Child Threat - Sexual Offenses
Today's Victim - Tomorrow's Predator (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Many youth in the juvenile justice system have been sexually abused. This is particularly true in matters involving juvenile sex offenses. Often, they go untreated, either because their parents don't know what has occurred, or upon finding out about the same, mistakenly believe that young children will forget what has happened to them as they grow-up. And the cycle continues... Today's sex offense victim becomes tomorrow's predator. Needless to say, it is imperative that any child found to have been sexually abused receive professional help immediately. Some of the signs of sexual abuse reported to us by the parents of victims include: frequent nightmares, fear of certain individuals and/or places, anxiety attacks, incessant showering or scratching of the skin while engaged in personal hygiene, posting of fecal material, bedwetting, persistent or unexplained health problems, genital infections or injuries, self-mutilation, aggressive and violent outbursts, social withdrawal, inappropriate touching or friendliness with other children and/or adults, and sexual talk or acts inconsistent with a child's age group. In older children, alcohol and substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation are also common. We understand this is an uncomfortable subject for many parents. But in terms of helping children in need and preventing delinquency, few issues warrant greater attention.
Good Touch/Bad Touch (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): A lot of kids are not prepared by their well-intentioned parents for the possibility of becoming a victim of sexual abuse. Teach your children the difference between a good and a bad touch, the names of their body parts, and their private zones, which are off-limits. Reinforce that no one (aside from a doctor with a parent present) should ever touch them in their private zones with a hand, sexual organ, mouth or by other means, and that they should not do the same to someone else, even if asked to. Equally important, stress that if something happens to them, your children should report it to you immediately and that you won't blame or ridicule them for it. Teaching these things to your kids will not only help prevent the all to common occurrence in which an older teen friend, cousin or sibling coaxes a younger child into a sexual act, but ensures that your children receive the help they need right away. It also increases the likelihood that the perpetrator will be identified quickly, resulting in accountability, and hopefully saving other children from being sexually abused.
Statutory Rape (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): There is an epidemic that exists in the U.S. these days that just about everyone seems to turn a blind eye to - statutory rape. Each year, thousands of girls in their early teens and younger are being lured into sexual practices by older men in their late teens and early 20's, with catastrophic results. Not surprisingly, cases of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and wrecked lives continue to mount. We don't know when society's permissive culture chose to ignore these blatant sexual offenses, but it is clear at some point it did. Schools, public service organizations and parents have allowed this disgrace to take place right under their noses. Even when informed of the obvious, they seldom report it to the police. Law enforcement hands are often tied, without a cooperative witness or other corroboration of an offense. Parents need to proactively safeguard their children from this threat by knowing where they are at all times and who they are with. Equally important, is that parents build a relationship of trust and understanding with their children, so that they will feel comfortable discussing their victimization, not only with them, but with police and prosecutors as well, to ensure that justice prevails.
"Come Right In..." (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): The majority of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their attackers. Ask any child protective service worker and you will quickly learn, aside from family members, it is most common for children to be sexually assaulted by someone their parent is dating. The majority of such cases involve single mothers who unknowingly invite pedophile boyfriends into their homes, thus providing access to their kids. Fortunately, this situation is easily preventable. Parents should not introduce a new boyfriend or girlfriend to their children unless absolutely certain they are not a threat. Keep the relationship outside your home and don't involve your kids until you know who you are dealing with. Give it time, and check them out first. Any inconvenience caused is worth it. Lonely or not, your social life should never come before the well-being of your children.
Law Enforcement Is Watching (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Internet predators aside, police and school administrators are reporting additional threats to children on sites like MySpace.com. Teens are using them to set up pages that openly promote gang affiliations. Many of these pages are used to harass innocent kids and challenge rival gangs to violent confrontations, that sometimes spill over into schools and on to the street. Not surprisingly, law enforcement professionals have taken to monitoring these sites for intelligence purposes, and when appropriate, effectuate arrests of juveniles who violate the law. However, parents should not rely upon the police, or anyone else, to raise their children and monitor what they are up to. Rather, parents must proactively visit these sites themselves and speak with their children about what they find. Keep in mind, many children will have more than one page - one to satisfy their parents, and another to discuss gangs, drugs, reckless sexual practices and violence. For additional tips on how to protect children online, please see the following posts below: Too Much Space, Internet Dangers and Instant Messaging & Email.
