Sexual offenders prey on vulnerable children who can't or don't tell anyone what's happening. While it helps to teach your child to stay away from strangers, a child is much more likely to be sexually abused by someone the child knows. In fact, up to 90 percent of sexual abuse cases involve a friend, relative or other person the child knows and trusts.
Sexual abuse of a child is a crime - especially when it involves a person of trust like a teacher, medical religious adviser or coach. People in some professions - like healthcare providers and school counselors - have a "duty to report" suspected child abuse to the government. Any parent who suspects sexual abuse of a child also has a duty to report these suspicions to the appropriate authority.
Sex offenders may come into your child's life as a neighbor, acquaintance, relative, teacher, babysitter or step-parent, or in some other role that involves trust and spending time with the child. Most sex offenders are men, but 15 to 20 percent are female. About 40 percent of abusers are teenagers.
Before you leave your child in the care of another person, check the list of registered sex offenders in your area; the U.S. Department of Justice website has links to the sexual offender registries of every state, territory and tribal nation in the United States.
Supervise Your Children
Sexual offenders count on being alone with the child, so take that opportunity away from them. Don't leave young children alone at home or in your car. Know where older children are at all times. If your child is at a friend's house, day care, or an after-school activity, drop in unexpectedly.
If you must leave a teenager home alone, insist that your teenager call you when he or she gets home and not allow anyone in the house. Supervise Internet and social media use. Teach the child that adults sometimes pretend to be children online, so they should never arrange meetings with unknown people.
Communicate With Your Child
Children who live in stable homes with caring parents who listen to them are less vulnerable to sexual offenders. Talk to your children about boundaries and unhealthy touching. Make it clear that you want to know if they feel uncomfortable with someone, even a friend or family member. Be sensitive to the child's mood and, if the child seems to be uncomfortable after being with a particular person, ask what’s is going on.
Set Up a Safety Plan
Your child should know how to contact you when you are not together. Discuss what the child should do when feeling threatened. Teach the child to call 911 if at home or to run to a safe house in the neighborhood. Agree on a code word that you'll give to any adult you ask to pick the child up from school or anywhere else. Instruct the child that if the person doesn't have the code word, the child should refuse to go with that person.
A Family Law Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding child abuse and family law is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.