Is it my place to be the one telling people about what this guy did?
October 9, 2013 7:04 AM   Subscribe

I came across a news article that revealed that someone I used to be acquainted with was convicted for production and distribution of child pornography. He toured the churches of his denomination with a music group for many years. As a former member of that faith, with friends and family members still active, and someone who was not directly effected by what he did, is it my place to be the one let people people know about this? If so, what is an appropriate way to do that?

I came across the article a few days ago and it said that this friend of a friend's close relative had been convicted of producing and distributing child pornography several months ago. He no longer lives in the area, but up until his arrest, he was part of a Christian music group that toured his denomination's churches in this section of the country for almost 20 years. He had also been working at the denomination's headquarters for a few years at the time of his arrest. I showed it to a few people that knew him. They were shocked, but hadn't heard about it.

This feels to me like it is something that is important for people to know about. I have told a few friends and my mother and brother, both in the church. I had considered just posting a link to the article on Facebook, but I think that might be inappropriate and I am concerned about repercussions from people who interpret it to be an attempt to attack or embarrass the church. I do hold some resentment toward the church in general, and rumors of the church covering up instances sexual impropriety have always angered me, so that would not be completely without merit. Should I just leave it with the few I have told, and be done? Should I stop being a coward about any potential flak and post it on Facebook? Thoughts?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total)
I don't see why you'd need to post it on Facebook. What purpose will it serve? It's a sad story, everyone agrees. Nobody can do anything about it now (the guy is in jail, I assume). You've already brought it up with people who knew him to hash it out. I think you can continue to discuss it with people (and maybe share on internet forums related to his music career, should they exist), but I don't see the value in posting it to Facebook.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:12 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Post it. It's not about you or how you feel about the church. It's about kids...and there very well could be more victims in and out of the church.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:13 AM on October 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think you need to assess your motives on this. Also, Facebook isn't the place.

If you believe that someone you know may have been hurt by this guy, then I think you should share the information with them, one-on-one, or in email.

Blasting it all over Facebook will probably NOT reach your intended audience. It just sensationalizes the crime and doesn't really help anyone.

As for people being concerned about you dogging the church, do you really care? I wouldn't.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:13 AM on October 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

I don't think you're obligated to spread the info around if you're going to end up taking shit over doing so. You've already told several people who are still connected to the church, so if there's a moral imperative for sharing that information with the church community, it rests with them now.

On the other hand, if you want to (ideally for reasons that don't include embarrassing or attacking the church), then really, it's a newspaper article. That makes it public information. Is there a newspaper near this church and where you knew this guy? They might be interested to run a story about how one of their native sons has turned out wrong. If you tipped a reporter there to look into it, and it got published in your local paper, everyone would know and you wouldn't necessarily be involved.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:17 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think you should ask yourself why it feels to you like something that it is important for people to know. And then go from there.

I was in a similar situation some years ago--an acquaintance was arrested and prosecuted for some degree of sex crime involving an older minor. It was public information--in the papers and the like. And it's certainly the sort of thing someone who was going to trust this person with their children needed to know.

But the thing is, no-one I knew was in that position. No-one I knew was likely to ever have contact with this acquaintance again. He was in prison, for one thing, and had already moved to another state before his arrest. Upon reflection, I realized that it seemed important to me because it brought internal validation that, yep, never really liked that guy and gave me something to say that no-one else knew.

You may have very different reasons for feeling this important to share. But I would examine those reasons before bringing it up. Not because this man needs protection but because I believe that conversations about people--particularly where there is possibility of harm--need a higher standard for important. Perhaps the person you mention it to is not, in fact, ignorant of it, but a victim of it and one who wishes not to discuss it.

In any event, I would not post something to Facebook, but mostly because that seems sensationalist and contrary to any reasonable purpose (that I can imagine) behind disseminating the story. The problem with posting to Facebook is framing the conversation. No matter what you type in the little box when you share the link, people will fly off the handle and run with their assumptions about your purpose and with their understandable shocked reactions. It will be ugly, which is hopefully not your intent.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:19 AM on October 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm in the post it camp. Blasting it all over Facebook may not reach all of your intended audience, but even if it reaches some that's already a help. There could well be victims out there who haven't heard about this and will feel relief to know he is behind bars. Also, the more this type of crime within your former church is discussed in the open the less such people in the church can hope to keep hiding.
posted by Dragonness at 7:20 AM on October 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't think it would be unreasonable to send a copy to the church's minister, as well as to the director of religious education, the music director, and the editor of the church newsletter. If they don't respond in an appropriate way, like making some announcement to all parents in the church, then you should consider FB and whatever else will reach the most people.

There may be some parents in your community who are wondering why their children are exhibiting new and troubling behaviors since this horrible man was last in town. These parents need to know that their children may have been violated by this creep.
posted by mareli at 7:20 AM on October 9, 2013 [20 favorites]

Post it everywhere. It is very likely that there are other victims. Pedophiles rarely strike only once. The story may encourage past victims to break their silence.
posted by hworth at 7:36 AM on October 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Post it everywhere. It is very likely that there are other victims. Pedophiles rarely strike only once. The story may encourage past victims to break their silence.

