The idea of registered sex offenders residing within our communities is something that is seldom discussed among parents, but it’s that lack of discussion and awareness that serves to increase the likelihood of a predator taking advantage of their child.
Most children are aware of the concept of ‘stranger danger’ on some level. They are taught never to get into a car with a stranger no matter what the person says and never to accept candy from someone they don’t know.
Although these are certainly good rules to follow, they hardly cover the necessary bases when it comes to keeping your child safe from a would-be sexual predator. A quote from the Parents For Megan’s Law website says,
“Most child sexual abuse, up to 90%, occurs with someone a child has an established and trusting relationship with, whether known or not by the parent, and who is often a person in a position of authority. Teaching your children about stranger danger is misleading and does not address the reality that most children know and trust those who abuse them.”
What to discuss with your child
- There are no ‘secrets’ between you (Try using the word ‘surprise’ instead of ‘secret’. For example, “Let’s keep Daddy’s birthday present a surprise!”.)
- Talk to your child about the roles played by the adults in his or her life. For example, a baseball coach’s role might be to teach the child and their teammates how to throw, catch, hit and be a good sport. Taking a child out for ice cream by him or herself after the game is not part of the coach’s role and your child should practice recognizing such boundaries.
- Go over the ‘tricks’ used by predators such as ‘accidental touching’, invitations to go someplace special alone with the child or telling the child that their assistance is needed to locate a lost pet or to provide directions.
- Define the laws of authority: a person who is in a position of authority does not have the right to make you do something that makes you uncomfortable.
These tips and more valuable information can also be found on the Parents for Megan’s Law website
What you can do to protect your children
You are not helpless as a parent when it comes to protecting your child from sexual predators! There are a number of precautions you can take to keep your child safe:
- Get and stay informed: utilize websites such as Family Watchdog
(familywatchdog.us) that provide you with the names and locations of registered sex offenders in your community.
- Be aware of where your child is at all times. Use the five W’s (who, what, when, where and why).
- Be wary of older children or adults who want to spend a lot of time alone with your child.
- Listen to your instincts:
If you feel something is not right in your child’s relationships, don’t hesitate to investigate!
These and other tips are available on the website for the Vermont Department of Child Services.
Keep the lines of communication open with your child and make sure other adults know you are an involved, aware parent. Remind your child of what types of adult behavior are okay and which are not. Listen to your child and let them know that what they say to you is important and will be taken seriously.
If your child has been victimized by a sexual predator – registered or otherwise, please call my office. I can be your voice in an otherwise unspeakable situation.
248-348-7400 or 586-530-1000