Too Much Space (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Despite all of the recent media attention about pedophiles approaching children online, too many parents are still allowing their kids unrestricted access to the Internet. You wouldn't allow your kids to play outside the home of a known sex offender would you? Then why would you allow thousands of the same sex offenders access to your children in the virtual world? A quick news search will reveal dozens of articles detailing how children have been fooled into meeting adults they met on sites like MySpace.com in person and were subsequently raped and even killed by them. Need additional proof? Maybe we can help... Overture is a Yahoo company which allows advertisers to market their products or services through the Yahoo search engine. To assist them in choosing the right keywords to bid on, Overture tracks searches made in any given month using Yahoo. We just used the Overture keyword selector tool and did a test search of the phrase "myspace.com teen" with disturbing results: Last month, 5585 Yahoo searches were conducted for "teen site myspace.com," 1001 for "teen sex site myspace.com," 984 for "nude teen myspace.com," 551 for "naked teen myspace.com," 305 for "teen porn site myspace.com," 289 for "teen slut site myspace.com," 235 for "horny teen site myspace.com," 156 for "young teen site myspace.com," etc. The list goes on and on. Many of the results were too disgusting to post here. Parents, just who do you think was conducting these searches looking for dirty pictures of teens on MySpace.com? If this doesn't change your mind, we don't know what will.
Date Rape Drugs (Chris, Pharmacist, Connecticut): Parents need to inform their kids about date rape drugs. PDP note: We agree... Typically found at raves, dance clubs, college gatherings and high school parties, Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid ("GHB"), Rohypnol and Ketamine, are often voluntarily taken by teens to "get high." Aside from being extremely dangerous and unpredictable, resulting in thousands of emergency room visits across the country, these drugs also share one additional distinction, that is, their role as date rape drugs. Rohypnol is often shipped from pharmaceutical operators located outside the United States, Ketamine is typically stolen from veterinary clinics, and GHB is manufactured in clandestine labs using solvents and cleaners. To understand the magnitude of the problem, one need only look at Woodstock '99. Over one hundred rapes were reported at the event (and experts believe there were up to five hundred more cases that went unreported), largely attributed to GHB. Colorless, odorless, and virtually tasteless, it can easily be slipped into a beverage and ingested, without the victim knowing, until it is too late. Moreover, because of the amnesia it produces, victims are often haunted by memories of a sexual assault for years after the attack, but are unable to identify those involved. Perpetrators know this, and in recent years have become more brazen. Cases involving couples and even small groups of people being drugged have occurred. There is no longer safety in numbers... Tell your children to only drink out of cans and bottles they open themselves and have constant control over. If they put it down and walk away, advise them not to drink it, but rather open a new one. And never share beverages or food with others...
Instant Messaging & Email (Anonymous, Minneapolis, MN): Children are developing their own language in an effort to throw parents off. For instance, "POS" when used in instant messaging or email means "Parents Over Shoulder." PDP note: This is going to require parents to be alert and diligent. Some acronyms are widely known, others may be agreed upon between your child and a few friends. Want to know what it means? Ask them. But don't automatically accept their explanation. Does it satisfy the straight face test? Remember, the Internet is a dangerous place for kids, with sexual predators virtually everywhere. In addition, "vices" such as prescription drugs are just a click away. At the same time, it has become a necessary evil, and the primary tool for students in completing class projects and research assignments. In our day and age a student's first reference source was an encyclopedia. Today, kids search online. Still, there are many steps you can take to protect your kids. Those mentioned hereinafter are just some of them. First, explain to your kids that the restrictions and limitations are in place not because you distrust them, but rather because you want to protect them. Educate your children about the threats that they face online and they will be less likely to fall prey to them when you aren't around, or if they use computers at school, a friend's house, or the local library. Advise your children never to communicate with strangers, go into chat rooms, or post information about themselves on the web. Don't allow "personal pages" with information and/or photographs about them, their friends, or family members. Even things like the name of a local ice-cream shop, a school sports team etc., can be used to track them down. Tell your children to report anything suspicious immediately, including emails or instant messages from strangers, especially those who claim to be "a friend of a friend." Have the family computer located in a common area such as the living room or den. Do not allow children to have Internet access behind closed doors. Just knowing someone else might walk by any moment will limit their temptation to break the rules. If possible, only allow them to use the computer while you are home and awake. This can be done via password. Obviously, if you or another adult are rarely home (which is another issue to be addressed) you don't want their studies to suffer. If your service provider has parental controls that block or filter the material your children can access, use it. Otherwise, buy a program, but recognize they aren't perfect and kids may figure out ways around them. Don't allow kids to access adult websites or those involving sex, drugs, hate groups, etc. Don't allow your children to use instant messaging. If you do, have them go over each and every person on their "buddy list" and link each "handle" to a specific friend. Know who they are and contact their parents to make sure. Build a good relationship with these parents. Find out what their policy is regarding the Internet and other parenting issues. If they let kids do what they want, without limitations, you might want to rethink allowing your children to go over their house or associate with their children for that matter. Our founder's grandmother used to say, "Tell me who you are going around with and I'll tell you who you are." It makes sense doesn't it? Good parenting is a team approach. Parents need to work together to protect their kids. If you have discussed the rules of computer usage and Internet surfing with your children and monitored the same, but believe something may be wrong, sit down and discuss it with them again. If you continue to be worried, spot check their email and look up the history and cookies of websites they have visited. Your computer's operating system stores this information.