Home » Articles » Child Molesting Female Impersonators Are a Myth. Child Molesting Religious Males Are Not

Child Molesting Female Impersonators Are a Myth. Child Molesting Religious Males Are Not

“Perverts” are not coming for your children, disguised as transgendered persons, in your local department store bathroom.

Far more likely- by orders of magnitude in fact- they’re coming for them in your church.

That’s an arguably coarse statement, provocative and doubtlessly offensive to many. It’s also utterly correct. I know because I have prosecuted and/or consulted on cases involving the sexual abuse of children for almost 20 years.

Opponents of Target’s new policy often insist that the issue isn’t hatred or intolerance against transgender persons. They’ll acknowledge, as they must, that no virtually no complaints of transgender persons- or even predatory persons in disguise as one- attacking a child or anyone else in a bathroom have been reported anywhere. No matter. The issue, they insist, is preventative. Allowing people who identify as transgendered into bathrooms other than their assigned gender, the argument goes, will create a floodgate of eager male pedophiles disguising themselves as women in order to gain access to little girls.

Folks, that’s nonsense. It simply isn’t done that way. Child molesters almost always groom, not only children but the families and institutions to which they belong. They enter their victim’s lives as invited guests almost all of the time. They rarely prey on strangers, despite myths to the contrary, and when they do, it’s not through the use of feminine disguise. In fact, most child molesters identify as straight males. Most will not admit to abusing male victims (carrying a stigma of homosexuality or femininity) until threatened with a polygraph. Most identify as masculine, and would not deign to “put on a dress” in order to invade a restroom in search of a little girl. That’s just not what they do. And there’s no reason to do it; they get dozens of victims far more easily and with far less risk in their communities, usually as trusted figures.

Obviously, no one can state with certainty that a child molester (only a subset of whom are pedophiles, by the way), would never seek access to children by exploiting these new policies. Without a doubt, some anecdotal example- however stretched in terms of its actual relevance- will be claimed somewhere in a nation of 300 million.

But the idea that the nation’s male child predators have been waiting with coiled excitement, wigs and lipstick in hand, to invade female restrooms in search of little girls, and that policies like Target’s are going to create a public health crisis of newly endured child abuse, is baseless, plain and simple. It’s frankly silly.

But stoking the fears of parents with this baselessness is not silly. It’s dangerously misleading. The cold fact is that fear- in order to push back against policies like Target’s- is being sold by quite a few people who, to put it bluntly, do have a real problem with the idea of not only transgender people using bathrooms of their identified gender, but also with transgenders themselves. They see them as mentally-ill fetishists and largely immoral creatures. They assume that a rejection of gender norms goes hand-in-hand with sexual crime and abuse. Never mind that transgendered people are largely passive, reliably victimized and abused themselves, and far less likely to hurt anyone than, say, a straight, cisgendered, and religious male, which is how most child molesters describe themselves.

And yes, I said “religious.” That’s because most child molesters- 93% in one study- claim they are religious. My former boss and lifetime mentor, Victor Vieth, probably the most prominent legal child protection professional in the U.S. and beyond, speaks often on this topic as a devout man of faith himself. What he points out, while doing crucial work with other decent people of faith in order to make religious communities safer, is that most child molesters identify or claim to be religious, and then purposely exploit religious environments and the usually decent, trusting and forgiving people within them.

I remain a practicing Roman Catholic and am in no way anti-religion in a general sense. I also understand that a parent can be wary of their own church, mosque or synagogue and still fear for their children in other circumstances. But an uproar about disguised child molesters seeking out little girls in public bathrooms is utterly misplaced, and in many cases disingenuous and cynical. It’s also dangerously misleading, especially by religious people when their own environments are far more dangerous than any department store bathroom.


  1. Scott says:

    So, you would be comfortable allowing any man who claims to be “transgendered” to use women’s restrooms in churches? Even one where, say, your minor daughter might be alone? Because we know that those perverts who molest little children would never ever try to use these laws to their advantage?

    I am understanding you correctly?

  2. Sarah Strobel says:

    Just as a heads-up, you shouldn’t use the word “transgendered.” It implies that being transgender is a thing that happens to you, versus a thing that you ARE. The proper wording is just “transgender.” Thanks =)

  3. Roger Canaff says:

    Transgender people do not frighten me in terms of their potential to harm children in bathrooms. “Perverts who molest little children” almost always do so through a much different process than invading bathrooms disguised as TG persons. A person’s minor daughter is in far more danger when in the care of a trusted teacher, mentor, pastor, etc, who is also a child molester than she is in any bathroom. That was the point of my piece. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Wayne says:

    Yes agree most child molesters are invited in and can see where churches are used. Yet, key words in article is “virtually” not used. How many children would it take being molested before it is considered being a problem? For me just one child is to many.

    Second, problem I have is I do not want young girl coming in to restroom with me in there because she feels like a boy. This could set me or others up for criminal charges and civil suits by false allegations being made against me or others. Yes, this does happen I know for a fact. Please you have to have enough sense to know their are people out their that will use their children to make a buck even an illegal dollar. With people today tendency to automatically assume guilt by just the mere allegation of molestation being made it is very hard to defend against these type allegations. I do not want to have to worry ever time I walk into a bathroom. I already do if child is in there alone. Not good feeling.

