It was a beautiful summer evening on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO. I was strolling along enjoying the outdoor entertainment and looking at all the people enjoying a warm July night. Then I came upon the fountains on the mall where hordes of children laughed while playing in the water. Some of the kids were in bathing suits, some half-naked and some in diapers. Then I noticed a man standing alone at the fountain. He had a camera on a tripod propped up on a cement pillar. He was filming the children.
My body immediately tensed, and my reaction was swift. I knew in my gut that something was off. I approached the man and as calmly as I could said, “What are you doing? He said, “Filming the children and it’s none of your business.” I told him it was my business and asked if the kids he was filming were his own. He responded with great hostility, “No, and it’s not against the law to take pictures of kids.” I asked him why he would take pictures of other people’s children in a fountain. He told me it was none of my business.
I suspected that this man was filming children for the use of pornography. Even children half-clothed can be arousing to pedophiles. I also knew that I could not stop him from filming. I walked away and called the police who did come and speak to the man. I watched from a far. The officer asked for his license, did a background check, and told him to move on.
I stayed around and spoke with the officer who explained that photographing in public is not against the law and they could not stop him. I let the officer know that I was super concerned about the photos on this man’s camera being used for pornography and told him a little about my work in child sexual assault prevention. He said, “You keep to your field of work and I’ll keep to mine.”
When it comes to a child’s safety, I will always speak up, so I started speaking to some of the parents watching their children in the fountain. I said, “I just want to give you a heads up that there was a man taking photos of your child playing in the fountain. I reported him to the police. The man has moved on, but just wanted you to be aware.” The responses were mixed: Some thanked me and some turned away, but I left knowing I had spoken up on behalf of children.
I can’t control the outcome, but I can speak up when I know something is wrong. I left the fountains and walked on. A few minutes later I saw the man in another location where kids play in gravel pits and climb on toy structures. He was filming again. He knew I was watching and maybe, just maybe, that one brief interruption prevented him from taking one more photo that he would have potentially used for pornography.
Speaking up isn’t easy, but each of us have a responsibility to do so on behalf of all children.
From Feather: It’s best to keep your children’s clothes on in public. It’s also important to not post photos of your children naked or even partially unclothed. And speak up even if you are not heard or feel patronized. Always listen to your gut.
Feather Berkower, MSW, is Founder of Parenting Safe Children and a Child Sexual Assault Prevention Educator & Author
This is great! Thank you for the work that you do!
I am so glad it is valuable to you!
Reading this made my stomach turn. Thank you for being brave enough to speak up. I hope that we all will be similarly brave when it’s needed.
It’s not easy, but we must do it for kids. You are very welcome.
Thank you for speaking up! I found a couple of months ago that someone had taken a picture of my daughter and her friend at a reptile Expo. It was without my consent or knowledge. Luckily the girls told me about it. They were excited to have been photographed by a famous breeder, however I felt violated in that that happened while I was not there and it seemed odd that it had not happened when I had been there with him and them. I approached him afterwards and asked him to kindly delete the photographs he had taken of my child and her friend. He said it was for his website but agreed to delete the photographs. I hope he did. Things like that make me extremely uncomfortable. I feel that no one has the right to take photographs of our children without their’s and they’re adults consent. So again. Thank you for what you do and what you have taught me. I can now help protect our children. It’s because of the work you do that they both were aware that there might be something not right and so they had told me about it. I was very proud of them!
Thank you so much for sharing your story! Unfortunately, anyone can take pictures in public of children or anyone else. There are no laws against it so voicing our concerns is the best we can do. Thanks for doing that on behalf have your children and all kids.
I attended one of your classes years ago and ALWAYS get a lot out of your emails. I sometimes find myself at a loss for what to say. We have a neighbor who my daughter used to call Uncle Bob. The “Uncle Bob” grabbed my friend’s buttocks at a Christmas Party and another time said some very inappropriate things to another friend. I asked my daughter not to call him Uncle Bob anymore. I explained that his behavior was inappropriate at the very least. I told her to avoid him (she’s 7 and still young enough that we’re always together, but soon she’ll be visiting neighborhood friends without me. We’ve renamed him “Creepy Bob” and my daughter asks why I still say hi to him. I feel like I should say something directly to him, but I don’t know what to say.
Hi Rita, I’m so glad you find the blog posts valuable. The situation you are describing definitely warrants a conversation with Bob. If there is a behavior you are uncomfortable with regarding your daughter, be direct and let him know that behavior is unacceptable and you are asking him to stop. When your daughter begins to visit neighbors home without you, it is important to have conversations with each and every one of those neighbors about body-safety rules and expectations for safety before your daughter spends time in their home. If you are concerned about Bob, do not allow her to go into his home.
I’d be glad to speak with you privately about this situation if you would like. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org