By TopTenReviews Contributor
With the rise in child pornography, Internet predators and the development and instigation of new laws, child sexual abuse and exploitation is at the forefront of the media. Popular news programs, such as Dateline’s ”To Catch a Predator,” reveal online predators as they attempt to sexually assault minors. Online sex offender registries disclose that registered sex offenders are among all classes, races and cultures.
This problem affects all of us, whether you have children or not. According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, 30 percent of adult sex offenders were sexually abused as children. If we each do our part, we can break the cycle and protect our children from sexual predators.
Here are some other statistics about sex offenders and their young victims that may surprise you and debunk some myths.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the U.S.:
- – Two-thirds (67 percent) of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.
- – One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies was under age 6.
- – The year in a male’s life when he is most likely to be the victim of a sexual assault is age 4; a female’s greatest risk is at age 14.
- – Nearly half (49 percent) of the offenders of victims under age 6 were family members..
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the typical sex offender molests an average of 117 children, although most offenses are never reported.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, in the US:
- – 80 percent of convicted adult rapists admit to molesting children.
- – 80 to 95 percent of sex offenders assault people they know.
- – Less than 30 percent of sex crimes are reported.
- – Young victims who know or are related to the offender are least likely to report the crime.
It is estimated that in America there are 60 million childhood sexual abuse survivors.
Tips to Protect Our Children
Whether you have children of your own, nieces, nephews, siblings or friends with children, here are some easy-to-follow tips to help ensure the safety of the children in your life.
Trust Your Instincts
If a relationship between an adult and a child seems unusual or not quite right, it is worth investigating. Some common signs of abuse include:
- An adult spends time with a child in unique or isolated situations.
- The child withdraws from other friends and spends their time with one adult.
- The child receives unexplained gifts.
Teach Children That Some Secrets Are Bad
An open line of communication between children and parents is paramount. Children should feel as if they could share anything with their parents. Teach children from a young age the difference between harmless secrets shared with their friends and inappropriate ones. Children should understand that there should never be secrets kept from parents.
Teach That Saying ”No” Is OK
We teach our children to respect authority and to do as they are told. However, kids should also understand that it is okay to say ”no” if they feel uncomfortable, regardless of whom they are confronting. It is helpful to practice this technique in different scenarios.
Role-play and Use ”What If” Scenarios
One of the best ways to teach children to say no is to role-play. You can pretend to be the perpetrator in different situations and ask your children for help finding a kitten or offer them a toy if they will come with you. Remind children that not all offenders are strangers. The perpetrator is more likely to be someone they know.
In addition, you can create ”what if” scenarios. Ask your children how they would react if they were in a dangerous situation. Also, ask why they would react that way.
Talk to Your Children About the Internet
The Internet can be an invaluable resource for information and educational material, but it can also be dangerous. Warn your children that they should never give out personal information online or meet someone in person that they met online. For more information on Internet safety and children, read ”Protecting Your Kids in the Real Virtual World.”
Remember Your Teenagers
We often think of young children as targets of sexual assault, however, teens can also be victims of sexual abuse and shouldn’t be forgotten. For more information on talking to your teens read ”Protecting Teens from Sexual Abuse.”
Use Stories in the Media as Teaching Tools
Your children may have questions about stories of abuse from the media. Their questions should be addressed directly at a level they can understand. This is a good opportunity to ask, ”What could you have done to prevent this situation?”
As concerned citizens, we can make our neighborhoods safer places for children. Through our efforts, we can lower the statistics and decrease the number of sex abuse stories we read in the media.
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