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AIBU to not want to make snap decisions in peado panic ?

(44 Posts)
fastweb Wed 15-Jun-11 11:56:38

My son attends a church based youth club (in Italy). Outside of the summer it is five afternoons per week, during the summer it is morning to evening M-F and S-S afternoons. He loves it. I love it because I don't think i would be able to provide the sort of social opportunities he wants if we took it out of our home education equation. Which is another way of saying that just not going any more would be far from a preferred option if at all avoidable.

Unbeknown to me there were a couple of incidents involving one of the youth workers and 10\11 yo boys and girls. I literally just found this out late yesterday evening and the details I have are sketchy, but it sounds like on three occasions this youth worker attempted to molest a child (2F, 1M), in all cases it appears that thankfully somebody noticed him pulling the kids off into a toilet cubicle and were able to intervene and get the kids out before he managed to achieve his goal.

The priests banned him from the youth club, and the swimming pool that the youth club goes to (where one of the incidents took place) has also banned him. The parents of the kids involved went to see the youth club worker's parents, but did not take the matter to the authorities.

The problem seems to be that this person is hanging around just outside of the boundaries of both the youth club and swimming pool as well as making the occasional entry onto both grounds and having to be removed. so far without incident for any of the kids.

I don't want to make snap decisions in peado panic, I am aware that so far this is hearsay (although I don't think of the lady who told me as a hysterical gossip), but at the same time I don't want to underestimate the level of risk and fail to protect my son in the face of a real and inappropriately dealt with threat.

He is there today and all the kids will be going to the swimming pool this afternoon. All I have done so far is be very insistent about him going to the toilet when his friends are going, to stick in his group and gone over the usual stranger danger stuff, but not in any hyper super urgent "imminent threat" way because I really don't want to scare the crap out him and give him an overinflated sense of danger. Our hastily formed main plan is for DH to go swimming too this afternoon (which he often does so it wouldn't be a huge shocker for our son to see him there) just to keep an extra eye on things in a surreptitious manner.

But I'm churning here, worrying that I haven't done enough and feeling very uneasy, which is not usually the case when he is off there having a great time. Part of me didn't want to let him go today till I had more information and a more solid idea of a plan to help him protect himself in the outside event of something horrible happening. But the other part of me doesn't want to ruin the youth club for him and act out of panic in a void of information, potentially without grounds. Because as much as I trust the lady who told me, people make mistakes and wrong information through the grapevine is not unheard of.

Just to avoid leaving out anything pertinent, I'm an atheist, so I may be bringing some of my negative feelings about the way the church has handled child abuse to the table here. I really like both the priests running the club, neither of them give me an "off" vibe (unlike some others), but initially it was very hard for me to place my son in that environment because there was this lack of trust thing going on. Not sure if it is having a resurgence on the back of the information, or if it is exclusively the information that has upset the apple cart.

What would be a reasonable approach to this dealing with this info\situation to avoid either an over reaction, or an under reaction ?

deemented Wed 15-Jun-11 12:00:43

I think you're handling it very well indeed - especially like the idea of your DH going swimming this afternoon anyway.

What i can't understand is why this man was allowed to do this to three children before people took action - and tbh, not very effectual action at that. I'd be wondering why it wasn't being taken further - that would be my main concern.

EricNorthmansMistress Wed 15-Jun-11 12:05:37

Why hasn't he been arrested???

fastweb Wed 15-Jun-11 12:16:40

What i can't understand is why this man was allowed to do this to three children before people took action - and tbh, not very effectual action at that

That is one aspect that is concerning me, if the story is accurate I'd really like to know what the dynamic was, how come it took three events before action was taken and what influence (if any) was brought to bear on the parents not to take this to the police. Which is why I think I am going to have to go to the priests to ask them directly what happened and why the authorities were not brought in. More to see if they lean towards inaction as a form of "turn the other cheek", or if their hands were tied because the parents didn't want to press charges.

Why hasn't he been arrested???

Because none of the parents went to the police. At the moment I have no more details as to why they didn't.

MrSpoc Wed 15-Jun-11 12:24:55

I really do not want to water down the incident but i would like to get a clear picture.

How old were the three children?
Do they need assistance going to the loo?
Was the potential peodo a helper at the church youth club?
Who noticed it?
What did peodo do then? say? his excuse?
How do we know he hasnt managed to get to other children already?
Why cant you speak to the church organisaors and find out the true situation then
You can call the police about the potential threat.

TotallyLovely Wed 15-Jun-11 12:27:54

I think someone needs to mention this to the police. He may have a history for it and he may do it again, but more successfully? I would be asking the leaders about it and why it hasn't been reported. Unless they have a good reason (such as it's not actually true) then I would be insisting on it and maybe even doing it myself. I realise a complaint probably needs to come from a parent but if you tell the police what you have heard has happened and that the group are brushing it under the carpet perhaps they would investigate anyway.

