At one point early during his time in law enforcement, Glen Pounder was fighting organized crime, and he figured that’s what he’d be doing for the rest of his career.
That was, however, before he got involved in the fight to stop the sexual abuse of children.
“Once you start to understand the horrific nature of child sexual abuse, you frankly don’t want to fight against anything else,” says Pounder, who was named the BSA’s Youth Protection Executive last April.
Pounder no longer wears a badge. After working in law enforcement for more than 25 years, he made the decision to devote the rest of his career to protecting children.
At the BSA, his responsibilities include assessing and overseeing all activities related to youth protection, including policy, training, external partnerships and engagement with the survivor community.
He will also work with the newly formed Youth Protection Committee, a team of industry experts, representatives from the BSA and adult survivors of child sexual abuse within Scouting.
“They are passionate, energetic, and they want to do the right thing,” Pounder says. “There’s a great deal of work to do.
“It’s kind of like eating an elephant. [Editor’s note: You eat it one bite at a time.] The good news is, I’m greedy, and I want to eat that elephant.”
Pounder recently sat down with us to talk about his passion for child protection, his goals for the BSA, and one huge thing parents can say to their kids to keep them safer online.
Watch the full interview below, or read on for the highlights.
Welcome to the BSA. What are your impressions of us so far?
It’s been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve met so many great people. I’m so grateful to be here. The people I’ve met … they know where we were, and they know we have so much more work we have to do. If I had to sum up our volunteers in one word, it would be “passionate.” A great deal of passion. The volunteers are absolutely phenomenal.
Now that you’ve had some time to get settled, what are your top priorities?
Short term, I’m very keen on refreshing the (Youth Protection) training. There’s great stuff in there — some basic principles that can keep kids safe in Scouting. But I’m keen to refresh that. I’m also very keen on empowering our Scouts to protect themselves. Scouts is great for leadership. And to me, the Scouts themselves can lead some of this work. I think that’s critical. Longer term, there’s some legislation that needs to be passed that will allow us to share information in a much more open way. It’s really challenging to pass legislation. That’s a long-term goal. But there’s lots to do in between as well.
Part of your job is to work with the Youth Protection Committee, which includes experts in the field, and also six adult survivors of sexual abuse in Scouting. What has that been like?
These are hugely knowledgeable people. They have literally decades and decades of experience. And there are those with the lived experience of being survivors of abuse. Their work is critical to us driving forward with some of the positive changes we’ve already identified. And then helping me and the BSA to decide, ‘What’s next?’ Child youth protection is not a destination. It’s a journey.
We’ve already seen some changes to the BSA’s Youth Protection policies, including the addition of a rule that says, “All adults staying overnight in connection with a Scouting activity must be currently registered as an adult volunteer or an adult program participant.” Can you talk about why that rule is needed?
That rule is necessary for a basic, common-sense reason. When you think about protection of our kids, not just from child abuse, but also from bullying, violence, any form of hazing … we want to be sure that everybody who shows up doesn’t have a criminal record. It’s a real common-sense thing to put in place to make sure we are aiming to do absolutely everything we can do to keep our Scouts safe.
Before coming to the BSA, you were a founding board member of a non-profit called Raven, which was formed to help fight child abuse.
Raven was formed for one purpose: to transform the nation’s response to child protection. For example, we spend tens of billions of dollars fighting the drug war. And we spend less than 60 million to help law enforcement protect our kids. And that’s wrong. The crux of why Raven was formed is to tell people in power how it really is on the ground for law enforcement — heroes, really — who put their own lives on the line to protect other people’s children. They have the most difficult job in law enforcement, and we want to make sure they get the resources they need.
The technology of today is a lot different than it was when you and I were kids. How has this made the job of protecting our children more difficult?
When I was 12, when I got home, my parents knew if I was in my bedroom, I was safe. Now, the technologies that are in play— and there’s no legislation that says (the technologies) have to be safe for kids, by the way – allow strangers into that 12-year-old’s bedroom. They tunnel into those rooms by games and apps. So often now, the most dangerous time for a child is when they get home and they’re in their own bedroom. Tragically, in some of the abuse cases that have taken place, you can hear a parent shouting from the other room. ‘Hey! Dinner’s ready!’ While a child is being groomed and abused online.
It sounds very scary. What can we do?
Parents and grandparents need to have one simple conversation with their kids: If you make a mistake online – and it doesn’t matter what that mistake is; it might even be sending a picture of yourself to someone — if you make that mistake, we’ve got your back, we can get through this. That very small conversation can literally be lifesaving for a kid. Some of the criminals involved in this horrific area of child abuse, they don’t care about the child, or the child’s life, or their mental state. That simple message – ‘we’ve got your back’ – can literally save lives. There are more resources available now to have these images taken down that weren’t even available last year. We want to empower kids and their parents with key pieces of knowledge like that.
You’ve mentioned a word before that also sounds scary. What is sextortion?
Some kids are sending pictures of themselves to someone who they think is another child. Often, it’s not another child. It’s a criminal. Some are based in groups overseas. And they are harvesting our kids in the same way a fishing trawler collects fish. And they’re trying to get one of these kids to send an image. And once they do, that’s when they’re on the hook. And that’s when a child can think, ‘What have I done.’ The threats that these criminals make are horrendous. Threatening to send the images to their parents, to their school, to their Scout troop … that’s when a kid needs to know, this is that moment. I’ve made a mistake. But it’s OK because people have my back. That disclosure can save that kid’s life.
It seems overwhelming and scary, but it’s not. We’ve got resources. We’ve got a whole team of people. And we have your back. It’s not that scary if you empower yourself and empower your kids.
I have the honor of leading the work here at BSA headquarters, but I work with and for the Scouts and volunteers. Let’s make sure our Scouts are safe, not just from child abuse, but also from things like hazing and bullying. These things can cause horrific harm to kids. We have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to get through it.
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