Linda Beaudoin is a woman on a mission. After Randy Miller, a 40-year-old professional party clown in the small town of Napanee, Ontario, pleaded guilty to child-pornography charges, Ms Beaudoin felt she had to take action. According to the Toronto Star:
Beaudoin is spearheading a campaign for legislation that will make it mandatory for anyone working as a children’s entertainer — Santa, clown or Easter bunny — to be given a criminal-background check and be required to have a licence to make sure he or she is safe to work with children.
The Star piece is headlined, “Take child abuse seriously and license clowns, activist urges.”
I’m sorry, are we not taking child abuse seriously? Are the police ignoring the problem? Are offenders given a slap on the wrist?
No, I didn’t think so. Nor is the specific issue, pedophile clowns, a real problem. Miller wasn’t accused of harming any child, let alone one he was hired to entertain, nor was Daniel Gyselinck, another kiddie-porn devotee that Beaudoin likes to bring up. The Star’s own contribution to discussion, John Wayne Gacy, famous children’s clown and serial killer, didn’t kill at the parties: he picked up drifters, runaway, hitchhikers, people who couldn’t be traced to him.
And it isn’t as if a child’s birthday party is ideal cruising ground for your lonely pedo. Sure there are lots of children there, but there are also lots of parents and lots of video-cameras, and not much one-on-one time; the clown arrives, makes a few unrecognizable balloon animals, leads a sing-along, and bang, he’s outathere.
Finally, if there were a real problem, licensure wouldn’t solve it. Miller, like Gyselinck and Gacy, lacked a criminal record. They all could have passed any background check; there was nothing in their backgrounds (Gacy had served time for a sex offense, but it had been expunged). If anything, a license would give parents a false sense of security. “Oh, we can leave little Johnny alone with Molest-o the Clown, he’s licensed. What could go wrong?”
I don’t want to be too hard on Ms Beaudoin. She is obviously well intentioned; she was molested herself (by a family member, not a clown) and she wants to help save other children from her torment. Still, what she’s doing can only be described as stupid. It’s a futile and expensive attempt to solve a non-problem.
She does make one good point: “Exotic dancers need a permit; so do massage therapists. So why not children’s entertainers?” Yes, lame and unconvincing though the case for licensing children’s clowns, mall Santas, Easter Bunnies, and so on is, the case for licensing the semi-skilled providers of similar services to adults is weaker still.
For one thing, if a dancer or masseuse decides to have sex with one of the customers, well, nobody gets so upset.