I also realise that this man may be innocent but I don't see what else you can do. You can't do nothing!

Journey Wed 15-Jun-11 12:37:31

I'm shocked that the youth club haven't reported this to the police. Why haven't they? What else are they hiding?

I'd definately tell my DS to avoid this man at all costs. You don't need to go into too much detail but just tell him that under no circumstances is he allowed to go near him. (I'd worry that the man might call my DS over to talk to him, when he is hanging around, and my DS would think it okay to do so because he knew him).

Bucharest Wed 15-Jun-11 12:44:59

They won't have mentioned it to the police in all probability because it's a church youth club, the volunteer and his family, if I may guess, are prominent members of the parish, and there is such omerta' here that it will be see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil.

Fastweb, I (am in the south of Italy so am well aware of the kind of youth club informal set up that you are talking about) would definitely speak to the priest (I don't know how young or approachable yours is, ours is lovely, and has almost had me converted wink) If you get nojoy, I would do one of 2 things, a) call the carabinieri anonymously b) pull my child out.

It's a f'king nightmare. But I hate to say I imagine you'll get little joy from the priest. sad

kreecherlivesupstairs Wed 15-Jun-11 12:46:17

I think you have done the right thing.
With regard to the Police, don't the victims actually have to go and denounce them? I vaguely remember DH having to make a denunciation about a burglary we had when we lived in Rome. He had to denounce an unknown person.
OP, I would be doing what journey said.
Good luck and well done on your measured reaction to something that is vile.

It is very difficult as you have only hearsay to go on. However, what I might do in this situation would be talk to the organisers of the club and point out that the man should not be hanging around having been dismissed, and suggest that he is told to fuck right off and stay away or the police will be informed. If he is behaving like a stalker and you have seen him doing that, then it's possibly best to call the police anyway and report the stalking and add that you have heard of him assaulting DC - if he already has a rec ord they might bring him in, if not they might warn him off.

fastweb Wed 15-Jun-11 12:56:57

How old were the three children?
10\11 years old. Same age as my son. Two girls, one boy.

Do they need assistance going to the loo?
Not as far as I know, the details are hazy but the gist seems to be that he was waiting in the toilets and pounced.

Was the potential peodo a helper at the church youth club?
Yes. An 18yo "animator", which means he was there to get games going, and interact with the kids, lead the teams etc. I've taught most of the helpers when they were younger and by and large they are lovely young people, but this guy doesn't ring a bell.

Who noticed it?
I have no specific information on that yet.

What did peodo do then? say? his excuse?
Not got that info yet.

How do we know he hasnt managed to get to other children already?
All I know is that no more KNOWN incidents have occurred. There is no way anybody can exclude the potential for incidents where the child has been too scared or emotionally hurt to say anything.

Why cant you speak to the church organisaors and find out the true situation then
I can, and will tonight. But I wanted to get some "not personally involved" input first to make sure I know in my own head what less obvious questions to ask and what weight to give to the answers. I've buggered up fact finding missions in the past because of lack of preparation and over emotion. This is too important an issue to risk a re run of that.

You can call the police about the potential threat.
If I get any sense that there has been an under reaction on the part of the youth club I'll go and speak to the police, but I won't be able to create charges. I could barely get them interested to go and arrest the man who attacked me outside the other church when I had the legal right of pressing charges, so I'm not holding my breath for anything other than deep disinterest until they are forced to do something. I'll do it anyway because they will have to register my coming in and my concern, which could prove useful if there are any future developments.

thegruffalosma Wed 15-Jun-11 13:29:48

I'm not a fan of paedo panic myself but there is no way in this world that I would be sending my dc back to a place where I had been told a child abuser HAD BEEN APPREHENDED 3 TIMES BY STAFF taking children into the loo! Nothing was done about the first or second incident and it was allowed to happen a further 2 times. I would not trust these people to safeguard children without speaking to them BEFORE my child returned to their care to establish whether this actually happened or it is just hearsay. Who was it who told you about the incidents? Are they a reliable source in your opinion?

thegruffalosma Wed 15-Jun-11 13:30:40

I also meant to say that I agree that if you have reliable information that these things happened you should contact the police yourself.

fastweb Wed 15-Jun-11 13:35:02

Fastweb, I (am in the south of Italy so am well aware of the kind of youth club informal set up that you are talking about) would definitely speak to the priest (I don't know how young or approachable yours is, ours is lovely, and has almost had me converted wink) If you get nojoy, I would do one of 2 things, a) call the carabinieri anonymously b) pull my child out.

