Joel Davis Arrest: Humanitarian Cover for Predators?
Last Tuesday Joel Davis was arrested as he made plans to rape a two-year-old girl and an eight-year girl — children of a father trafficking his own daughter and his girlfriend’s toddler. The “father” was an undercover investigator with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In chats with the “father” Davis bragged about his infant and toddler child pornography collection. He said his preferred “age-range” was “+0” — indicating newborns and older. Davis boasted he had raped a nine-month-old infant, a six-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy.
Prior to Davis’ arrest, the humanitarian community unquestioningly provided hero-status to this 22-year-old, two-time college drop-out, who had neither the education nor the experience to claim he was an expert in anything let alone the highly complex subject of addressing sexual violence in conflict — a specialty in which Davis claimed he was a leading professional. Now the humanitarian sector is expressing shock at Davis’ arrest and the content of his criminal complaint.
Bewilderingly, Davis had been embraced by top humanitarians, including the former United Nations (UN) Special Representative for the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura and many others.
Davis had been provided, astonishingly, a high-profile position as Campaign Director of Stop Rape in Conflict (also known by the longer name of International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict).
Stop Rape in Conflict, a coalition of over 5,000 well-known organizations and individuals, “voted unanimously” in 2017, to “reorganize and restructure under the leadership of Youth to End Sexual Violence” — Davis’s so-called non-profit.
Youth to End Sexual Violence, is a shell non-profit, housing little more than a few insipid blog posts by Davis largely copied from other publications. In 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revoked Davis’ tax-status for failure to file for three consecutive years.
I wish I could say I was surprised. Unfortunately, Davis’ criminal complaint reads like hundreds of others I reviewed for my book Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape — which includes a chapter on infants and toddlers.
Davis’ arrest is not unusual either for the rape of infants and toddlers or for fathers offering their own children, and children they have access to, on pedophile websites. Among investigators, fathers trafficking their own children is a known “widespread tragedy.” Lesa Gale, Australian Federal Police Child Exploitation Assessment Centre Commander, reports “each day (we) receive imagery depicting infants being sexually abused.”
These trends are not recent developments.
As early as 2006, Canadian journalist Julian Sher described a notable increase in predators “deliberately going after pre-verbal infants because they are the perfect targets-victims who literally can’t speak up.” The Department of Justice (DOJ) warned, in 2009, the rape and torture of babies was on the increase. The United Nations (UN), also in 2009, reported more than 80 percent of child pornography featured children under twelve with 20 percent of “babies and children aged under 3.” By 2016, DOJ said it was “routine” for investigations to include the “sexual exploitation of infants and toddlers” including newborns — “children as young as days old.”
Infants and toddlers are targeted by pedophiles for a strategic reason. Children under four-years-old cannot be witnesses in court. Pre-verbal children cannot explain what happened, let alone defend their rights.
They are ideal targets.
Predators Targeting the Humanitarian Community
That predators are targeting the humanitarian sector should also not come as a surprise. The life-style provides both ideal cover and a ready supply-line of vulnerable women and children to abuse. The susceptibility of the humanitarian community to predators is well-known, if not well-addressed. Much like the Catholic Church, humanitarians remain in denial that our community might be harboring predators in large numbers.
In April, Peter Dalglish, a Canadian former high-level UN official, was arrested in Nepal on child sex trafficking charges. Humanitarians expressed shock. Dalglish, like Davis, told lies about himself — spinning the hero-narrative of dedicating his life to poor children. Joel Davis’ hero-narrative appears to be a claim he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his non-profit, Youth to End Sexual Violence. The same non-profit that is little more than an amateur website with a revoked tax-status. There is no reported public record of who nominated Davis. Nobel nominations are sealed for fifty-years. This makes it the perfect lie.
As deftly as Dalglish infiltrated the humanitarian world — grooming individuals and organizations to hail him as a champion, believe his lies and offer him positions with access to vulnerable children — Davis, a teenager, totally unqualified, uneducated and inexperienced, was able to tell the humanitarian community he was a “Nobel Prize Nominee” and seasoned, high-level humanitarians believed him, called him a star and fell all over themselves to offer him a highly visible seat at the table.
