These days visiting the Hamptons talking to my American friends I realized that many parents over here have what I believe is an unreasonable fear that their own children may encounter child molesters. I am a father of four children and one of the frequent concerns of a parent is that when you are on a busy street or a shopping mall, your kids may get lost in a crowd. How do you prepare your children for these stressful situation? My instructions to them have been to memorize their full names and address, to memorize my telephone number or their mother´s and if they ever get lost to look for other parents with children or go into a shop and ask the attendant to please call us. But during conversations with my American friends I learned that most kids in this country are told not to talk to strangers even in emergencies like these. When I enquired more about the reasons for this I realized that the main fear of American parents, unlike say Argentine or Spanish parents, is not that their child may encounter a thief or even a kidnapper who may want ransom for their children but that they may encounter a child molester. I read some statistics on this subject and found some interesting data. For example 19% of American heterosexuals believe that “most gay men are likely to molest or abuse children”. Personally I think that the chances that a gay or straight person who a child chooses to call his parents is a child molester is extremely low. Moreover some literature shows that most child molesters are not strangers but people who are close to the child or know the child. But if in Spain or Argentina we don´t worry much about child molesters I wonder if there much more child molestation in America than in Latin countries or are Latin countries under reporting this serious problem. How is it possible to find studies that say that one America woman in five is molested before the age of 18? In Punta del Este, Uruguay, where I grew up, 15 year old boys and girls, to young to drive, hitchike to move around the around. My kids do it as well. And we are talking about upper class kids as Punta del Este is the Hamptons of the South America. But in the Hamptons where I am now this practice is extremely rare.

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Frank on July 23, 2007  · 

As a blue collar moved to middle class, upper mid-west kid moving further up (to nowhere near hampton level but still well beyond the median) programmer in the seattle area i have to say i’m not surprised. besides the puritanical christian nature of americans the “sex offender” fear is another irrationality that is just amazing. another thing to follow up on actual occurences is razer blades in caramel apples during halloween trick or treating. (of course try to find an occurence of this before the fear set in)

though for a pleasant surprise i can suggest the gulf islands in BC (canada) as a last safe area for hitchhiking. over the 4th of july we were on salt spring and saw lots of young hitchhikers and at the saturday market overheard a teen in a nonchalant conversation wth her mother about hitchiking and meeting interesting people.

so if you just need a low key getaway i can recommend essentially any of the gulf islands (over american san juans by a large margin – plus if you were driving from vancouver or victoria you have the luxury of reserving a ferry spot) and you might get a view of north american life before invasion of fear!

pues no hay algo como los paradores de espana en las islas de gulf (as?) pero las nos encantan for the very reason that they are not american. 🙂 i/we highly recommend getting of the ultra luxury beaten path and considering canada. from the east coast i would also recommend newfoundland and nova scotia if you can adapt to the weather. In general you get a more rational canadian experience and what americans would call a more “innocent” culture in those less populated areas…

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Mariano on July 23, 2007  · 

Americans live in a permanent paranoia…(terrorism, abuses, deseases, wars, foreign attacks….all)


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Martin Vives on July 23, 2007  · 

In 2001, when I went to study highschool to California, we were not supposed to go out of home after 11PM or something… We could even get picked up by the police, or something like that. One day my german friend came over and we decided to cool up a bit, and my host brother came to look for us in the truck. When we came back my hole family was awaken and I got in some sort of troubble…

I will never understand this things. I cannot imagine in Europe, and specially in Spain, people giving up so much of their liberty due to “security” concerns… Maybe is some sort of “secret plan” to make people go to bed earlier and stay more productive at work, because even if it sounds bizarre, I can’t really thing of another logical justified reason.

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Killy_from_China on July 23, 2007  · 

Fear is the way to control mass… and make them forget the most important (poverty, global warming, etc…)

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Eric N on July 23, 2007  · 

Yes, in the US we have a lot more paranoia about these types of things. I grew up with “don’t talk to strangers”, “check your Holloween candy for razor blades”, “better to be safe than sorry” (later Nancy Reagan’s “say no to drugs”). And in fact, many of these things worked pretty well, at least with me.

While living in the dorms in college, we often had obligatory seminars on what constituted rape and how when a girl says no it means “no”. And then when I was later studying to become a lawyer, we discussed in depth things like rape, spousal abuse, and sexual harassment in the work place. These were considered very important issues, especially for me to learn and understand.

What has shocked me about living in Europe (at least in Spain) is that these issues, especially about rape and consensual sex, are simply never discussed. In part, I understand why. Young people are NOT emancipated. They live at home and are fairly well protected. They have fewer opportunities to be completely alone behind closed doors with the opposite sex, so maybe for that reason you have less opportunities for things like date-rape than you would in the US. But that doesn’t mean that it never happens. You also have much more prevalence of young men going to prostitutes than in the US (the number of young males who go to prostitutes here in Spain never ceases to shock me).

Having said all of this, I generally think that if something happens in the US and we hear about it, then it is also happening in the rest of the world. We only heard about priests abusing children in the US, but does that mean it doesn’t happen in other countries? We are only now hearing about spousal abuse in Spain, but does that mean it never happened in the past? I am sure that in Europe, you have more incidences of sexual abuse by family members (uncles, cousins, etc) than say date rape. Does sexual harassment not occur in the workplace because we never hear about it on the news?

The big difference is that in the US, we have spent the past 30 years training our young to speak up about these abuses, whereas in other places the victim still feels too guilty to come forward. And that is the biggest difference. In Europe, I have seen many examples of all of these, and the great majority of the time, people just push the under the rug. And at the same time, in the US we sometimes become so caught up in enforcing our rules that we become over sensitive.

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Rachel on July 24, 2007  · 

I don’t mean to sound rude here but have you ever been molested? Having been molested myself as a child, I have fears about my children also being molested or sexuallly abused and don’t believe it is irrational at all. There are so many cases of child molestation in this country, not including the ones that have not been reported due to family embarrassment or the childs fear of not being listened to, that have been overlooked or ignored. From what i’ve noticed, it isn’t given enough attention by the media and somehow, these sick men get away with little time in jail. I was molested by my mother’s brother (i was adopted by her) as soon as I moved in with her and her brother was only 13 years old. Although i had reported it, he didn’t get as much as a smack on the hand for it because he was still a minor. He is now a grown man and because no one besides me has pointed it out he is still walking free a grown man with 3 kids of his own who have more than likely also been his victims. His own wife pays no attention to the fact.Instead, she’s in denial. Nowadays, kids can go to jail for life for accidentally killing someone but somehow molestation is not equal to ruining someones life or self esteem. I believe lots of people are just aware of the fact (epecially if they have had it happen to them) that our society as a whole has not paid enough attention to it and the court system is so lenient on these cases that preventing it through precaution is the best way to keeping it from happening to their children. I don’t believe anyone can ever be too cautious about their children’s safety unless it will hinder their growth. If we don’t keep a close eye on our own children , no one will.

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