It's typical oratorio\summer camp, all done through GREST. Who might be worth calling directly if I get a sense of community ties perhaps colouring people's reactions ? I'm having a hard time seeing these two priests placing specific parishioners over doing the right thing, I genuinely like them both despite my fairly automatic uneasiness around clergy. But I can't exclude it, because even after 16 years I sometimes wonder if I have done anymore than scratch the surface of understanding this place\culture.

I can go to the carabinieri in person. I don't mind being named as registering concern, I doubt they don't know anything about it at all given that we are a town of just 10,000 souls with the typical village gossip mentaltiy, but something where they are required to put down community concerns on paper can't hurt if there is currently no record of reported wrong doing.

With regard to the Police, don't the victims actually have to go and denounce them?

Yes. The parents would have to be the ones who press charges. I can't do it on their behalf even if I know of a crime, who the victims are, who the accused is. But I can bring knowledge of a crime to their attention and request that they investigate...we think. DH is taking the penal code with him to the pool to check out the relevant statutes in case we need to quote them.

However, what I might do in this situation would be talk to the organisers of the club and point out that the man should not be hanging around

According to the person who told me about all this he has been removed when he tried to get back in both to the youth club grounds and the swimming pool. But what they can't do is stop him hanging around on public property, like the road right outside. I don't know if we have specific stalking laws here yet, I'll ask the police if it looks very bad after my chat with the priest tonight. I just don't know if it will wash without charges being pressed let alone a proven charge against the guy.

I'd definately tell my DS to avoid this man at all costs

I know the guy's name and he has left his public profile on facebook open, so I could even show kiddo pics of who to avoid. But I am no expert in this and don't know if that is the right way to go about it. Wouldn't want to do more harm that good by accident or create a false sense of security by focusing soley on one guy, so an unknown person is not seen as a threat in contrast.

I'm not even sure to what extent I should go into details about what sort of things "bad people" do to small kids. I don't want to create the stuff of nightmares in his head if it offers only an illusion of protection rather than anything real.

And it doesn't really solve the greater picture of what to do about all the other kids. I've taught most of them, lots of them have charged around my house with my son, a good clump of them mean the world to my son. Even if I can forewarn\forearm my kid, I feel at a loss to know what to do about all the others because the obvious ideas that have popped up in my head don't half have look of some sort of vigilante anti PR campaign about them. I don't know how many of the other mums don't know. It could just be me, as I do seem to somewhat out of the loop because I'm not part of the church going community, close to the mums who are active in the youth club,or even able to play catch up at the school gates.

MrSpoc Wed 15-Jun-11 13:37:39

Good luck with the questioning.

Im not sure of what type of questions you should ask but take a pen and paper and write it down.

Does any one else have any questions you think the Op should ask?

Also it would take a unhinged person who has been caught in an act to still be hanging around the establishment where they have been caught.

thegruffalosma Wed 15-Jun-11 13:48:15

I'm sorry OP but if you get this story confirmed there is no way that you should be wasting time reporting it to the summer club and their superiors - you should be going straight to the police which is what any responsible organisation would have done themselves already!!!
It's simply not true that a victim has to press charges for a criminal to be brought to justice - how would murderers ever be convicted if this was the case?

IndigoBell Wed 15-Jun-11 13:52:33

But, if he's now lurking round in public places and not the youth club - isn't your DC just as much of a risk if he doesn't go to youth club?

fastweb Wed 15-Jun-11 13:55:35

Who was it who told you about the incidents? Are they a reliable source in your opinion?

A mother of a student, after her son brought it up during a lesson when I asked him if was going to the summer camp at the youth club when his exams finished and left me slack jawed. I told her what her son told me and asked what had been going on.

I don't know her well enough to exclude the potential for the story to be wildly inaccurate, but I can say that she has never stuck me as somebody who lived for salacious gossip.

Not sending him this morning was tempting. But I was trying to balance the fact that he had been spending at least 15 hours a week in the company of this guy for the last 2 years without incident BEFORE this guy was allegedly banned from the club and that the accuracy\validity of the story is yet to be established and his evident desire to go.

I understand you questioning my decision to refuse to let him go this morning, I'm questioning it myself.

I have a terribly strong urge just to call DH and tell him forget lurking in the background, just pluck kiddo out of the group and stick to him like glue at the swimming pool. But I have an equally strong urge to make sure that I don't make my son pay for my tendency to let my heart rule my head and giving in to the panic. Because I do know it features in my list of faults.

FilthyDirtyHeathen Wed 15-Jun-11 13:57:17

How worrying for you. I think you should be asking for confirmation that what you have heard is true and if it is, reassurance that the children in the group are being looked out for by the remaining staff whilst under their care. If it is true and this person is a risk then I would consider showing his picture to your ds or advising your ds to be cautious around this man. If the authorities are not willing to do anything about him then I do think you need to find strategies for protecting your children.

