Is There a Sex Offender Next Door to You?

Years ago, I dated a fella who had kids. I remember he used to turn off the news if there was a story about a kid getting hurt. To tell the truth, I thought he was a little weird, but now that I have a daughter, I totally understand him. I can’t stand hearing about a child in danger because all I can think of is Maisie in that same situation. So when I hear a story about a girl like Chelsea King reportedly being murdered by a known sex offender, well, it makes me absolutely crazy.

Of course, nothing we do as parents can keep our kids safe from everything in life. It’s not like we can wrap them in bubble wrap and force them to sit in the middle of the bed 24/7. So off they’ll venture into the big, bad world where things will happen like scraped knees, knocked-out teeth and, yes, even sexual abuse and murder.

I think the best thing we can do is to be prepared and informed. This no doubt comes from all my years as a Girl Scout. Our motto was “Be prepared” and, to this day, I am whenever I can be. I can’t protect Maisie from everything, but I can sure as hell try to keep her safe from things I know are dangerous—like open electrical outlets, swimming pools—and registered sex offenders.

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To that end, I think it’s really important to know who your friends and neighbors are. Are your kids fraternizing with a known sex offender while you eat bon bons on the couch? It’s possible. After all, 90 percent of sexual abuse happens with somebody the kid knows. And it’s not like sex offenders have green noses or horns coming out of their heads. Nope. They look just like you and me.

Some of the best tools you can use are websites that track offenders. There are several out there, but personally I like www.familywatchdog.us. When you put in your zip code, up pops all the registered sex offenders who live or work in your surrounding area. You can see a photo and a description of the crime of which they were convicted. There are all sorts of facts and figures about sex offenders on the site, too. It’s the type of stuff none of us really want to read, but we all need to know.

The good news is Westchester County is pretty good when it comes to the number of registered sex offenders. That’s not to say there aren’t any out there. There are.

Now, if you do a search and you happen to find out your next-door neighbor is one—well, now you know and now you can deal with it. Of course, the site also says that a typical sexual predator will assault 117 times before being caught. So just because your neighbor isn’t on the list doesn’t mean you don’t need to watch your kids with everybody. In fact, the abuser is often a family member, so be forewarned. You don’t need to be nuts or anything, but eagle-eyed parents are never sorry.

This is not to say you should then go burn his or her house down, throw eggs at his window, or start a petition to get the predator thrown out of town. Rather, it’s just a good tool to be able to protect your little one from yet one more crummy thing in the world.

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