One of the unfortunate side-effects of social stigma and mandatory reporting, aside from the disincentive to seek support, is that it makes it almost impossible to do meaningful research. How many people are attracted to children? Exclusively or non-exclusively? How many act on that attraction? Does mandatory reporting ensure a significant number of children get the help and protection they need? If there were no mandatory reporting obligations, would there be more abuse? Or, would more people get help early on, resulting in less abuse? Do sex offender registries make children more safe or less safe? Would a publicly visible sex offender registry decrease risk or increase it?
Sadly, we just don’t know.
There are pockets of evidence here and there. There are considered, scientific opinions from experts. But it would be really nice to have solid evidence to help answer these questions, one way or another. It would be even nicer if we had solid evidence and that evidence was used to inform policy decisions.
I won’t hold my breath, but I will continue to watch with interest. As the tagline here says, my goal is to be part of the solution. But I can’t change the world. My role is to focus on what I can do as an individual. To lead by example, to help others manage their risk, and to live a stable life.
Whether you’re an offender or not, what can you do to help keep children safe?