Bucharest Wed 15-Jun-11 14:01:26

What about the people running the GREST? At dd's GREST they are the catechism teachers,who,by and large are all schoolteachers themselves. I think in your situation, I would approach them first.

Dds best friend's Dad is carabinieri (and the Mum is a catechista!) I can ask them how best to proceed if you like? Although I have a feeling they would say tell the priest. Who presumably is already aware and believes it's been dealt with satisfactorily.

thegruffalosma- in the real world, no doubt the police would have been involved, unfortunately, the situation the OP is describing is a zillion miles from the reality of Uk stylee youth clubs, with CRB'd staff and police who actually think they should be involved in such matters. Not to mention the fact that the youth club is a Catholic church youth club.....

To reiterate, I'd get the real story if possible from the parents of the children involved. Which I would take to the priest, and ask in the first place why this person is still tolerated hanging around outside wherever the kids are. Slowly slowly I think is the only way to get anywhere with anything like this. (dp, who isn't here, would of course, be telling me not to do anything, to keep my nose out, and the only way to sort something like that would be to go and do violence on the perp.....)

thegruffalosma Wed 15-Jun-11 14:08:58

I wouldn't be hasty in pulling him out - if the story has originally come from a child it could be that the man was a bit strange and then left they have been speculating as to why. BUT - I personally would have wanted to find out what the deal was before I left my child in their care again. IF the incident is as described and the summer camp have let it go on to an extent and/or not reported it I would have no hesitation in thinking that they were not fulfilling their duty to the children in their care and pull them out. I would also make the authorities aware of the situation.
As it stands though - you can't really do anything until you have got the full story. Trust your instincts though and remember that there is a possibility that if they have been irresponsible in not removing the man immediately they may downplay the incident or try and cover themselves. The fact that you are considering there is a possibilty that this has been allowed indicates to me that you don't trust them 100%.

thegruffalosma Wed 15-Jun-11 14:13:46

Bucharest IF a crime has been committed by the law of that country (and I'm not saying the OP should jump in feet first before she has the full story) then it's entirely a matter for the police whatever the country is. If abuse (or attempted abuse) has taken place and been covered up keeping the allegations within the establishment rather than going to the relevant authorities is exactly how abuse is allowed to continue and isn't a culture I think should be promoted.

Bucharest Wed 15-Jun-11 14:25:47

Unfortunately, Catholic clergy have immunity from prosecution by the Italian police. This is why this particular case is a difficult one to second guess what would happen. This volunteer is presumably not a member of the clergy, but given their own immunity in similar cases, it's probable that the church wouldn't help in any way in any kind of police investigation.

thegruffalosma Wed 15-Jun-11 14:31:10

The Pope himself recently apologised for the Catholic church covering up abuse in the past and said that Priests must report any signs of abuse and co-operate fully with the police so I don't think that's true Bucharest.

fastweb Wed 15-Jun-11 14:39:26

Dds best friend's Dad is carabinieri (and the Mum is a catechista!) I can ask them how best to proceed if you like?

Oh yes please. I anticipate the same answer, but you never know your luck. I'll have a nose and see who is running the catechism, mine doesn't do it so I'm well out of the loop.

IF a crime has been committed by the law of that country (and I'm not saying the OP should jump in feet first before she has the full story) then it's entirely a matter for the police whatever the country is. If abuse (or attempted abuse) has taken place and been covered up keeping the allegations within the establishment rather than going to the relevant authorities is exactly how abuse is allowed to continue and isn't a culture I think should be promoted.

I posted up above that rather than make an anon call to the police, if the hairs are standing up on the back on my neck after talking to the big priest, I'm going to go down and tell them officially that i have been made aware of a crime being committed and ask them to follow through. That will not translate into the state starting a vigorous and active investigation about something they no doubt already know about (since three of them have their children in the same structure now i come to think about it), nor taking the role of making the denouncement on behalf of a victim unless they believe the parents are in some way involved or facilitating abuse. What it will do is set up a paper trail for the future for when it is needed. A paper trail that at the moment i very much doubt exists. I am going to do what the system allows me to do if what i heard appears to be accurate once I've had a chance to talk to the people who supposedly dealt with it initially.

But, if he's now lurking round in public places and not the youth club - isn't your DC just as much of a risk if he doesn't go to youth club?

Right now, no. Because we live outside of town so when we drive in he is either in the youth club, at a mate's house, at one of his sport groups or with us.

But that will change from September because I really am going to have to face up to giving him a bit more freedom and first year middle school seems to be when the kids are generally allowed to start going around the town in little groups together without adults accompanying them.

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