It started with a single news story. At an editorial meeting, Josh Keim, a former
staff writer, mentioned a report about a child molester caught at a
pool. I told him to make it a news brief and asked him to hold it
for the next issue. I warned him that such stories can easily be
sensationalized and that we should make every effort to avoid that.
After all, it was probably a rare incident.
Only it wasn’t.
Josh started watching for reports of sex offenders at aquatics facilities in the
news, and we quickly realized this was a problem that needed
Between May 2005 and August 2006, he tracked more than 30 sex crimes at pools or
waterparks nationwide. Then we did a survey and discovered the
problem was even more widespread than those reports would suggest.
The results of that survey and our yearlong investigation are in
this issue. It’s a report every aquatics professional needs
Then they need to talk about it with their staffs and each other. They need to talk
about it with parents and guardians. And they need to keep talking
about it until everyone starts to feel comfortable with it.
Aquatics certification agencies also should get on board and start educating
industry professionals about sex offenders and how to recognize and
deal with them at facilities.
This does not mean that lifeguards need to become police. But they do need to become
witnesses. They do need to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior,
and feel comfortable reporting such behavior to their managers.
They need to start thinking about lifesaving outside the realm of drowning.
But they won’t unless the entire industry starts talking about it.
One of the main reasons predators are able to strike is that they are allowed a
cloak of anonymity. They are allowed that anonymity because most
people would rather not think that the nice young man playing with
the children could be up to anything sinister. Because most parents
and aquatics professionals would rather not talk about sex offenders at all.
Editors are no exception. In this issue, we happen to be running a news brief
about a lifeguard charged with sex crimes. He was arrested on
suspicion of sexual penetration with a foreign object. The copy
editor wrote me a note about it: “Do we really need to be so graphic?”
Yes, we do.
Now that we know sexual predators are at our facilities, professionals have an
obligation not only to talk openly about this squeamish subject,
but also to make others talk about it, too. In so doing, it is my
hope that talk will turn into action, action that could well save
another child from being victimized and wounded for
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your complete name and contact information.Letters may be sent by mail to Aquatics International, Attn: Editor, 6222 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90048; by fax to 323.801.4986; or via e-mail to
Credit: Gary Thill