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wundayatta's avatar

Is there something about all male institutions that encourages child abuse?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) June 24th, 2012

Here in Pennsylvania, Jerry Sandusky was just convicted of child abuse, among other things. He was a coach for the Penn State University Football team. He used his access to the team to entice young boys to spend time alone with him. He rewarded those boys with football paraphenalia and trips with the team.

I started wondering what relationship football has, if any, to child abuse. Are there more pederasts attracted to the game because it gives them access to boys? Then I wondered what relationship the university has to abuse. There were reports of Sandusky’s actions, but nothing was done to stop him. Was the university reluctant to act because they wanted to avoid the scandal?

Then I started thinking about other all-male institutions. The navy. Prisons. Boarding schools. Is there something about being all-male that attracts people who like boys? Do these institutions have some special responsibility to protect boys? Or is this a kind of secret thing that some people know about, but most people brush under the table, thinking it isn’t very prevalent or significant?

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16 Answers

BosM's avatar

You’re asking about the mind of a predator and how they think.

Don’t forget the Church has had a similar scandal with priests abusing young boys.

So, the simple answer to your question is yes, predators are going to be attracted to organizations that create the environment where they can prey and those organizations need to protect those they serve or care for. Background checks are done regularly by organizations that serve the youth and the infirmed. Private foundations and religious organizations need to have governance that requires these same checks.

As for people covering and hiding these crimes, well, I think that says more about their lack of character and courage than anything else. The problem is when people fail to do the right thing, regardless of what is at stake.

gailcalled's avatar

The NYT just did a nasty but careful exposé of the abuse of some of the male students at Horace Mann, a venerable and old-boy private day school in Riverdale (upper Manhattan).

The article is entitled an eye-catching The Horace Mann School’s Secret History of Sexual Abuse. The events discussed took place decades ago but not long enough for the victims, now adults, to forget any details.

Then then-head master, Inslee Clark (d. 1999), was gay but stayed in the closet and dated attractive woman who served as beards. He may or may not have heard the allegations; the story played out, in the main, as it did at Penn State.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There have been enough cases brought to light over the years to validate asking this question. I think it would take a study of a quantifiable and variety of cases of child abuse in order to obtain a valid answer. It would also be important to compare it to the number of people in the same line of work that do not practice child abuse.

digitalimpression's avatar

There’s nothing about these institutions that encourages child abuse.

The problem is that when a few bad seeds work themselves into the mix (especially in a leadership position) they get caught. It is then publicized and quite a few ignorant citizens make a connection between the institution and the behavior. Instantly ignored are the vast numbers of similar institutions without a bad seed in them.

And for the record, the Navy is not an all male institution.

If we were to exaggerate this model of ignorance just a bit further we could say that all humans are evil because many of them commit crimes.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Predators go where the pickings are plentiful and/or easier to get.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think it is about male institutions, it is just about access to young people.

I do think men go along with hazing and physical abuse more readily than women would tolerate it, but specifically sexual molestation and rape I don’t think that is related to an institution being more male or female. There have been pedophilia situations in k-12 and previously that was run by more females than males I think?

tinyfaery's avatar

Predators are likely to be involved/work with institutions with easy access to victims. Sad but true.

Bill1939's avatar

It is important to note that males are not the only sexual predators. While the victims of same gender predators seem more likely to be harmed psychologically, heterosexual predators also damage young people’s psyches. The social history of a serial oral rapist of women, who was my client in a maximum security mental hospital where I worked forty years ago, revealed that repeated sexual assaults by a seventeen-year-old female when he was in his early pubescence was a factor in the development of his perversion.

funkdaddy's avatar

I think this is like several years ago when one or two postal workers went into their jobs and ambushed people. All of a sudden we were worried about people “going postal”.

Are postal workers really more likely to open fire on people? I don’t think so, but that was public perception for some time.

(@astrochuck still worries me, who gives a postal route to 6-year old?)

35 millions kids play organized sports each year. Most of those teams are divided by sex/gender. All of those teams have multiple coaches. I’d have to say with the huge numbers here, if the environment automatically kicked off some instinct within us that lead to abuse, there would be an epidemic that we’re just not seeing. A few horrible, selfish, damaging people who happen to have ties to sports will get coverage, but if it was the norm unfortunately it wouldn’t be news.

