Offenses against children are considered to be the most heinous even among the criminals. While children may fear the monster under the bed, parents fear the monster that lives next door.
Beginning with the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh in July 1981, Americans have been gripped with fear that a child they love will become the next victim. Even as this article is being written an Associated Press headline from Michigan reads “Body Found Near Missing Girl’s Town.”
Parents, teachers, lawmakers, community leaders and law enforcement officers are all troubled by the horror that threatens our children. Laws have been passed that require sex offenders to notify local law enforcement departments when they move into an area and in many communities registered sex offenders are restricted from living within a prescribed distance of places where children congregate i.e. schools and parks.
While laws such as these are essential to curb the rise in violent crimes against children, one of the best tools available is education. Parents, teachers and other adults as well as children themselves need to be educated on how to stay safe. Children need to be taught how to stay safe. Children need to know what behaviors are appropriate and what behaviors are not appropriate, and they need to be able to tell a trusted adult about any situation in which they feel threatened or uncomfortable. As much as we would like to believe that the boogey man is a disheveled stranger lurking in the shadows, the statistics tell us that most crimes against children are committed by someone they know. This fact makes it even more crucial to teach children to recognize potentially unsafe situations. There are many tools that can be used in the education process. The most important thing is that healthy interaction be established between the responsible adults and the child.