The Fallacy of “Don’t Take Candy From a Stranger”
Act 20:29-30, I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
I am reading Carla van Dam’s great book The Socially Skilled Child Molester [*Affiliate link], (you
should might want to read it too). In most instances, what van Dam says about child molesters parallels the motives and tactics of the domestic violence abuser. Here is an example:
One of the reasons that child molesters are so successful in pursuing their addiction to sex with children is that they are masters at gaining the trust of the “gate-keepers” who are supposed to protect the children. Parents, churches, schools – regularly fall prey to the molester’s outer façade of the lover of children, the man who will do anything for kids, the highly respected community citizen, and so on. Parents, for example, might warn their children “never take candy from a stranger,” but then invite cousin Bob or soccer coach Sam into their home. It’s ok for the kids to take candy from someone, just as long as it’s a person like Bob or Sam, you see. And yet it is the Bobs and the Sams who molest our children. This is how they operate. Yes, there are some random cases, certainly. But often (usually) the molester is going to be someone who has worked hard to gain the trust of the guardians of the children.
And so it is with domestic violence abusers. We ignore the warning signs and the calls for help from victims. Why? Because we know the abuser. We know Jim. We know Clyde. They aren’t strangers to us so we accept them and disbelieve their victim. Everyone around us in our churches accepts Jim and Clyde so we accept them too. We accept their candy, share it around and tell victims that they need to eat it. In return, we make excuses for the Jims and the Clydes and ignore all of the warning signs–which are there should we desire to see them. So the abuse goes on. The abuser keeps enjoying his secrecy because he is never confronted, never questioned, never doubted. Nothing changes except for the worse.
Some people give others candy because they truly are good people. They simply enjoy doing nice things for others. So how do we tell the difference between the good and the bad? As van Dam instructs us, it really isn’t that difficult if we will simply listen to our perceptions. Truly nice people, good people, do their good deeds without raising concerns about inappropriate conduct on their part. Not so with molesters and abusers. If we turn on our abuse-sensing radar and look carefully for blips on the screen, we will begin to see or hear some things that raise concerns in us, things that cause us to be uneasy. We won’t overlook the fact that Clyde really blew up at the church picnic last July over a minor incident. We will stop discounting the notion that Jim was just having a bad day when he was belittling his wife for her opinion on what might be wrong with the car. Until we start heeding these radar “blips,” we are going to continue to be like a battleship captain who ignores the incoming missile image on the screen.
Don’t take candy from strangers. But don’t take it from people we know, either, without exercising careful discernment. Keep that radar on. We live in a fallen and evil world, and that is just the way it is – for now.