CNN released a report this week about theme park employees who were arrested in child sex stings in Florida since 2006. The report cites 35 employees from 3 different parks, the majority of them Disney employees. It comes as no surprise that in addition to fairy princesses and talking animals, there are also trolls in the Magic Kingdom. Arrests included men in possession of child pornography and/or men who arranged to have sex with a minor.
In Disney's defense, the number of employees arrested is less than 1% of their total hires over that period of time. This is not a large number in the whole scheme of things. Think about a church with 10 employees, whose youth minister is arrested for molesting the children in his care, or the karate instructor who owns his own studio and molests his clients. Disney's number pales in comparison.
The true takeaway from this story is the reinforcement that child molesters are everywhere, and they are especially present in industries that cater to children. Parents need to understand that background checks typically don't yield any information about predatory behavior because these trolls usually don't have a criminal record. Statistically, a serial molester averages over 100 victims before he is caught, so molesters with criminal records are the exception rather than the rule.
The takeaway from this story is don't let your guard down, always be suspicious of an adult or older teen who takes an extreme interest in your child. Additionally, make safety rules for your children that include never going anywhere with anyone unless you have given permission. Remind your children that they are always safest when you know where they are. Trust your instincts about people, and allow your children to trust theirs. If someone makes you or your child uncomfortable, even if you can't figure out why, don't allow your child to be alone with that person under any circumstances.
It's a terrible reality, but there are trolls everywhere. They're in plain sight and they look and sound just like us. In Atlanta in just the past few months, they have included an elementary school principal, a healthcare executive, and a Macon-area pastor. Acknowledging this fact is the first step toward keeping our children safer. Where are the trolls hiding in your community?