If you do a search of nearby sex offenders, you may be surprised to learn there’s one (or more!) living just down the street…or even next door… to you.
You thought your neighborhood was safe, but now your sense of security is rattled. And when you have kids, that sense of security might be even more shaken.
What do you do?
Talk to your kids
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “35.8% of sexual assaults occur when the victim is between the ages of 12 and 17."
Talk to your kids about keeping safe around strangers and make sure that if your kids walk to school, they are walking with a group.
Help your child understand that bad people don’t necessarily look like a Disney villain. A criminal can (and usually) looks like a “normal” person to kids.
Ask them what they would do in hypothetical dangerous situations and guide their response if they need help understanding. For example, a stranger might try to tell them, “Your Mom asked me to pick you up.”
Empower your kids to say “NO” if someone is making them feel uncomfortable.
Teach them what is appropriate behavior and touch. For example, holding hands with their sister is okay, while someone touching them where their bathing suit covers them is NOT.
Better be safe than sorry
By running a reverse address lookup, you can take the first step in identifying where sex offenders live closest to your address.
After knowing where the predator lives, it’s best to avoid that area. Walk a different way.
“Only about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child."
While known sex offenders are obviously a danger, it’s important to recognize that the above stat reveals that your child is most vulnerable among the adults he or she already knows.
Ensure you really know the adults who interact with your children and teach your children who the trusted adults are in your circle of family, friends and neighbors…and what to do if they encounter an off limits behavior from them.
By being present and involved in your child’s life – from showing up a few minutes early to soccer practice pick-up to asking your children about their plans to knowing their friends and their friend’s parents – you’re sending a signal that you are an attentive parent.
Talk to the neighbors you know and trust for support. Share with them what you have learned about this person and agree that anyone who sees suspicious behavior will report it.
Consider monitoring online activity
There’s a growing concern of Internet-initiated sex crimes, in which a sexual predator uses the Internet – specifically social media sites – to deceive and befriend a victim, such as a child.
Make sure your child’s social profiles are set to private, that their location is turned off and that they personally know their followers or “friends” online (do the same with your own accounts, too).
Just because a sex offender moved into your neighborhood, does not mean you should panic or move away. Though there’s no foolproof way to protect yourself or your children from a sexual assault, by taking these precautions and being informed about the threat, you have a better chance at ensuring this “new neighbor” never harms you or someone you love.