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Tony James
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Trust the Greeks to have a word for it. It's not funny.

It's simply a reminder that this has gone on since time began.

But it would appear in the UK to have become THE most terrible and feared of crimes. The consequence is that public attitudes combined with the excesses of political correctness that you go near a child at your personal peril.

What's the situation in North America? Has it become so ridiculous that people will pass by when a lost child of 6 or 7 is stood on it's own howling, having lost its parent?

As a parent, do you find you react naturally to comfort or stand off, in case your attentions are misunderstood?

And as an entertainer do you have to be as cautious of your behaviour as we have to be in the UK.
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
calamari
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This is a subject of great concern in the states. pedofiles make their way into professions that allow them access to children. clergy, teaching, and yes childrens performers. it is a most disturbing fact and there have been a number of cases involving childrens performers here in the states and some disgusting individuals have been jailed (personally I think jail is too good for a pedofile) it has been discussed before here and I think most would advise precuations being taken when performing for children so that you are not in a situation that could be mis interpreted or at risk of being falsly accused.
MTCW
"I came, I saw, SHE conquered." (The original Latin seems to have been garbled.)
Stevethomas
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When working restaurants (ballooning), when the family arrives, occasionally the parent will say to me, "my children would love to see you and get a balloon", then they'll head to the bathroom. I would never, at that point, approach the table until there's an adult there. I've seen some workers do that, and you're setting yourself up for trouble with that! NEVER be left alone with any kids in any situation. Occasionally, my phone will ring and it'll be some child who has gotten one of my coloring sheets (with my number on 'em, of course) calling just to talk with "The Balloon Guy" or "The Magician"...and you really have to just get off the phone as quickly and as politely as possible while asking to speak with an adult.

BE SAFE!

Steve
Potty the Pirate
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Whilst it makes sense to be cautious, I do believe that if you're a genuine nice guy, and are there simply to make kids happy, if you have no hidden agenda, you don't need to worry too much. Don't let the PC mob ruin your act! Steve, if a kid calls me up (it happens quite often), I'll let them talk to my parrot (OK, so it's me still, but they don't know that!). Then, once I've gotten them laughing their heads off, I'll ask to speak to Mum or Dad.
Stevethomas
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The PC mob has nothing to do with it. If the child were on the phone with you (unbeknownst to the parents in the home), and a parent approached them and asked who they're talking to..they'll say "The Balloon Guy", and to avoid getting in trouble for using the phone to call an adult, they CAN lie and say, "No, he called me"...then the parent takes the phone and asks why you're calling their child.

Trust me...this is one type situation (where it's your word against the child's) you will not win, either with the parent or any authority. NEVER be alone with a child, at all, either on the phone, at a show, in a restaurant situation or anywhere.

Steve
Jim Poor
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While I agree with the "never be alone with a child" advice. Hysteria should not rule our lives.

In the above example, it would be easy to prove which direction the phone call originated from.

Then again, once accused, innocent or otherwise, there will be the lingering stigma.
Skip Way
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Quote:
On 2007-01-12 15:18, Potty the Pirate wrote:
Whilst it makes sense to be cautious, I do believe that if you're a genuine nice guy, and are there simply to make kids happy, if you have no hidden agenda, you don't need to worry too much.
Quote:
On 2007-01-12 15:53, Jim Poor wrote:
While I agree with the "never be alone with a child" advice. Hysteria should not rule our lives.


I agree with both. In over thirty years of performing for children in all kinds of situations here in the States and across Europe and Asia, I have never even come close to being suspected or accused of improper behavior. I genuinely love each child and I believe it clearly shows. I accept their hugs, catch their kisses, slap their fives and remain open to them in every mature way. Do the right thing with care and respect and you'll be fine. I'm sure that the rare PC oddball may pop up now and then. If your character and reputation aren't strong enough to survive it...find another career now!
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

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Stevethomas
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In your 30 years of performing, out of all the wonderfully sweet things the children have done to express their innocent love and adoration for what you do and who you are...it would only take 1 (one) accusation to completely destroy all you've worked for. I too, get the hugs from hundreds of children each week, and sometimes when they've seen me perform at a school or somewhere away from the parent(s), the parent will look at you in a strange way when their child runs up and hugs (what is to the adult) a complete stranger.

I also do not like all the hysteria about the subject, but it's much better to be on the side of caution, because, as innocent as what (most of us) we do is, there's always the chance that one child will think he didn't get enough attention, or you wouldn't tell him the secret, and the witch hunt would start with one comment to an adult.

When a child hugs me in a restaurant, I always look at the adult to see a reaction. If it's one of fear (hey, I'm 6'3" and 240...scary guy to most), I try to shy away from any physical contact...if they realize what's going on, then I know they know who I am and why the child reacts like that.

