Keeping your Children Safe
Community Justice has had the opportunity to work with the sex offender population for several years. As a result of behavioral-cognitive therapy, and an emphasis on honesty and accountability, Community Justice has had the opportunity to discover general characteristics of grooming techniques that sex offenders have used to target victim populations and gain access to potential future victims. The following list is derived from practitioners in the field who work with sex offenders. This list is designed for parents and guardians who want to promote a safer environment and help stop future abuse:
- Create and maintain a family culture of open dialogue and communication
- Be willing to ask tough questions as well as answer tough questions
- Encourage transparency and honesty
- Be specific with guidelines and maintain consistency
- Know your children’s peers, teachers, coaches, other parents
Child Safety Is the Responsibility of Everyone
Because children cannot necessarily look out for themselves, it is critical that they be looked after. Every home and school should consider the establishment of a program that effectively teaches children about safety and protection measures.
As a parent, you can take an active interest in your children and listen to them. You have the opportunity to teach your children that they can be assertive in order to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation. Most importantly, you have the ability to make your home a place of trust and support that fulfills your child’s needs, so that he or she won’t seek love and support from someone else.
The Exploiter or Abductor: Not A "Stranger"
"Stay away from strangers" is a popular warning to children to prevent abduction or exploitation. Unfortunately, many children are abducted or exploited by people who have some type of familiarity with the children but who may or may not be known to the parents.
The term STRANGER suggests a concept that children do not understand, and is one that ignores what we do know about the people who commit crimes against children. The term STRANGER might mislead children into believing that they should be aware only of individuals who have an unusual or slovenly appearance. Instead, it is more appropriate to teach our children to be on the lookout for certain kinds of SITUATIONS or ACTIONS rather than certain kinds of individuals.
Children can be raised to be polite and friendly, but it is okay for them to be suspicious of any adult asking for assistance. Children help other children, but there is no need for them to be assisting adults. Children should not be asked to keep special secrets from their parents and, of course, children should not be asked to touch anyone in the bathing suit areas of their body or allow anyone to touch them in those areas. Often exploiters or abductors initiate a seemingly innocent contact with the victim. They may try to get to know the children and befriend them. They use subtle approaches that both parents and children should be aware of.
Children should be taught to stay away from individuals in vehicles, such as cars or vans; and they should know that it is okay to say NO, even to an adult. Remember, a clear, calm and reasonable message about SITUATIONS and ACTIONS to look out for is easier for a child to understand than a particular profile or image of a "stranger."
What You Can Do To Prevent Child Abduction and Exploitation
Don’t dismiss your intuition. If something feels wrong, act on it.
- Know where your children are at all times.
- Be familiar with their friends and daily activities.
- Be sensitive to changes in your children’s behavior; these changes are a signal that you should sit down and talk to your children about what caused the changes.
- Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your children or giving them inappropriate or expensive gifts.
- Teach your children to trust their own feelings, and assure them that they have the right to say NO to what they sense is wrong.
- Listen carefully to your children’s fears, and be supportive in all your discussions with them.
- Teach your children that no one should approach them or touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If someone does, they should tell the parents immediately.
- Be detailed and exercise care in your knowledge of babysitters and any other individuals who have care of your children.