As someone who follows sex offender issues, I have seen a myriad of recent articles in the media that throw blame at the California parole system, the Contra Costa County Sherriff’s Office, the California state sex offender registry and other governmental agencies for not better protecting Jaycee Lee Duggard and not catching Phillip Garrido sooner (see this article for a blame list that runs the gammut). But throwing blame at governmental agencies only distracts us from the real threats to our child’s safety.
Family and Friends
High-profile cases like this stoke our fear that our children will be abducted by the creepy guy at the end of the block or that some stranger will snatch our children off the street. But, really, that creepy guy at the end of the street is probably much less of a threat to your child than your friendly neighbor, a family friend, or close relative: 93% of first-time sex offenders are friends, acquaintances, or family members—people who are not yet on any registry.
It’s scary to think that your husband, brother, son, aunt, or niece is the most likely person to sexually assault your child. So we put it out of our minds, and we focus on the registered sex offender down the street who we have never met and never talked to.
What We Can Prevent
In reality, despite the waves of criticism being lobbed at California laws and law enforcement for not finding Duggard sooner, there is little to no evidence that Duggard’s actual kidnapping could have been prevented. It has been widely reported that Duggard was snatched off the street—within sight of her own home—as she walked to a nearby school bus stop. Her own stepfather saw the kidnapping take place and was powerless to stop it. But this is an extremely rare case. Protecting your child from sexual predators within your own circle of friends and family is much more preventable.
Go Beyond ‘Stranger Danger’
The first step is talking with your children, not just about “stranger danger,” but about inappropriate touching or inappropriate conversations with people they already know. Let them know that they have the right to say “no” to an adult or teen who makes them feel uncomfortable—even if that person is a friend or family member.
In addition, create a relationship with your child wherein they feel comfortable sharing anything with you. Many child predators shame their victims by telling them that their parents won’t love them or want them anymore if they found out what they did. Make sure your child knows they can always talk to you about anything without shame or remorse.
I highly recommend taking a look at this list of suggestions about how to talk to your child and prevent sexual abuse by someone they know: http://www.stopitnow.org/mn/parents3.html
Also, here is a sobering site that lists sex offender statistics: http://www.geocities.com/voicism/index-charts.html#chta
Search your neighborhood crime map at CrimeReports.com