Pedophiles do not wear signs around their necks. They cross all social, religious, ethnic and economic lines. Where you live does not guarantee your child will not encounter a pedophile. I am not speaking solely of the Internet. No neighborhood is perfectly safe. Pedophiles blend. They do not announce themselves to the world. Even if you think there is not one in your area, remember, criminals drive cars too. In addition, criminals of all types can use all those nice roads they are building for urban sprawl so your commute is shorter as well.
Most victims know their attacker. The majority of pedophiles do not prey on strangers. They prey on family members, neighbors and children of friends. Often the victims' parents are shocked because they never thought that someone they knew and liked could be so horrible. Again, pedophiles do not advertise what they are.
Do not count on the sex offenders list to keep your kids safe. It is only a single tool. The only people on the sex offenders list are those who have been caught and convicted. A pedophile who has not been convicted will not appear. One who has never been caught will not appear either.
Lastly, a person with a good lawyer who gets the charges reduced will not appear. So the pedophile of the better economic class will not show up on that list.
Also on that list, for the rest of his life, is the 18-year-old male who had sex with his 16-year-old or younger girlfriend. This person is hardly a threat to your child, but they will appear on the list because of the way the law is written. Nowhere on the list of sex offenders does it mention these facts.
You can help protect your child from pedophiles. Just as you would discuss the dangers of drugs with your child, you need to discuss the dangers of pedophiles. No one wants to think that their child is ever in danger. You as the parent are the best line of defense. There are some easy lessons you can teach. You do not have to be explicit. Simply let your child know that someone could hurt them and that is what you do not want to happen.
Teach your child that no one should be touching them where their swimsuit covers without your presence. This is to balance the reality of doctors and the like who might have a legitimate reason. Tell your child that if someone attempts to do so, you want to know. Let your child know that no matter what someone says you will believe them and keep everyone safe. Tell your child that it is not their fault if someone approaches them and you love them anyway.
Let them know that they should tell someone, anyone, like yourself, your spouse, a teacher, an aunt, an uncle, a police officer or some other adult that they trust. Pedophiles count on children not speaking up and telling.
You have to teach your child that if they are touched where they are not supposed to be touched, that telling is what they must do.
Remind your child that should they become separated from you or are approached in a public place, they should not to go with someone they do not know. If they get lost or separated in a store or mall, they should go to the nearest cash register and let the clerk know they need help. Have the clerk contact mall security.
No pedophile wants public attention. If someone asks for their help, like to find a lost dog or cat, they should tell the person they will ask an adult they know for permission to help.
Teach them to never go with someone who claims to be a police officer unless that person has a uniform, badge and a marked police car with lights on top. If they have any doubts, then they should tell the person asking them to come to wait right there until they can get permission from you before going.
Teach them to yell, scream and sit down if someone tries to force them to go with them that is not approved by you. Being approved by you means you told the child personally who to go with and why.
Remind them too that yelling, screaming and sitting, is for an emergency only. They are not to do it because they are angry at you when they did not get the toy at the mall that they wanted. If they do act like this in a conflict over a toy, not only will they not get the toy, they will needlessly have made a lot of people mad at them.
No matter how nice and sympathetic someone seems, your children have to know not to give out their address, phone number, what school they attend or tell where they will be at a given time.
They should not agree to meet someone in real life. A stranger should be defined as someone you as a parent have not met.
Just because they have chatted with someone on the Internet does not make that person less of a stranger. If someone asks for personal information, your child should tell them they will ask a parent. This is a good way to tell if the person is really what they seem. A decent person who means no harm will not object to a parent being informed and giving permission to share info. If this person really wants to meet them, then mom or dad will be there too.
Asking a parent is not something a pedophile wants. If someone sends them pictures, makes suggestions or asks questions that make your child uncomfortable, then they should get an adult to come look at what is going on right then and there. Turn the matter over to law enforcement immediately.
Pedophiles will lie to children. They will threaten your child and your family if the kids expose them and they tell kids that no one will believe them. Always keep this in mind when asking questions.
Teach Your Child Well:
You can do a lot to make your child safer simply by providing them useful information on what to do and when to do it. Consider it like you would a bike helmet. You do not let your child ride a bike without one, not because you think they are likely to have an accident and hit their head, but because they might.
They might run into a pedophile at some point, and knowing what to do is only the smart thing to teach.
Darla Cook is a concerned parent who has worked with children in the St. Louis area. She and her family are proactive in keeping kids safe.
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