Don't Rely On Background Checks Alone To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray recently resigned after a fifth sex abuse allegation, this time, made by a cousin, who accuses the mayor of molesting him in the 1970s. The cousin alleges he was 13 when Murray forced him into sex when they shared a bedroom at the cousin's home in New York.

Allegations of sexual abuse committed by the mayor against four other men (who were teenagers at the time of the abuse) began to emerge in April. Although Murray ended his re-election campaign, he insisted he would not resign, despite calls for his exit from office.

One of the mayor's accusers is his former foster son, who claims Murray began abusing him when he was 13. He met the mayor in the late 1970s while growing up in a group home for troubled children. He first came forward with his allegations in 2008, but his account was never publicly reported. In July of this year, however, newly released documents indicated that a child welfare investigator in 1984 had found the mayor's former foster son's allegations were valid.

Another man, whom the mayor met in the same group home as his former foster son came from, alleged he was paid for sex by the mayor in the 1980s. Still another man had sued the mayor earlier this year over alleged abuse, but dropped his case against him. The man states he will refile the case. Jim Brunner, "Seattle Mayor Ed Murray resigns after fifth child sex-abuse allegation," www.seattletimes.com (Sept. 12, 2017).


Commentary and Checklist

Background checks are only effective if an offender has a criminal record. In the above matter, the mayor would have passed a background check even though multiple people claim he sexually abused them.

Consequently, relying on background checks is not enough. Other due diligence is needed when hiring to fill positions for people who work with or around children. Here are some additional tips:

  • Reference checks are a must. If job candidates cannot provide recent references or if their references refuse to cooperate, then you should give preference to those whose references check out positive.
  • If an applicant's references refuse to cooperate, ask the applicant for other references. It is important that you find past employers that can state the applicant is a safe with children and an asset.
  • On personal references, question the reference closely to determine that the reference worked with the applicant in the manner that was described to you.
  • Google the candidate. See if you can find blogs or other writings by the candidate or about the candidate that will shed more light on the candidate's personality.
  • Check social websites like Facebook. Social websites ask users to post personal information. How a candidate describes himself or herself outside of the hiring process can be very helpful.
  • If an applicant is untruthful in his or her written application, then that is a sign to move on to the next candidate.
  • Check a candidate's educational background. Make sure that he or she obtained the degrees and achieved the accomplishments listed.
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