Let's be careful out there, troops!

Steve
todsky
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Quote:
On 2007-01-12 16:48, Skip Way wrote:
In over thirty years of performing for children in all kinds of situations here in the States and across Europe and Asia, I have never even come close to being suspected or accused of improper behavior. I genuinely love each child and I believe it clearly shows. I accept their hugs, catch their kisses, slap their fives and remain open to them in every mature way. Do the right thing with care and respect and you'll be fine. I'm sure that the rare PC oddball may pop up now and then. If your character and reputation aren't strong enough to survive it...find another career now!


I couldn't agree more, Skip.
I've been performing magic for children for over 25 years, and that is exactly my philosophy.

Respectfully,
Todd
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DeaconBlu
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Sad but true, I've stopped giving hugs. I've even considered stopping the face painting. It just got to the point where I was wondering 'if' the parents were staring at me. I didn't ever want that to read 'why' they're staring at me so I just stopped doing it.

I do knuckles to knuckles now, when the children rap my knuckles I pretend it hurts and it always gets laugh.
Tony James
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The problem we're facing over here - and one of the reasons for posting this - is the increasing interference by local authorities.

I've always been careful, even forty years ago. When you have a local magician go to prison for touching up young children it has a marked effect on your business for quite some time.

For some reason it's become flavour of the decade. I'm not trivializing the problem - see my original post above - but suddenly it's become the big bad wolf and the reactions of the authorities are predictably quite stupid.

In the UK you can have a simple police check. It's not worth the paper it's written on. But it's been required and entertainers have got one. All it says is there's no trace on the records of you being convicted of child sex abuse.

Like any check of anything, it's only good on the day of issue. There is another, more thorough check used by the local authorities for teachers and the like. Trouble with that check is it takes many months to complete. New teachers can be sat at home for weeks on end waiting for their check to be completed.

Local authorities are now requiring this Enhanced Check for anyone at all working with children and vulnerable adults..

Recently the Police Authority issued guidelines in which Punch & Judy shows were not required to have a check because the show doesn't involve any children being in contact with the performer.

Some authorities are ignoring this. So I'm waiting for mine. By the time I get it some local authorities will be requiring an updated one!

The police want them to last up to 5 years whilst local authorities quote 1, 2 or 3 years. they're all different.

Do you have this sort of nonsense in North America?
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
rossmacrae
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Quote:
While I agree with the "never be alone with a child" advice. Hysteria should not rule our lives.

Yeah, but ... when dealing with the public in great numbers, you're bound to run into the occasional complete crazy. Someone who would claim you practically raped their kid if you come into any contact with them, from a touch to a smile to your favorite funny line ripped out of its context and twisted into some imagined sick meaning. And unfortunately, since this irrationality always comes as a complete surprise when you have no such thing in mind, the first one to scream "foul" gets the credibility and the one who tries to explain (you) always looks at least somewhat guilty.

That's why professionals - doctors, lawyers, police and more - develop protocols, standard ways of buffering your interaction. In the performer's case, a protocol should probably involve asking the parent EXPLICITLY first before interacting with the child, and I'm sure some wiser folks will think of some more details.

It's a shame that it has to be that way - toward the end of the years I would be a Santa-for-hire, the first thought in my mind got to be "hands in plain view at all times" and I started really worrying when cute teen girls would want to sit on Santa's knee - it really started to sour the whole experience for me.
Tony James
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So are you saying that much of this is media driven paranoia?

Yes, it did go on when I was a child. It's always gone on. That doesn't change how wrong it is. The main change as I see it is that as a child I lived in a small community and people recognised you, even if they didn't know you to speak to. In those days it was clergymen and scoutmasters you had to be careful about.

The News of the World was full of Sunday headlines like 'Scoutmaster's games with his Cubs' and 'Vicar and the Choirboy' so there's nothing new about all this.


I still live in such a community but elsewhere people are strangers to one another and this doesn't exactly engender trust. Especially when community leaders start shouting about everyone being a potenial child abuser.

Yes, everyone now, male or female. It is implied that women are equally likely to abuse from infancy onwards. They just don't normally get caught so often. There have been a few high profile cases of late of women in their 20s and 30s taking young boys to bed. Young turning out to be 15 going on 16 and whatever the rights and wrongs of that, they come to light because the boys have been bragging about it and some peevish 16 year old has shopped them.

