Wherever it occurs, child abuse is wrong. Wherever it occurs, victimization of children is wrong. We have heard a lot in the news in the past year about victimization of kids–from the Casey Anthony trial and on. From time to time, we offer suggestions that we hope help parents keep kids safer. At one time, we were taught the phrase, “stranger danger,” but Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says it isn’t necessarily strangers who are the biggest danger to kids.
Allen has some comments and cautions for parents* and those of us who are guardians of children. Allen says that people who victimize kids are rarely strangers. “The offenders do not match society’s stereotype,” he says. “Most Americans want to believe that someone who would prey upon a child…is evil-looking, a menacing, frightening stranger.” Yet, most of the time those who victimize children are not strangers to the child, they are known to the child and seek out legitimate access to a child. Because of this fact, it is important that leading children-serving organizations do background screening of their staff and volunteers, and monitor and supervise interactions between adults and children.
Child victims rarely tell on the person who victimizes them. Research shows that at least 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be victimized in some way before they reach the age of 18, and just 1 in 3 will tell anyone about it. Allen says, “These are America’s hidden victims. We have made progress as a nation in attacking this problem but even today, two out of three child victims suffer in silence. They don’t tell Mom, they don’t tell Dad, they don’t tell anybody.”
“The most important things parents can do is communicate with your children and empower them. Make sure that they understand that you love them, trust them, and believe them and that if anyone ever touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell you or a trusted adult.”
“Second, the first line of defense is a vigilant public. If you see it, know about it or suspect it, report it. Call your local police and then call 1 (800) THE LOST or report it towww.cybertipline.com, at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has helped bring thousands of kids home safely. Childsafetyblog.org is grateful to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for all they do.
By Marianne Frederick
*Allen, Ernie, CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “Those Who Victimize Children Are Usually Not Strangers” Commentary, 12/09/11.