eyeballs and bending her fingers completely back!!! omg! her friend was stunned to say the least! lol makes you wonder where the hell she got that idea sister is quite protective of her children! :)

milo 4:22 PM, June 19, 2006  

My boyfriend goes through alot of this because he is raising two girls without their mother. I think alot of time the parents won't let their girls stay over because he is a guy. I live there also but I am not their mother. He is the most protective father I have ever met and it hurts the youngest when her friends can't stay over. The parents always seem to make up some excuse.

JQP 4:33 PM, June 19, 2006  

Milo -- I understand your frustration. My Ex won't let my daughter stay overnight at one of her friend's house because she has an older brother. You gotta be cautious and protective... but you gotta draw the line somewhere too.

Paranoia will destroy ya . . . .

milo 4:41 PM, June 19, 2006  

my son lives there too but is never home. She just had a birthday party and invited 11 girls and only 4 showed up. Many lame excuses from the parents. It is not like we live in a bad neighborhood or my boyfriend has a criminal record. Most of the time when she invites friends to sleep over she ends up going over there because the parents say no.

gwen 7:36 PM, June 19, 2006  

Milo, you might be onto something there, but then again, some parents just don't let their kids do anything either. My daughters friends' parents seemed to love to get rid of them lol-long as I provided transportation to and from! Four is a good manageable number too. :)

ZZ, what I should have said clearer, was what do you do if there is a teen who you suspect something may be going on? And say the father/uncle/whoever is with her?

You can't just call 911 on the spot, they (teen) would never admit to it and would only be embarrassed. And who knows what would happen later at home. I thought perhaps carrying cards from some place like Vera house and slipping them one??

I totally agree if it was a small 5 yr old, in that situation though, definitely call 911.

gwen 7:37 PM, June 19, 2006  

Oh and stG, maybe you should have made a t-shirt, "it was an accident" for your son to wear out in public! :)

gram&lala&m&b 8:10 PM, June 19, 2006  

Milo that's really a bummer. I've had the exact opposite experience. When we first moved here parents were happy to drop their kids off sight-unseen at our house. They didn't know who we were, where we came from, anything about us, and their kids would stay for sleepovers. Kooky.

GreeneyeZZ 12:50 AM, June 20, 2006  

Gwen- If you're talking about out in public, like that park, I'm not about to jeopardize my safety or the teen's by confronting. Remember…it’s just a suspicion…not a fact. I'll still be mindful of the possible cues, will keep a safe distance from and an eye on, and will still contact the police. (It can be done and still look like I'm calling a friend.)

If you're talking about this occurring in my office, then when first admitting them, I always go over the limits of confidentiality, as I'm always upfront about that. Any initial disclosure I've ever had, has only taken place in the context of 1:1, and the 'accused perp' has never been out in the waiting room. What I've HAD happen is a mom that cuts off the child's responses and/or answers for him/her, which directs the content of the conversation. When that happens, I ask the mom to wait in the waiting room as I want to meet with the child alone.

Teen or not, they can't be forced....and any clinician who does.....dump them and find another one. I've got a teen now whom I strongly suspect has a story to tell, though he is not ready to tell it. There's nothing I can do outside of helping him to feel safe with me....nothing… at least until he discloses. Also remember, the legal involvement and court system. I don't want to do or say anything that could mess up a possible conviction if a person is charged and tried.
I don't know if this answers your question or not. I hope so. :)

Newt - What you describe I sometimes see with families where the mother was sexually abused as a child, as well. It's bizarre I know, but if you can think about it in the context of the mom not knowing how to protect her own child because she, herself, was never protected. (You don't know what you're missing if you've never had it.) That's where you get that generational piece and repetitive patterns.
That saddens me.

gwen 7:53 AM, June 20, 2006  

No not really, lol, guess I should explain one experience I had. I was in this vet office and the teen hovered near her mother. The father (she called him daddy once so I know he is) sat there while his daughter was standing and he opened gawked her up and down for several minutes at a time for almost the whole time we were there.

The mother sat there oblivious. The girl stayed away from the father, almost clingingly close to the mother's side, and on the opposite side, standing. The mother kept getting up and taking the dog outside, and going to her car, so the girl was left there standing, and the father sitting, quite a distance apart.

She only talked to the father once, to say, "daddy, the dog pooped on the floor." I observed him for about 15 mins. It totally creeped me out. She looked to be about 14 maybe, with the body of an 18 yr. old. She seemed very shy too. I just couldn't believe how he was openly gawking, staring and looking her up and down, ugh. I was sick. I wanted to walk over and slap him silly! I was so stunned watching him. And I don't know which car was theirs, or their name or anything. I was there first, and left before them. I thought about it and still do. And no, I wouldn't confront him either but what would you have done?

Teens are very hard to get information from, I agree, as they have been violated already and don't trust anyone.

GreeneyeZZ 9:45 AM, June 20, 2006  

I really don't know what you could do in that situation. You gotta tred carefully tho, whatever you do. He could be angry at her for something, and that is what you might have seen. Even the gawking could be misread. There really isn't enough valid information to contact the police, and I know that the Abuse Hotline will not take that call, based on your info given.

Yes, teens can be quite a challenge. And you are absolutely right...they have been violated already and don't trust anyone. That's why a clinician should NEVER try to 'force' a disclosure. 1) a defense lawyer could have a field day with that, discrediting the clinician, and 2) it's almost like re-traumatizing the teen all over would be forcing something from him/her that he/she doesn't want to give (metpahorically raped again).

gwen 2:41 PM, June 20, 2006  

He didn't look angry at all. And the "leering" stopped whenever the mother was around/looking his way. I'm 99.9999 percent sure he is a pervert.

I know you weren't there, but believe me, you would have been sick had you witnessed it. It still bothers me and probably always will. And bothers me even more that I can't do anything. Lecherous bastard. I can only hope he hasn't acted on it. But from the way she kept her distance, it certainly made me wonder.

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Summit of Mount Jo 9/24/10 A few friends were worried about me. They were worried about me hiking Mount Jo by myself, so I took this video to show how many people were around that day if I needed assistance. I even chatted with several and had a few people share a glass of wine with me at the summit. :) Mount Jo. 9/24/10 After the crowd left This is what the summit looked like... with no people on it. In the previous video I took, I showed all the people who had made this same hike to her summit.
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