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Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Sex Offenders

Trust your instincts.

Trust your instincts when you are with someone you feel uncomfortable around (e.g., in an elevator, in a car, in your home). This can be especially difficult for children and adults who have been socialized to be polite. Do not talk yourself out of feeling uncomfortable being alone with someone simply because he or she is an acquaintance or a friend of a friend. Most sexual abusers are someone the victim knows. Be wary of friends or dates who test your boundaries by making unwanted physical advances and then ignore or minimize your protests and other signs that you don't like their behavior.

Take action.

Talk openly about the sexual assault of adults and children, men, women, boys and girls.

Understand the issues involved in sexual assault. Know the statistics.

Assume preventing sexual assault is everyone's responsibility.

Increase your knowledge about risk reduction measures you can take to protect yourself.

Get to know your neighbors.

Organize neighborhood watches.

Invite police, the rape crisis center or a child abuse prevention organization to a neighborhood meeting to learn about the issue and to help people process their emotions.

Do not wait until you are informed that a sex offender is living nearby to begin educating yourself and loved ones about sexual assault.

Find out what the statistics on child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, offender arrest and incarceration are in your community.

Beware of the media's ability to sensationalize the worst stories about the sexual assault of children or adults. These stories, while real and very frightening, are not the norm.


Talk with your kids.

Talk to your children about personal safety issues as they relate to child sexual abuse. Do this when you talk to your children about bike safety, crossing the street,or talking to strangers. It is, in many ways, just another personal safety rule about which children need to be aware. Inform children it's wrong for adults to engage children in sexual activity.

Stress to your child that he or she should feel comfortable telling you anything, especially if it involves another adult. If your child does not feel comfortable being completely honest with you, then together you should find another trusted adult your child can talk to in confidence.

Make an effort to know the people with whom your child is spending time.

Knowledge is power. This is especially true for protecting children from sexual assault. Teach your children about their bodies. Give them the correct language to use when describing their private parts. Emphasize that these parts are private.

Be involved in your children's activities. This will give you a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge interact with your children. If you are concerned about anyone's behavior, discuss it with the sponsoring organization.

Listen to your children. Pay attention if your kids tell you that they do not want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may indicate more than just a personality conflict or lack of interest in the activity or event.

Notice when someone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Take the time to talk to your children about this person and find out why the person is acting in this way.

Teach your children that they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable or confusing touch or actions by others. Teach them to tell you immediately if this happens. Reassure them that you are there to help and it is okay to tell you anything.

Be sensitive to any changes in your children's behavior or attitude. Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen to small cues and clues that something may be troubling your children, because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, noncritical, and nonjudgmental. Listen compassionately to their concerns and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.

Be sure to screen babysitters and caregivers. Contact Fargo Police at 241-1420 to request a criminal history report on potential caregivers. Check references with other families the babysitter has worked for. Once you have chosen a caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and listen carefully to their responses.

Practice basic safety skills with your children. Make an outing to a mall or a park a teachable experience in which your children can practice checking with you, using pay phones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who can help if they need assistance. Remember that allowing your children to wear clothing or carry items in public on which their name is displayed can bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people who may be looking for a way to start a conversation with your children.

Remember there is no substitute for your attention and supervision. Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security.

Also remember that in the vast majority of cases (up to 90%), children are molested by someone they know. Your efforts at keeping your child safe must reflect this and not focus exclusively on the danger that strangers may present.


Advice for your teenager

Adolescence is a scary time for children, and one in which they are most at risk for sexual assault. Prepare for the possibility that they may engage in some risk-taking behavior and try to minimize that risk by educating them about the danger of sexual assault by friends, acquaintances and others. This danger is enhanced when teenagers are abusing drugs or alcohol.

Encourage your teenager to trust her or his instincts and if a situation makes him or her uneasy, to get out of it.

Stress to them that they can always talk to you if they have been hurt or scared (regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident).