Posts Tagged ‘warning signs’

Many people have been led to believe that the Sex Offender Registration laws of their state protects children from pedophiles that may be living near their home or their children’s school. This is a common misperception. The SOR law in many states does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or vulnerable persons. The SOR law can only mandate the offender to register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time.

In other words, a registered sex offender is able to legally visit and work at schools, playgrounds, children’s museums, daycare centers and other places where vulnerable children may congregate.

First we have to distinguish between the types of sex offenders. All rapists, whether they are violent or not, are criminals. There are also sex offenders (public exposure, unwanted sexual advances) who, while they committed a crime, are not rapists and who are not violent. But when we are talking about keeping children safe, many parents are concerned about pedophiles. But not all sex offenders are pedophiles. So lumping all sex offenders together does not really add any marginal value to keeping our children safe. The person who got drunk and raped a woman is a criminal, but not a pedophile.

Politicians want you to think that registries are effective because politicians have put a lot of political capital and attention into registries. They want you to think that placing sex offenders on the registry is proof that they are keeping your child safe. But simply focusing on the registry, they neglect to focus on that the real threat to a child. The problem is that the politicians aren’t advocating evidence-based approaches, and aren’t focusing on the fact that more than 90 percent of people who commit child sexual abuse is well known to the victim. The majority of the time that child sex abuse is reported, it is committed by someone who is a trusted family member. On top of that, the majority of children never report sexual abuse when it’s happening. They’re often afraid of their parents’ reactions or fear getting into trouble. They also might believe the abuser when they tell them that something bad would happen if they tell.

We always hear about the sex offender who was on the registry and reoffended, but these high profile cases are reported because they make for good stories for the news media. But such recidivism is not representative of what is going on the majority of the time.

A parent might believe that if they check the local sex offender registry it will help to keep their children safe. The question then is: what else have they done in addition to checking the registry? The people that we need to be worried about the most are not the ones we know are on the sex offender registry.

Children need to be taught safety skills

Parents need to realize that the person most likely to sexually abuse their child is someone they know and trust, and someone who has regular contact with their child. This known and trusted person is likely to violate the trust of the family and child. That is why it is important for a child to have the tools needed to protect themselves from these trusted persons, and to know when to speak up when the trust is violated.

It is not only important for parents to educate their children, but schools need to educate their students too. Because sometimes the abuse is happening at home. And parents and educators need to be properly trained how to identify when a child is being victimized.

I am not advocating that we eliminate sex offender registries. Parents and the public should want to know who has committed sex offenses that may be living near them. And since all criminal records are public information, this information should not be suppressed.

My point is that the sex offender registry is about as effective in stopping child sexual abuse as using a BB gun against a home invader—you might get lucky by using it, but it won’t be a very effective deterrent. The public needs to start to understand that sex offender registries don’t keep people safe the way they think because of the nature of how predators operate when building and then violating trust. That is why the real threat is likely to come from someone known and trusted by the family. The statistics are very clear about this.

Warning Signs

Everyone can take steps to prevent the sexual abuse of children. The web site, stopitnow.org provides prevention tip sheets that can help you take action to keep children and youth safe, whether it’s making a family safety plan, finding a safe school or camp, or safety on the internet.

Signs that a child has been abused:

  • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects.
  • Nightmares, sleeping problems.
  • Becoming withdrawn or very clingy.
  • Becoming unusually secretive.
  • Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings.
  • Regressing to younger behaviors, e.g. bedwetting, thumb sucking.
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people.
  • Outburst of anger.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts.
  • Self-harm. (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
  • Not wanting to be alone with a particular person.

Behaviors to watch for when adults are with children:

  • Makes others uncomfortable by ignoring social or physical boundaries.
  • Refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits.
  • Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even.
  • when the child does not want this physical contact or attention.
  • Frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom.
  • Turns to a child for emotional or physical comfort normally shared with adults.
  • Has secret interactions children.
  • Spends excessive time emailing, text messaging or calling children.
  • Insists on or manages to spend uninterrupted time alone with a child.
  • Frequently babysits children for free; takes children on special outings alone; buys children gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason.

Since the courts, judges and politicians will do little or nothing to protect our children from sexual predators, it is up to adults, parents and teachers to educate ourselves and our children on the dangers of sexual abuse.

You can find more tips at: http://www.stopitnow.org/ohc-content/warning-signs

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