AN EDUCATOR’S GUIDE TO PREVENTING SEXUAL MISCONDUCT
April 15, 2014
Summary: The vast majority of educators are hard-working, decent people who genuinely invest themselves into the future of our children. They are the first responders for those few educators who do not respect the boundary between teacher and student. These warning signs, tips, and training resources are an excellent step to assist those teachers in preventing sexual misconduct against our children in our schools.
A 2011 nationwide survey indicated that 3.5 million students reported having physical sexual contact from an adult, ranging from unwanted touching to intercourse. If you add in non-touching harassments such as sharing pornography or masturbating, then that number becomes 4.5 million – 10% of all students. This is an unacceptable rate, especially because these children have been abused by adults who have no respect for the sanctity of the teacher/student relationship, and used their access to children to act out their sick fantasies.
Obviously, the perpetrators of sexual abuse create an unsafe environment for our children. The understated factor to the problem is the fellow teachers who cowardly stand by and do nothing to stop abuses; it in essence facilitates the abuse. The irony of this reality is that most sexual abuse programs in schools ask the children to report issues – how in the hell can a school put faith in a program that requires the child to have more courage than the adult? If you are reading this blog, there’s a very good chance that you are not one of those cowards; more likely, you’re the type to step in and prevent it – we’re here to help you out. According to an excellent study compiled on the Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E) website, there are two types of predators in the school environment: ‘fixated abusers’ and ‘opportunistic abusers.’
- Fixated Abuser: According to the research, the fixated abuser is most often found in elementary and middle schools. They’re more likely to be male and favorably viewed by peers, parents, students and administrators; in fact, they’re likely to have a disproportionate amount of teaching awards – most fixated abusers are otherwise considered to be excellent teachers. The fixated abuser works particularly hard to be likeable and popular, easily confused with trustworthy. Though they are not the majority of sexual abusers in schools, they are much harder to detect; and because they are accomplished and liked, many fellow teachers openly support this abuser, which further abuses their victims.
- Opportunistic Abuser: The opportunistic abuser takes sexual advantage of specific situations, though not exclusively attracted to children. Opportunistic abusers are emotionally stuck in a teenage mentality, and often have boundary and judgment problems. They tend to spend a lot of time around groups of students, and place extra effort to be the “cool” teacher, seemingly trying to be part of the student peer group. They are easier to identify than the fixated abuser because the opportunistic abuser usually discusses students with uncanny and often inappropriately personal details.
These are general profiles; not a cookie-cutter solution – not every sexual predator will fit these descriptions, just as not every teacher with those characteristics are predators. But, it’s a starting point to recognize the profile types and have increased awareness, so that if an educator makes an inappropriate comment or action, it can be reported before it becomes a physical abuse. To be a more aware and engaged student advocate, keep these in mind:
- Keep your eyes and ears open: If something doesn’t look or sound right, chances are that it isn’t.
- Educate yourself: Get familiar with the terminology of sexual abuse, know the difference between inappropriate touching from appropriate touching. Also, take advantage of training links, such as this one provided by the people at S.E.S.A.M.E.
- Maintain boundaries: The student is there to learn; you are there to teach. That includes being a good role-model; part disciplinarian, part mentor, but always professional. Seek full transparency when dealing with kids after-hours by having a second person in the room, or leaving the door open.
- Communicate: Encourage students and teachers to communicate sexual abuse issues freely and without reprisal.
- Report abuses: Teachers are mandatory reporters, and at minimum need to report sexual abuses to the local police department.
At Estey & Bomberger, we would much rather that a sexual predator is identified and reported by individuals in our society before abuses can be carried out by a predator. Our goal is to help educate those that have daily access to both children and these predators, so that our children can learn in a safe environment. If you know of a child that is or has been sexually abused, it is your duty to report it.