Agreed. Who cares about your motivations, how is posting about a pedophile in the community "blasting it all over facebook" and even if it were, he's a pedophile in the community! Much more important than "at Outback for dinner" "woohoo it's Friday" "don't tread on me" "high score Candy Crush" and 8 million baby pictures.

You don't need to make it your personal mission to monitor this guy's sentence or anything, but hell yes post it. Get pedophilia and abuse out of the domain of shadows & whispers & shame.
posted by headnsouth at 8:11 AM on October 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

In my denomination, parishes have safe church policies that enumerate the parish's approach to preventing and responding to child abuse and exploitation. Our insurance requires us to have a basic level of training in this matter. Some parishes may even have a "safe church committee" or a "safe church officer" who oversees this aspect of parish life. These are the kind of people you need to seek out in the denomination in question. They will have already been trained to respond to the situation you are describing, or they can refer you to the appropriate people higher up the chain.

If this happened in the Episcopal Church, memail me. I am safe church trained and I can help you out.
posted by Biblio at 8:21 AM on October 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Here's why I think it's not your place in particular to be telling people: You don't actually know what he did. "Convicted for production and distribution of child pornography" means what, exactly? Maybe that phrase seems like it should be self-explanatory, but I've heard of cases where parents were charged or at least visited by police because they took photos of their own children in the bathtub, and got ratted out by the 1-hour photo lab at Walgreen's.

If you don't currently have any contact with this person, or with anybody else currently in contact with this person, then the only information you have is that vaguely-worded phrase in the newspaper. And by spreading it around, you are inviting people to gossip and speculate about what he did. You have people in this very AskMe thread calling the person a pedophile, who have no idea what this person actually did that resulted in a conviction, but are jumping to their own conclusions based on the severely lacking information you've given them.

Expect the same result if you post it on Facebook.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 8:43 AM on October 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

I am also on Team Post It. There are definitely other victims out there who have not come forward -- there always are. Being aware of your motivations is important (and I suppose you should be prepared for some recipients of the information to make assumptions about your motives that are not true), but IMO, not important enough to deter you from publicizing what is really important information. Also, I disagree with the sentiment that it isn't likely to reach your intended audience. I don't know how big your facebook network is, but if this is someone you used to be acquainted with, then chances are you are facebook friends with someone else who knew (or knows) this guy.

I think it's a good idea to report it (or have someone else report it if you are no longer affiliated) to a church official, but I think with the tendency for religious institutions (not necessarily this one, but the trend in general) to cover up allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, it's important for the information to be disseminated in other ways as well.

So while I don't think it's necessarily your responsibility to post it, I don't think it's inappropriate for you to do so. And I don't think you post saying "This dude's a pedo!" You post saying, "here is this article I found. Dude was convicted of this and that." It's true, you don't know exactly what happened, but you're only presumed innocent until proven guilty, and if he was convicted, he's been proven guilty of something. Maybe it's fair to caution people on facebook against speculation and gossip, and just stick to the fact, but again, I don't think that's reason enough to hold back information that, statistically speaking, is likely to reach somebody who has potentially been impacted by this.
posted by Illiterate Savant at 8:52 AM on October 9, 2013

Another thing that can't be known from the information given is whether there are actually any victims. The conviction is not for sexual abuse of a minor, so unless the newspaper article has more information about that, it's a matter of speculation whether any human beings were actually harmed.

What if the material consisted of artwork or erotic fan fiction? It's actually possible that no human beings under the age of 18 were involved at any point. That's what makes this particular phrasing problematic-- you don't actually know if this person is dangerous, or if you're just helping to make his life worse by encouraging people to imagine the worst about him.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 9:40 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

To say that there may not be any victims in a convicted case of production and distribution of child pornography is offensive and patently untrue.

OP, spread the word. Someone should and it might as well be you. Thank you for being concerned enough to take action. The abusers (and those who profit from them) should be outed. Hopefully it will lead to healing for the victims.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:13 AM on October 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would spread the word for two reasons:

1. Parents of kids who may have come into contact with this guy need to know

2. Equally important, parents and others in the religious community need to have it emphasized to them that just because someone shows in up in the guise of a religious authority doesn't mean you should trust them with your children.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:35 AM on October 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

i think a good course of action is to directly contact the churches you think may be affected, notify them of this info and ask how they will inform their congregants of it. you can ask what their policy is for dealing with sexual crimes concerning minors. if they do nothing about it then i'd continue letting people know about it as it is serious. i'm not sure facebook is the way to go though. maybe sending an email to people you know who would have had contact with this guy.
posted by wildflower at 1:04 PM on October 9, 2013

Do a little more research before you drag this person's name through the mud. For your own sake, this would be a shitty thing to be wrong about.
posted by TheRedArmy at 1:27 PM on October 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

You yourself were never personally affected by this relative-of-a-friend-of-a-friend; all you have is a single news article. You don't know precisely what he did; it could range anywhere from downloading a picture or two to actually soliciting or creating childporn. YOU DON'T KNOW. Facebook is very definately not the place for this: all posting it to FB would do is sensationalize it, rather than inform anyone who would might have a personal interest.

Does your church have a regional leadership structure? That seems to be the appropriate place to take this news article --- not to the individual local church(es), but rather to the next level up.
posted by easily confused at 6:14 PM on October 9, 2013

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