We have received a number of inquiries as a result of the arrest of Lionel Gagne on April 9th. Click here to read the press release.
Lionel Gagne very briefly attended Bare Oaks. He was the very first person kicked out of Bare Oaks in April 2007. (the park became Bare Oaks in January 2007) As soon as he showed up, several members recognized him and warned the office about his history. He was then permanently banned from the park.
As a result, we have had many questions about what we do to keep Bare Oaks safe. We do police background checks on all staff members at Bare Oaks. But to be honest, that would only catch people with a known history malevolent behaviour. We also require photo identification from all members and visitors. Some visitors refuse to provide identification and leave which is a good indicator about their true intentions. We also maintain a list of people who should not be admitted to the park. That list is a compilation of several sources.
Our greatest security comes from the fact that we are a strong community. Children do not come to Bare Oaks alone. They come with their parents. Members tend to look out of each others children .
Those who prey on children are attracted to any place where children can be found. But they prefer situations where they can be in a position of authority over kids. It is a sad reality that they have been found as priests, teachers, scout leaders, hockey coaches, etc… It is therefore unrealistic to suggest that we should avoid any place that might attract them since we would rob our children of all of those institutions which are so important to their upbringing. With regards to naturist environments, they tend to have stronger feelings of community than within general society. Individuals with bad intentions within naturist environments are generally easier to identify. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that naturist environments have a lower than average incidence of sexual predators.
In the vast majority of cases, children are abused by someone they know. The abuser looks for a victim that has insecurities, vulnerabilities, and a lack of self-confidence. They typically use deception and enticement, not force, over a long period of time to gain access to their victim. They then use shame and embarrassment to keep the victim from reporting them.
It is obvious that being dressed has not kept children safe. The best thing we can do is teach our children the confidence to speak up when people do things which make them uncomfortable. Most resources on protecting children advise parents to teach kids about their bodies and give them the correct language to use when describing their body parts. If they are not ashamed of their bodies, they are much more likely to tell their parents when someone does things to them that they don't like. Whether nude or clothed, children should know that being touched in certain ways is wrong. Although good parenting is by far the most important factor in raising children, naturism helps to promote their confidence and understanding about their bodies.
Children's welfare must be safeguarded, but so too must they be given the chance to learn to respect their own bodies and those of others. There is no evidence that children are harmed by non-sexualized social nudity, and there is good reason to believe they benefit from it.