The whole thing has become completely out of hand. Now the checking requirements are being extended to any performer working to mixed audiences, even high wire acts. No exceptions as one city authority said to me before Christmas.
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
Stevethomas
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Take for instance one summer school/church performance I was hired to to (through an agency) in a nearby city. During one particular routine involving a coloring book, I rolled the book and used it as a magic wand to "give the helper some magic power"...tapped him on the shoulder (as if "knighting him")...a few days later, the agency called me and they had been told that I (their words) "struck a child during the performance"...now the women/teachers at the school KNEW that I didn't STRIKE him...but felt it necessary to tell the agency that falsehood. What if they'd been told that I TOUCHED a child...where would that lead?

Steve
Tony James
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You would sue for slander unless they put it in writing and then it would be libel or both.

As I understand the legal system in the USA you could have their shirt for that.

On the other hand you might do better to arrange a meeting with the school authorities and the agent and hammer it out. If they refuse, send them a lawer's letter.

You have to clear yourself with the agent - there's more work there or should be and if you don't you run the risk of the agent quietly stuffing your prospects with other agents on the 'be careful here' premise. Agents talk. it's their self-protection instinct. Just like you talking to fellow performers.

You won't get the school back again but that's only one prospect lost. There are plenty of others out there. And they're hardly likely to go round talking to other schools about you if you've threatened legal action.

If they did, you go for an injunction, then you sue, then you retire to a life of luxury.

Hey, they could be a market for this!!
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
Clownboy
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Ok Tony - Are you a lawyer? You have me convinced.

I always have my spouse with me at show's and am very cautious with any touching I do.
This is where having a partner really helps!

That is one sad story Steve. I don't use an agent but the reputation one could diminish from such a statement , Just sad!
As the Frogs say "Times Fun when you're having Flies" Smile
todsky
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How ironic, since the vast majority of child abuse (sexual and other) is perpetrated not by strangers but by family or close friends. Nevertheless, despite the abuses (which have, of course, gone on through history), we are now living through a time of mass hysteria and witch-hunts, and our human society (children especially) is all the worse for it because our natural and beautiful gift of touch is being turned into a crime, and this results in our further dehumanization. As children should be taught, and they probably all know intuitively anyhow, there is good touch and there is bad touch. Fortunately, here in Montreal which has somewhat of a French culture, people are less uptight and more open.
Frankly, I am amazed at how paranoid the USA and UK have become, although this does go hand in hand with the elevated levels of fascism that these two countries seem to be employing in the last five years.
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Tony James
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No, not a lawyer. I'm a showman and a survivor in a very cutthroat business. My reputation is all in my business and like most intangibles it's hard to insure. People tinker with at their peril.

That's why the old timers were sometimes a bit quick with their fists - and that sort of thing gets around too. And to advantage. Don't tangle with him.....................

We may appear sometimes toffee nosed and sound rather upper crust on occassion and fisticuffs may seem an unlikely prospect but trespass and the gentlemanly pro can bite back - unexpectedly hard.

As I said, it's called survival.
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
Darkwing
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I do magic for family and corporate events, I am in charge of our puppet ministry at church, and do Santa Clause during Christmas. Needless to say, I am around lots of children and you have to be super careful with children. Never allow yourself to be alone with a child, never. When I am with our puppet team, I alway have another parent with me. I am never alone in a car with a another person's child. In a classroom setting, the door stays opened. If I have to touch a child s arm, I ask permission from the child and if possible the parent. When it comes to children, put them and you on a pedestal. We do have to develop highest of standards on our self when it comes to children. We cannot allow ourselves to be put in any situation where their might be any hint of impropriety.

I do have to admit, when doing Santa Clause, the little ones want to hug Santa and want to be around him. I do allow the little ones to hug me but only with the parents permission, ask first.

Remember, children are the most precious and innocent creatures God created. It is our awesome duty to protect, reinforce, and enhance their childhood experiences and memories. It only takes one person to screw it up for us all.

I had a magician friend to get a call from a group needing a magician for a family event immedietly, within just a few hours. When he ask about the circumstances, the contact person said they had a magician booked but was told just a few hours before that he was in jail in another city with charges of child pornography and child sexual abuse. So needless to say, we do have low life scum among childrens entertainers looking to prey on our children.
Tony James
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Back to the question.

Are local authorities insisting on you being police checked and certfied before they will permit you to perform for children/families at events over which they have some control?

Are they imposing this directly or by stealth?

By control I mean not only their own events but those where they exercise approval, permission or license?

Let me give you an example of stealth.

Local halls in the UK - usually owned by the village or other organisiations in the community i.e. they're all independent.

They have to have a license to operate. Within that license a local authority will impose conditions. Certification of children's entertainers is becoming one of those conditions.

Already in place are conditions about what an entertainer/magician may or may not do in the performance. No animals, birds fish etc. So don't take your doves and rabbits. What your assistant may or may not wear. No hypnotism. No telling fortunes or crystal gazing. It goes on and on.

Do you have these sorts of problem?
Tony James

Still A Child At Heart
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