Chapter Nine: What You Can do to Protect Your Child, Yourself, and Your Community

What resources and tips are available to you to protect your children, yourself and those around you?

Kidslivesafe.com

As referenced in Chapter 5, Kids Live Safe is an innovative organization focused on protecting kids from sexual predators. Kids Live Safe empowers parents by allowing them to take control of the safety of their children. Their website offers full access to profiles of registered sex offenders in nearby areas, as well as across the country. In each search, Kids Live Safe provides you with information on the sex offender such as a picture, their physical description, first and last name, where they live, and what offenses they have committed. In addition, you can set up "monitoring areas" which allow you monitor for new sex offenders registering near you or any designated area. Kids Live Safe will send an email alert whenever a new offender has registered within 5 miles of your monitoring area. Additionally, Kids Live Safe also includes Emergency Response Profiles to recover your children in case they are lost or abducted, FBI Crime Data by city, and a learning center with vital content to keep your kids and loved ones safe from harm.

Educate your Children

In addition to using Kids Live Safe, it is vital that parents educate children about their potential risks of sexual abuse and abduction. "Approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18." Such a traumatic experience would affect any child immensely, regardless of demographics, physical appearance, intelligence, or disability. You must always stress to your child that keeping an open dialogue and trust between you two is extremely important and would mean a lot to you. If you establish a trusting relationship with your child from an early age, they are more likely to share potentially vital and dangerous information with you. They will be more inclined to tell you about things going on in their lives if you maintain friendly and approachable conditions. There is a very fine line between maintaining a good relationship with your child and becoming so-called "helicopter parents" who strictly monitor their children’s every move and don’t give them space to make any decisions. Try to notice signs of withdrawal and anger from your child if they feel as if you are prying too much into their lives. Keeping in touch with your gut instinct is usually a good indicator of what to do in certain situations.

Educating your children about their bodies when they are young, and that those parts are their own and for no one else to touch, is vital because as they begin to get older they associate with more children of all ages. Teaching them about their right to say "NO" to anything they don’t feel comfortable with is a good way to get them to understand that their bodies are their own and they should not be worried about what others think of them. Being an involved parent will also allow you to supervise your child’s interactions with adults in charge. If you begin to notice any suspicious behavior, it will be easier to talk about it if you have already established open discussions with them.

In order for you to be able to protect your child, you must always protect yourself so that there could be no possibility of attacks with the people you and your child associate with. Go with your gut instinct when it comes to your comfort level with another adult: these instincts are usually right. Many parents brush off these feelings of uncertainty and discomfort, especially if the person they are feeling uncomfortable about is a family member or friend. It is important to investigate these instincts and never talk yourself out of them without paying attention to all of the warning signs first.

Protect your Child, Yourself and Community

Protecting your child and yourself go hand in hand with protecting your community. If you are protecting those around you, you are also spreading awareness and education across the community. Through the protection of close friends and family, you share tips that they will then begin to share and spread. Take an active role in the community and educate children and parents alike of the dangers of sexual abuse and molestation. There is a small movement for the creation of policies to reduce, and even eliminate, situations where one adult is alone with one child. It is important to lobby for these policies in youth organizations and school clubs. Parents need to insist that all adults who work with children should be screened and interviewed in depth. Many offenders’ pasts are discovered after a sexual assault happens, which is why it is so important to insist on legitimate and detailed background checks and professional recommendations for adults who work with kids. By staying active in the online community, city hearings, your child’s school, and with local law enforcement, you could make a tremendous impact in someone’s life. Becoming friends with your neighbors and getting to know them is important so that you can work together to defend the community. Although you must still be wary to leave your neighbors alone with your children, it is still important to establish relationships so that you may organize neighborhood block watches and community meetings that discuss child abuse statistics and prominent issues in the community. A community effort is best in protecting the ones we love most.

In all, education, awareness, and trusting your gut feeling are key aspects of protecting your child, yourself, and your community. Never underestimate someone’s capabilities or overestimate their seemingly good nature and trust. Know the statistics and inform your child of them and of the dangers. You never know when such simple, yet meaningful, knowledge could potentially save their lives.