This topic qualifies as more than just paranoia. Sexual offenses against our children, no matter their age, is probably one of the greatest fears of many parents. And I feel like I failed my first test.
I have had this fantastic website, the Family Watchdog, forwarded to me a few times by family and friends. If you enter in any address, they will show you a map of sexual offenders’ homes and workplaces with icons on a map. If you click on the icon, you can see a mug shot of the offender, and find out more about their conviction.
The first time I did it, I found a few offenders a few miles away or more. I live on the edge of a highly populated area. I was actually pretty happy with how far I was from the closest offender.
The next time it was forwarded to me, I did another search. I clicked on the icon for my house, and brought up a mug shot. There is an offender who lives so close to my home, it looks like his icon is inside our little house icon. He lives .03 miles away. Two houses down.
I have stared as his picture. I glare at his red BMW every time I walk my son to the bus stop. He made the first appearance outside of his house in six months last week to play with a new puppy in the front yard. He lives with his girlfriend, has a pet, and never leaves the house. He probably works over the internet, like me.
I have examined his conviction: “Use Internet to solicit/attempt solicit etc. a child for sex/lewdness etc; F.S. 847.0135(3) (PRINCIPAL).” I assume that means he used the internet to try to meet up with a child for sex. I don’t know if it was a male or a female child, which is pure selfishness on my part to want to know. I have two boys. My roommate has a girl. There are many more children, boys and girls of all ages on the block. I don’t know how old the child was. Probably older than my oldest, who is seven, and only goes on Neopets on the internet, and that is supervised. But, my kids are getting older every day.
I talked to my neighbor who lives in the house in between. I told him what I found, and asked him to tell me if he ever saw anything suspicious. I fretted about what to say to my older son. I ended up saying nothing other than the same general comments on his private parts being his own, and to tell me if anyone wanted to touch them. I dreamed up letters I could put in the mailboxes on the street, DVDs I would order to show my sons, but I did nothing.
When we were on our way home from the bus stop last week, he pointed out the house with the red BMW out front, and said, “A bad man lives there.” I tried not to show the terror in my eyes.
“How do you know?” I asked quickly.
“Oh, Luis’s mom told us to watch out, that a bad man lived there.”
Luis’s mom. Luis’s mom who I underestimate constantly, who barely speaks English, is the one who prepared my son against this sexual offender. I was frozen with fear, fear of saying the wrong thing, of having to explain rape and molestation to a seven year old. So, I didn’t tell him or any of his friends or their parents about the threat in the neighborhood. I am glad Luis’s mom stepped up.
I hope all of our children’s first and every experience with sex are voluntary and wonderful.
Here are some more websites that parents and kids may find useful:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – External Links Page – includes many hotlines and regional resources
Safer Child, Inc.- Help with an Abusive Situation - Hotlines for rape, child abuse, domestic abuse
Nemours Foundation – KidsHealth – Dealing with problems: Rape
Nemours Foundation – KidsHealth – Internet safetyhttp://www.kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/internet_safety.html