Pedophiles typically clad themselves in prizes and prestige. This is their armor. As Dalglish received as many awards as he could, including the Order of Canada, Davis, it seems, may have understood he could claim “nomination” for the biggest prize as the first rung on the prestigious humanitarian career he was building while simultaneously raping children.
Grooming the Humanitarian Community
Peter Dalglish successfully groomed humanitarians. Joel Davis also easily groomed our humanitarian sector.
Davis and Dalglish were cultivating a targeted community for the purposes of professional cover and access to vulnerable children. This is how child predators create a supply-line of hundreds of children to abuse over a life-time. Groom. Cover. Access. Repeat.
What is astounding in Davis’ case is, apparently, no one in the vast Stop Rape in Conflict coalition (including the leading organization of; Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, V-Day, AIDS Free World, Global Fund for Women, Sonke Gender Justice Network, Panzi Hospital, Women’s League of Burma, Center for Women War Victims, Femmes Africa Solidarite and many more prestigious organizations) even bothered to conduct the most basic search on the IRS website to determine if Davis’ non-profit was valid?
Of Dalglish’s arrest, I explained not everyone had been groomed. If Dalglish is the typical pedophile he appears to be, he would have networked with other predators. The tributes, honorary degrees, and amply paid UN positions would have been given to him by men like him. Doing the same thing. Pedophilia is a highly networked criminal activity. Networking is a defining aspect of the crime. Pedophiles collectively engage in child abuse, share children they have access to, tip each other off on where to locate vulnerable children and teach each other how to ensure impunity for their crimes. Pedophiles help each other obtain authoritative professional positions, titles and awards. They use these positions to protect each other and their crimes. This is their criminal defense.
If Joel Davis is a typical pedophile, then there are humanitarians among us who were not groomed but had knowledge of his crimes. Other leading humanitarians may have networked with Davis in these crimes and may have been helping him build his humanitarian career. It is plausible that the sexual abuse of children is what provided Davis, a teenager — with no education, experience, or qualifications of any kind — a rocket to the top of the humanitarian world.
The other possible explanation for Davis’ meteoric rise, based on no merit, is that the humanitarian community, as a whole, is incompetent in basic due diligence and dangerously ignorant of predatory patterns of behavior.
Are we making it easy for predators like Peter Dalglish and Joel Davis to occupy positions of power and prestigious in our profession?
I would say so.
What Does Joel Davis’ Arrest Mean for Humanitarians?
Although humanitarians are discussing the #MeToo movement in the international aid sector, calling it #AidToo, critically lacking has been a serious discussion of child predators among us. In the wake of the Davis and Dalglish arrests, humanitarian leadership and agencies must immediately make space for this difficult discussion and take action to protect our professional communities from being groomed by and accessible to predators.
Humanitarian organizations are being targeted by predators in order to create secure supply-lines of vulnerable children, craft public images as heroes and build powerful networks of highly-placed, like-minded colleagues to defend against arrest and mitigate damage if an arrest occurs.
In April I suggested Dalglish’s arrest should be a “teachable moment” for humanitarians to understand and recognize how predators exploit the cover of “heroism” to commit crimes. Now, in July, I am suggesting Joel Davis’ arrest should provoke serious soul-searching and bold corrective action.
Let’s be clear.
Dalglish was not a hero. Davis is not a hero. Both men have been arrested and charged as criminal predators of the worst kind.
Why did we make them heroes? Why did we believe their obvious lies?
It is not a matter of “if” there will be another high-profile humanitarian arrest for crimes like Dalglish and Davis stand accused — it is a matter of when. How many more arrests will it take before humanitarians secure our institutions from being groomed and manipulated by predators?
Every new arrest will cost each organization involved, further tarnish the image of all humanitarians and provide visible and gruesome evidence of extreme harm done to many children — crimes that have irreversibly damaged countless lives.
Silence is expensive in the post-Weinstein era. How steep will the humanitarian learning-curve be?
Dr. Lori Handrahan has been a humanitarian and an academic for over twenty years and, unlike Joel Davis, she is an actual expert in sexual violence in conflict. She can be reached on her website www.LoriHandrahan.com and Twitter @LoriHandrahan2