/> Raising Angels: Protecting My Children

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Protecting My Children

I just returned from a seminar on sexual abuse. Topics covered how to protect your children, warning signs to watch for, and counseling advice for those who have experienced abuse.

I have a graduate degree in counseling so the topic is not a new one. It became personal three years ago when I discovered that our new neighbor of six months was a registered child molester.

My initial reaction was nausea and total fear. Our houses are very close. He knew Mackenzie's name and had been over to help me change a flat tire. Up to that point he was the model neighbor; but, when the discovery was made, I ran inside, locked all the doors and called Nelson sobbing in fear.

When I came to my senses, I was able to fall back on the limited knowledge I had of how these people operate. I made calls to the sexual offenders probation officer for our area, local police officers, as well as a Catholic psychiatrist.

My husband confronted the man and gave him the chance to own up to his sin. He lied about his crime and Nelson set forth strict rules about how he wanted him to relate to us. Namely: 1. He is never to come to our door for anything. 2. He may never speak to me or our children. 3. If he needs anything, he is to address Nelson only and then Nelson would help him if he can.

At first it seemed a bit extreme. As a Christian I felt very torn. After all, aren't we supposed to love our neighbors? Here was a man who had just spent 9 years in a federal penitentiary. Finally, he has a home and neighbors who don't know his past.

The advice we were given along with my own knowledge told us that our first priority is to protect our children. In protecting our children, we're helping to protect him. If he is caught again, he goes away for good. Consequently, I can't speak to him, because if my kids see that I trust him, they will too. It makes for an awkward situation to say the least.

At first I really questioned God about why He would allow someone like that to live next door to me. I soon realized that He did it so that someone would be praying for that man. I may not be able to speak to him, but I can intercede for him.

What it has also done is open my eyes to the situation unlike any class I ever took. I have and will continue to address the topic with my own children so that hopefully they will be protected from any abuse. I will be the vigilante parent, who will drive my kids crazy with a battery of questions.

I will pray. I will pray. I will pray. (I will also move.)


Blogger Theo C said...

I can understand your fear, and certainly we must protect the children, but there is a real problem with current measures, too.

The sexual offense registry not only includes child molesters but any form of battery or assault that has a sexual connection. I know one guy who pushed his ex-wife back when she yelled into his face. She charged him with assault and his stupid lawyer argued that it was best to just stay away from her and let the charge stand. Now he is on the state sexual offender list-- and boy was he surprised to find his name! Even his ex-wife admits today (20 years later) that it was not assault, just her way of getting even with him.

Note also that armed robbers and even murderers can serve their time and return to the community-- and there is no database for people to track them. But sexual offenders, their pictures, the charges, and their addresses are published. Vigilantes have even used the database to vandalize and brutalize these men (and women).

We had one guy in my neighborhood who despite seeming to be a good neighbor, was perpetually assaulted verbally and had people putting signs up near his yard, "Beware of sexual pervert!" He seemed remorseful for what he had done, but there could never be forgiveness.

We found him one day hanging from the light fixture over his dining room table.

Maybe he thought that if no one could forgive him, even himself, that there was no mercy from God, either?

I am not excusing what he did. But I can understand why a man might prefer death to the shame and perpetual humiliation of the listing and the ridicule of neighbors. It might be kinder to kill them.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I had to attend a similar seminar at my last church. Anyone who worked with children regularly (more than once, basically) had to attend. This meant anyone who taught CCD, anyone who volunteered to help with lunch or recess at the school, anyone who worked in the school - paid or volunteer. Many of the volunteers felt that they were being treated as guilty...they felt the mandatory background criminal checks and the seminar on child molesters was intursive and offensive (at least these were the comments I heard BEFORE the seminar began...I don't know if they changed their mind after viewing the videos and discussing them).

The seminar was broken up into two parts with a break in the middle. The first part interviewed convicted child molesters who discussed their motive and modus operandi. It made me sick to my stomach. I spoke with the moderator at the break - I honestly was getting ready to leave. I didn't think I could handle anymore of it. She assured me that it ended on a hopeful note. Sure enough, the second half focused on what behaviors child molesters had that triggered those uncomfortable feelings: giving inappropriate gifts, prefering the company of children over adults, permitting or encouraging behavior in children that counters the parents rules, etc.

All in all, I felt that the seminar empowered me to be intelligently aware of what behaviors to be aware of.

I agree with Theo that people are on the list who should not be. I agree that there is a problem when someone serves their time for their crime, but continues to be punsihed afterward. But I fault the courts who don't seem to feel that life sentences are appropriate for these crimes. Child molesters simply can not be trusted around children ever. When an alcoholic reforms, (s)he generally avoids alcohol and bars to ensure abstinence. If (s)he fails and takes a drink, the results may be unpleasant (a close friend is the daughter of an alcoholic and I'm intimately familiar with the ramifications of that behavior on those close to someone like that), but are not nearly as devastating for the innocent victims as they would be for the innocent victim of a child molester who "slipped".

So, I think your precautions were as charitable as possible. And your prayers were probably the reason God put him there.

And yes, moving away from him will be another reason to celebrate in your new home!

6:56 AM  
Blogger Amy Parris said...

See Blog entry for 3-9-06

11:26 PM  

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