Today my worlds collided. Before I started my non profit Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation, I made a magazine with a dear friend of mine. We had the chance to feature and interview many celebrities.
One such celebrity was Mark Salling who was made popular with the hit tv series Glee. He was so likable, and friendly when we interviewed him. Mark was also handsome and seemed liked by many. Mark was also addicted to child pornography, which we obviously didn't know at the time.
Today I spend literally every day of my life fighting against predators like Mark. And yet, when I spoke with him years ago, I had no idea this man, who seemed so charming, was harboring such a dark and horrible secret.
Today Mark killed himself, another violent trauma I battle daily as an advocate, and a survivor of suicide loss. Reading about Mark's crimes and death remind me what I share all the time....ANYONE could be a predator. And most child sexual predators are just like Mark...charming, witty, kind. That's the point, they want to get into the parent's good graces so that the parents will trust them with their children. And if they are the victim's parent, they want the outside world to think that they could never harm anyone, let alone their own child. Over 95% of the time sexual predators are known to the family and/or the victim.
It frustrates me that bells didn't go off in my head in the 15 minute interview we did with Mark. I know that's not rational, but it does.
I wish so much that there was a concrete way to tell immediately if someone is going to hurt our children, but there just isn't. Which is why-as parents-we MUST be vigilant in protecting our children. We can't worry that our children don't get to do all the things that other children do. We can't worry that we're the only parent watching their sport's lessons. We can't worry that we get labeled the "neurotic mom" because we don't let them spend the night, or have play dates after school. What other people think just doesn't matter...keeping our children safe does!
The advocate in me wonders what happened to Mark that lead him to violate so many children by downloading those horrifying images-the parent in me doesn't care what made him become a predator.