I received a disturbing message on my telephone tonight notifying me that Bishop Larry Trotter (who I have never heard of before this moment) uploaded the below picture to his Instagram account.
In the picture, Bishop Trotter and his granddaughter are posing for a huge smile in a bubble bath tub full of water. It seems that people are outraged by the incident, and blogs have already been written about it.
As a child sexual abuse expert, I wanted to look for the picture that was taken down. It came to me, in my email inbox and I found it on a gossip website that annoys the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of me.
I want to be clear that I did not alter the photo to smear the child’s face, as I have seen commenters on other websites ask, because there is nothing abusive about the picture alone. Also, because this photo was not leaked, it was uploaded by the Bishop as a “grandfather” moment.
So, before I ask you what you think about the photo, I want to have my say. In a comment on another website, one of Bishop Trotter’s congregants who went by the name “Churchmember” said this:
I am a member if Sweet Holy Spirit Church and I know for a fact there is nothing fishy going on here! So please folks STOP thinking more into this than you should.This is not a random child it’s his granddaughter whom he loves and adores! If you all knew the character of the man u r talking about you would know that there is nothing going on! If u were captured in a picture in the bath with your child I wouldn’t be questioning your motives! Thank you be blessed
I responded to “Churchmember” by saying this:
Hi Churchmember. I am sure that you have the best intentions and I am not accusing the Bishop of anything. What I do want to say on behalf of all children is that 90% of child sexual abuse happens with people who is known to the child, so the declaration that this is a relative is not soothing.
And, I think you should be careful to say that nothing is going on unless you have observed him and know the signs of a predator. I’m not calling your man of God a predator by any means, I’m just saying that it is important not to draw false conclusions in offense OR defense of the picture.
Perhaps we should be neutral unless other details emerge but there are many church members who have defended their pastors even in the wake of them being exposed as child abusers.
The picture is uncomfortable because of what we know about child sexual abuse. Some people are even paranoid about every single situation that it border lines accusatory. I want to present two quick perspectives for you.
As a mother, I had my daughter in the bathtub with me. All parents have their children in the bathtub with them for various reasons. And yes, female perpetrators do exist, my readership will tell you that.
One reason why a parent may take a bath or shower with their child could be that the child is too small to roam around the house. Another reason could be that the child is attached and wants to jump in the bath with you. There is nothing wrong with this type of bonding.
The concerns that most people are having with the picture is that it is a Grandfather and Granddaughter. Grandfathers and Granddaughters or male adult and female child only make up one population of child sexual abuse.
I will give one caution and answer the real question about this photo.
The caution is that we cannot assume that the Grandfather had no clothes on in the bubble bath. We can also not assume that he was ever alone with the child in the tub as we see by the photo that it was taken by a third person.
You May Also Like: How Should A Pastor Respond to Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse
Another thing that I want to propose is that even if the man is naked (as most people are when they bathe), he could have taken measures to move his penis out-of-the-way, or to ensure that his granddaughter was not in direct contact with it. We simply cannot assume that something heinous is happening here. I am not saying to rule it out, but I am discouraging us from immediately drawing these conclusions.
The question that I believe we are really asking is, when are your children too old to bathe with you?
I am going to answer this question as a mother first, and then I will quote research. As a mother, an auntie, and someone who has been around many children, the answer to this question is when you feel that the child is beginning to explore body parts, or when they are old enough to ask questions about body parts.
When they begin to name body parts, and recognize that you all have different or different sized body parts, this is a good time to teach them about their bodies, and to end shared bathing schedules even if it is convenient.
Another way to know is that you will find yourself wanting to cover up around them. There will be internal sensors there to help you. As I asked this question, and looked for answers on mom websites, I noticed that some people gave different ages, and some of those ages were older than the child in this picture. For me, it is when a child is coming into an awareness of the body, boy or girl.
You May Also Like: Child Sexual Abuse Must Become A Felony
It seems that I am the only mom expert on the planet answering this question as a written article, because google only brought me to question/answer forums on cafemom.com and circleofmoms.com. This could be because experts find this to be an unwritten rule. Parents know this, they live this!
Lastly, child sexual abuse is real and it is serious. I believe that every single person on the planet should have an understanding of what child sexual abuse is, and how to identify if a child (or adult) is being groomed for child sexual abuse.
As far as Bishop Larry Trotter and this picture, I would agree that posting this was “not wise” as he put it. He may have been posting it as a proud grandfather without realizing that there are perpetrators out there who want people to upload personal pictures that can be imagined differently. It is quite possible that he was not thinking of how social media would take this, or who would have access to this picture.
I teach pastors and churches how to handle child sexual abuse according to the bible, and I wrote Ten Ways to Safeguard Your Child From Sexual Abuse. It is very important that we have some sensation when we believe that a child is being harmed, however I believe that we will be more confident in our assessments when we choose to learn the warning signs of abuse.
What age did you stop bathing with your children?
Ressurrection Graves is a licensed minister, child sexual abuse educator and H.E.A.L.E.R. She supports victims of domestic and sexual violence in their healing, and teaches child sexual abuse prevention to churches, and mandated reporters. She is a regular radio guest and speaker who can be reached at: ressurrection dot wordpress at yahoo dot com. To check out her speaking topics, please click here.