    Yes, I know small chance of this happening; but still there is the chance. This is about the majority of the public feeling comfortable in their surroundings. This about reducing the chance that someone could do these things I have mentioned. How many of you supporters would like a child that you love being put in this position or have it happen and the person get away with it because it was a he said she said case. Could you real live with that and still look that child in the eye. Or are you that far gone that no one else but you matters and your opinion.

  5. Angela W. says:

    The “Scott’s” of the world are almost always looking in the wrong direction for molesters. Also, maybe you don’t know this but in women’s bathrooms EVERYONE has a locked stall to go in, no one is peeing together in a trough, like a men’s bathroom. It’s all private. It’s more likely to be your daughter’s coach or your son’s tutor who would molest them, or a “friend” of yours or a neighbor.

  6. Sue says:

    Roger, I am simply awed how easy it was for you to turn something uncomfortable for some to talk about and think about into something ugly towards ‘religious’ people. I am so tired of one group calling another discrimatory and then be down right intolerant of that said group. Can we all stop pointing fingers at people and simply exist together?! I am not happy about the fact that in certain circumstances I have to pressure my daughter’s independence by escorting her to the bathroom for my sense of peace. However, regardless of one company’s bathroom policy (which I think is absurd that we have to make them) bad things happen everywhere. Let’s simply prosecute and punish those that do absurd things like hurting children and move on. I don’t care how you identify or how you say you were born…children are meant to be inocent and protected.

  7. JJ says:

    To Scott:

    You know, people keep mentioning minor daughters like it’s some sort of trump card. My retort to that is, what about minor sons? You think it’s okay to have these laws because you want to protect your young daughter from sexual predators… so your solution is to just send these people whom you believe to be sexual predators back to the men’s restroom where they’ll be with your young son instead? What sense does that make? Do you not believe that boys can be abused as well? Or the fact that women can abuse girls too? So what’s your solution to address this inconsistency? Should transgender people not use public restrooms at all?

    And another question: how exactly should these rules be enforced? Genital inspections? Does everyone now need to carry state-issued ID and their birth certificate before going to the restroom? How do you determine whether someone is biologically/legally male/female or not? Do you just rely on outward expressions of gender? If so, do you realize how unreliable such expressions are? Do you realize that many people do not conform to stereotypical gender expressions? Are you aware that there have already been stories of cis (i.e. not trans, assigned female at birth) women who have been harassed for using the “wrong” restroom because people thought they looked like men? What do you think the transgender man who successfully passes as male should do if he’s legally still listed as female? He is now legally obligated to use the women’s restroom; do you really think your minor daughter would be okay with that?

    Really, if you just stop and think for ONE second about these bills, you’d realize how stupid they really are.

  8. Diane Dinnigan says:

    I do wish that the people freaking out about transgendered people would at least take a moment to discover who they are before screaming ‘it’s a man in a dress’. That is not what a transgender person is.
    The overwhelming majority of pedophiles are heterosexual men – straight men. Look it up at please!
    Great article, thank you.

  9. My problem with shared restrooms is my fear. As a victim of abuse I do not feel comfortable alone with any man. The thought of men, in any form, in the female restroom scares me to death. I avoid being alone with any man I do not know well. It’s about the woman’s restroom being a safe haven of sorts. I am terrified of having a man walk into a regular restroom when I am in there. I always lock the door. It’s about the victims being comfortable in the privacy and safety of a restroom. I have found most men do not understand this. They have never experienced forced rape. They don’t or can’t understand.

  10. Roger Canaff says:

    Thanks for your comment, Sue. The reason I mentioned religion, however, was not to be ugly toward it in any way. I mentioned it because many- and probably most- of the individuals expressing disagreement with the idea of initiatives like Target’s are religious people. And they are, like it or not, religious people who are also expressing concern at the idea of either TG persons or those impersonating them harming their children in bathrooms. Some attempt to completely distance their religious beliefs from their stated fear that more open bathrooms will lead to danger, but most do not. In either case, their fears are misplaced, and also dangerously misleading. The fact is, the far greater danger to children lies in situations where the child is placed with a trusted individual, and trusted individuals within religious institutions are no exception. If Little League parents were united in their opposition to more open bathrooms the way religious parents are, I’d point out correctly that Little League kids are in far more danger with a coach or volunteer than they ever would be in a bathroom that allows TG persons to use it.

  11. Roger Canaff says:

    Thanks for your comment, Annettek. I can assure, you of course, that many men have experienced forced rape (myself included). However, there is no doubt that males are- in general- physically more powerful than females and that men certainly enjoy a privilege due to their gender that is undeniable. Yours is an honest argument and I respect it. I still believe that TG persons will not upset this dynamic, however. I also do not believe that men simply seeking to claim TG status will be invading women’s restrooms in droves due to a step like Target’s. But again, I see your point, and I thank you for your thoughts.

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