Potential predator in primary

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Potential predator in primary

Post by Mordimor » 21 Jul 2019, 22:53

Okay let me start this by saying I have zero “proof” of anything. I will also start at the beginning. We have a couple in our ward that have worked in the primary for a long time, over four years. I am going to call them Bro and Sis Smith (not their names*). In that time they have been bring in treats or snacks to the kids in primary. The entire, whole, primary. Plus their own individual class on top of it. The Smiths* are always the ones handing the treats out, not a leader in the primary. My daughter got her ears pierced and on her first Sunday with her new earrings they gave her a “special ring” because it matched her earrings. Costume jewelry, but I was never consulted. A few weeks later they bought her a 20 pack of earrings. Again without my consent. Over this same period of time I heard comments like “the boys just aren’t as affectionate as the girls.” “Oh she’s just so pretty.” And the Bro Smith picked up my daughter who is almost 8 and held her in the hall. He has encouraged her to sit on his lap. Sis Smith told my son she would give him a snowboard.

I called my RS, she is a friend and a professional therapist, and told her that I felt like Bro and Sis Smith were grooming my children. I was told it was passed onto our bishop. That I was NOT alone in this perception of their actions being completely inappropriate. They were released from primary but have been “subbing” in there weekly. Today in fact.

My children are in contact with Bro & Sis Smith* every week and I have done what I can without making a scene but they are still allowed to be in primary?!? I know that she was disfellowshipped before our ward but I don’t know what for. I feel like my options are to pull my kids out of primary every Sunday they are in there.

Honestly I don’t even know what to do besides to walk away to keep my kids safe.

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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by Gerald » 22 Jul 2019, 03:58

Tough question! I can't comment on whether it is or isn't grooming behavior but it is certainly borderline inappropriate. Can you politely ask the couple to not give your children such gifts? Assuming the the worst motives of this couple, this would let them know that you are watching them. Assuming benign motives on the part of this couple, perhaps they'll dial back the attention paid to your children. Or maybe the bishop can be the go between? Does your state have a sex offenders registry? Anyone convicted of such a crime has to register there. You could check it out. Or talk with the bishop and ask that if this couple must substitute in primary, that the husband be paired with a man and the woman paired with another woman. Those are the ideas that pop immediately into my head but it's a dilemma. We don't want to be paranoid but the world is a dangerous place and children are so vulnerable.
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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by DarkJedi » 22 Jul 2019, 05:38

I agree, it is a toughie. Curious why you brought your concern to the RS and not the Primary president or bishopric. I think concerns like this need to be very direct to people who have control. It does seem like they took some action and therefore are aware, but then letting them sub every week didn't solve the concern (from my experience most Primaries need subs every week, my ward even has people for whom that's their calling). I agree with Gerald, we can't be too careful these days.

I guess your options are:

1) Have a talk with the Primary leadership and/or Bishopric
2) Like Gerald suggested, have a talk with the "Smiths" and tell them you don't want people giving your children gifts, including candy (which could make your kids feel left out)
3) Go home after first hour and when some asks why tell them (besides church is home centered now).

FWIW, my ward has a creepy guy who always pays attention to the girls but doesn't even know the boys names. He was once a public school teacher and nobody knows the details but he was fired and is no longer certified (he drives a delivery truck). Everybody is well aware of his proclivity to want to hug the little girls and most people steer their girls away or have made the boundaries very clear with him. He has been in our ward a long time, and he has never had a calling in SS or Primary and I expect he never will (he's in his 70s now). I guess what I'm saying is that there are ways to "fairly" deal with those who give us the creeps.
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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by Minyan Man » 22 Jul 2019, 06:26

I personally don't hesitate to talk to people. I would:
1. talk to the Bro & Sis Smith. Try to get to know them. They could be 2 lonely people (likely?) or full blown predators (rare?) or in between.
2. talk to leadership in Primary & tell them your concerns.
3. talk to the Bishop & tell him your concerns.

If I make an error I will do it to protect my children. Any reasonable person in your ward should understand that.

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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by Roy » 22 Jul 2019, 09:17

One additional thought, I would suggest talking to your children. It can be helpful to have this conversation about appropriate and non-appropriate touching and attention. I also tell my children that in case anything inappropriate ever does happen that 1) it is not their fault and they will not be in trouble 2) say whatever they have to say and do what ever they have to do to get away safely 3) come tell us as parents or a trusted adult as soon as it is safe.

We talk a good amount here about setting boundaries. I believe that setting a personal boundary that your children are not allowed to receive unsolicited gifts from adults is ok. Perhaps your children are not allowed to hug adults that are not their relatives. Perhaps your kids are not permitted to attend sleep-overs (I have known lots of LDS that do this last one). Those boundaries can lead to some somewhat awkward conversations sometimes but they are your children, your rules. People involved in your children's life should follow them.

As an aside, it seems that getting a rudimentary background check on church "volunteers" with access to children is SOP for lots of churches. LDS churches do tend to have the membership record that most other churches do not have. I wonder if the courts have seen the membership record as the legal equivalent of a background check for the purposes of protecting the church from avoidable liability.
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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by Curt Sunshine » 22 Jul 2019, 20:43

My antenna went all the way up while reading your post.