The majority of abuse still stems from within the family so if we’re looking for patterns and solutions we should start there.

wundayatta's avatar

Is there fire where there is smoke? I don’t know. All my life I’ve heard that the merchant marine and the navy are places where there is a lot of homosexual activity. Similarly, the boy scouts. The Catholic Church has been a haven for gay men and lesbian women according to many gay and lesbian folk I’ve spoken to.

Clearly abuse has occurred, especially in the church. Not so sure about how much occurs with sports. Do these organizations have any extra responsibility to be vigilant, since abusers may be attracted to work in places where it is easier to access victims?

The military, it seems to me, is probably a place that attracts sadistic people. Most military institutions have hazing rituals. I don’t know if any of these rituals go in a sexual direction, but if someone told me they did, I would not be surprised. The military is another organization that turns inward and presents a united defense to the outside. They have ways to keep people from talking, although it seems that every once in a while, people do talk. Some women have spoken about sexual abuse in the military.

Personally, I don’t trust organizations that focus on a single sex and on ritual or competition. It is worse if ritual violence is involved.

But I’m not suggesting the organizations should be disbanded or anything. I just don’t trust them, and would advise anyone seeking to become involved in such an organization to be very wary.

gailcalled's avatar

Retired Horace Mann Teacher Admits to Sex with Students

This article appeared yesterday in NYT. The teacher seemed bewildered by the opprobrium.

Last week, in an interview, Mr. Lin, now 88, acknowledged that there was something to those whispers. He said he had had sex with students, “maybe three, I don’t know,” crossing boundaries he said were not so clear years ago.

“In those days, it was very spontaneous and casual, and it did not seem really wrong,” he said.

funkdaddy's avatar

@wundayattaAll my life I’ve heard that the merchant marine and the navy are places where there is a lot of homosexual activity

This is a lot different than abuse, and no children can join. Or are you saying that there is a lot of homosexual activity in the military that one party is not consenting to?

I think we’re wandering into personal biases and conspiracy theories here. There have been some excellent questions and answers here on Fluther that show sex abuse statistics and I’ve learned more here than anywhere else. You’ve participated in most of those discussions.

I can’t recall anything that leads me to believe that coaches or soldiers are any more likely to be guilty of sexual abuse toward children than bankers, garbage collectors, or academics.

augustlan's avatar

Pedophiles are likely to be attracted to organizations that give them access to young people of their desired gender. I’ve known of at least three cases of pedophiles caught working in elementary and middle schools in my general area. My own abuser once got a job as an apartment complex maintenance man, which gave him a master key to every single apartment in a large community. I blew the whistle on him, and he was fired. So I don’t think there’s necessarily something about the institutions that encourages child abuse, but they should certainly be aware that they are an attractive target for the abuser. They should go the extra mile to protect the children in their midst.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@wundayatta Predators go where they can get easy victims, and get away with it. The Church is very invested in dealing with matters internally and hush-hush, as is the military. (A couple days ago, someone on another thread mentioned abuse within the bdsm community – same story). Some people molest kids not because they’re pedophiles, but because kids are such easy victims – taught to trust adults, to keep secrets for trusted adults, to worry about stranger danger and not uncle/coach/clergy/dad/mom/teacher/etc danger, can’t put up a big physical fight, not believed to have a great grasp on reality, etc. Any institution that puts adults around children is going to be at a risk for child abuse. Any institution that promotes dealing with issues internally is going to have a higher likelihood of shoving things under the rug, including religious institutions, private academia, law enforcement, etc. All-male institutions do seem to have those policies of dealing with things internally, and putting on a front of impeccability. I know a lot of being footballs schools have issues with sexual assault, because if they kick a player out for rape, they lose that prestige and money in football (though, it seems to more often be young women getting assaulted than kids – I’m still sort of confused about why Sandusky was around all these kids when he was a college coach? But I’m not paying that much attention to the story.)

augustlan's avatar

@Aethelflaed Sandusky started a ‘charity’ for children, then used his prestige as the coach to develop personal relationships with these boys.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@augustlan Ahhhhhhhh! (Also: puke.)

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