While flipping through the channels on my TV the other day, I ran across a “law and order” show in which a detective was saying how abusers always seek the trust of the person they want to abuse. I have heard similar things in pastor group meetings, and this has prompted me to share what little common sense I have on the matter.
If someone is trying to get you to trust them, be suspicious. Trustworthy people don’t need to ask you for their trust. They will allow trust to develop naturally as they earn your trust day by day. And even then, they will always allow the parents to define the boundaries of that sacred trust, and will never question or test the boundaries.
Look at it this way. When I make a deposit at the bank, they give me a receipt. Why? Can’t I just trust them to take the deposit and enter it in my account? Of course I can! But the bank people never say, “Instead of us giving you a receipt, why don’t you just trust us?” Trustworthy people don’t ask you to trust them. You are protected by accountability and checks and balances, and not by answering a plea to trust someone.
I know of cases of “caregivers” or “mentors” pushing a parent beyond their comfort level, and then trying to make the parent feel guilty for not trusting them beyond what they feel comfortable. It seems to me, that when this happens, the “caregivers/mentors” have their own agenda beyond the needs of the child or parent. A true caregiver/mentor is there only to help with the parent’s agenda, and has no ambition beyond that.
Trustworthy caregivers are just as cautious of you as you are of them. They will not allow themselves to be put in situations where they need to use trust either – of themselves or of your child – instead of accountability. That doesn’t mean they are paranoid. At the bank, I am not paranoid about my bank having my money, but they still provide receipts and statements offering accountability. At church I am not worried about the integrity of the deacons when I put my money in the offering plate. I know that the deacons take precautions such as counting the money with others instead of by themselves. This provides accountability, not only for me but also for themselves.
Child abusers often seek to obtain the trust of parents. Be aware that a trustworthy person will not act hurt or insulted if you don’t trust him or her, because they aim to be trustworthy in a way that you can see and know. A trustworthy person has no interest in harming your child, so doesn’t need your trust to provide an opportunity to harm your child.
Everything trustworthy people do is done transparently, ready for the whole world to see. The policy of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, where I work, strongly states that no woman or man should be left alone with a group of children. Although in an unusual situation this may occur for a brief time, under no circumstances should any woman or man be purposely left alone with any girl or boy. This policy in no way interferes with us accomplishing our mission as caregivers or our work of teaching or mentoring. We don’t need a parent to trust us alone with their child in order to teach or mentor. Even though all Seventh-day Adventist institutions, and all reputable institutions do background checks before allowing people to work with children, being approved by the background check does not give the caregiver a license or special privileges to be given “special trust” where the policies of openness do not apply to them.
True caregivers enjoy having parents and other adult caregivers join them while they are mentoring and teaching, because their presence helps create a community where the child feels loved and accepted. True caregivers want the children they work with to know that there is an entire church family who cares about them, and not just one caregiver. A trustworthy mentor wants to win children to Christ and the church and not to themselves. A true mentor teaches children to be sociable and part of a community and does not work to isolate them from the community.
Trustworthy persons never put themselves in a situation where they need to trust you either. Just as trust works both ways, so does accountability, and checks and balances. The receipt the bank gives me after a transaction protects the bank as much as it protects me. We both trust each other, but neither I nor the bank ever tells the other, “Just trust me,” or look with amazement at the paper receipt and exclaim, “Why don’t you just trust me?” Everything is done in the open with receipts and records for all concerned to see.
In case you haven’t picked up on what I am trying to say, let me try again. If someone acts hurt or insulted that you don’t trust them, beware. Only abusers operate out of a “need” for you to trust them without question. Healthy trustworthy caregivers never put themselves in a situation where they need you to just trust them, and therefore they will never ask for it.