1) Talk about it directly with the Bishop. It might or might not be what you suspect, but the mere possibility requires direct talk with the local leader.

2) Check the sex offender registry in your state. There is no guarantee he has been convicted, but it one relatively easy step to take.

3) Talk directly with them together. Tell them you don't allow anyone to buy your kids gifts without your permission - and you don't want anyone picking up your kids or having them sit on laps. Period. Don't make an accusation, but tell them there are too many people who take advantage of kids and you don't want your kids to get used to inappropriate touches. Period. That will let them know you are watching and aware, if there actually is grooming occurring.

4) If they keep volunteering in Primary, tell the Bishop and the Primary President your kids won't attend Primary any day they are there. Tell them exactly why - that you have no proof, but you have to follow your instincts and what might be divine inspiration.
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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by SilentDawning » 23 Jul 2019, 05:59

Curt Sunshine wrote:
22 Jul 2019, 20:43
My antenna went all the way up while reading your post.

1) Talk about it directly with the Bishop. It might or might not be what you suspect, but the mere possibility requires direct talk with the local leader.

2) Check the sex offender registry in your state. There is no guarantee he has been convicted, but it one relatively easy step to take.
I was going to suggest these two above, plus coach you children as best you can -- keep it general as young kid will often say things their parents told them directly to others, but coach them on what is appropriate and what is not, what to report to parents etcetera.
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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by Jaxzmin801 » 24 Jul 2019, 12:27

Oh man! Every part of my body went tense reading this. I had a similar situation a few years ago with a couple serving in primary.
We were actually fostering a family member at the time who was 3, and had been previously groomed and abused. I had made very clear requests with the primary, no gifts(not even candy) and absolutely no hugging or sitting on laps. Everyone was very accommodating, except this couple. I would walk by primary and see her sitting on their laps and they asked her to call them mom and dad. I spoke to them about it, and they told me it was her fault because she was so affectionate. Then the gifts started coming, every Sunday they had a gift for her.
Every time I brought it up with someone in primary or the bishopric they were afraid of offending them. So I took the gifts they had given her and went to their house and returned them. I explained to them that they can be a type of grooming and given her past it was inappropriate.
The only thing they ever asked me was how I knew she had been previously abused, and how that person got caught. I told them that wasn't really any of their business and left. The next week I got called in to talk to the bishop because they had complained about me. I had no proof, but I did have a major gut reaction to them. Anyway, long story, but it comes down to this. Did I offend them? Yes. Was that my intention? No. Did the whole ward gossip about it? Yes. Would I do it again? In a heart beat, no questions asked, I got the feeling for a reason and whether i was right or not, she was safe, and that was my job.
Sorry to ramble, I guess my point is, yes it is a difficult situation, but if you feel something is off, keep your kids away. Literally nothing else matters except your children and protecting them.

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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by SamBee » 25 Jul 2019, 04:17

I tried to look at this scenario in the most positive light possible, and I came to the conclusion that even if their motives were pure, then they have issues with boundaries.

We had a deaf investigator in our ward. He was a nice guy, but he had no idea about boundaries. He picked up a friend's son (maybe three at the time), and the boy looked very bewildered as he didn't know him. (The boy is also autistic, which we didn't know that then.) I don't actually believe he had bad intentions, but it was not appropriate, and allowing that kind of thing encourages an environment where predators can operate more easily. Unfortunately, we had to report the deaf guy, which I felt badly about, but it was the right course of action.

I am very wary around children. I like them, but it is a difficult situation. I used to hug the autistic boy I just mentioned above occasionally, but that was because I was close friends with the parents, and had known him since birth and had their permission to do so. And I made sure there were other people around if I played with him. He never sat on my lap - I was uncomfortable with that - and I didn't shower him with gifts. His parents are divorcing so I never see him nowadays, but for a while I was a kind of "uncle". Still I set clear boundaries.

I think even with children one is close to, you need to be careful in setting boundaries.

I attended a baptismal service last Sunday for an eight year old girl. It was an extremely sweet occasion, which I enjoyed, but I barely talked to the girl in question other than wishing her well. I talked more with her parents and relatives. It wouldn't feel right at all for me to do all the things the Smiths did, because even if I meant well, I think it would be inappropriate.
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Re: Potential predator in primary

Post by Mordimor » 02 Aug 2019, 00:10

Thank you all for responding. As far as your suggestions
1. Yes I checked the sex offender registry.
2. I have been thinking about skipping second hour. This will probably be a real thing here soon.
3. I have already set boundaries with my kids. We have very frank and open conversations about bodies and appropriate touch. This started long ago. We also have set new boundaries about gifts, even food for primary.
4. I have talked with my bishop. I hate going in for anything. It’s not something that I’m really comfortable with, so I reached out to someone I was comfortable with.
5. I was asked specifically not to broach the subject with them from my bishop. (Which I am not super keen on that advice)
6. My kids are not allowed to wander the halls alone.

I get not wanting to offend but in the end, if I do offend and it keeps my kids safe, then I’ll gladly do it a million times.

Thank you all for responding.

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