Q: I watch the news and I often see deviants that prey on children to satisfy disturbing sexual desires. My question is how do I protect my children from these sexual predators?

A: Thank you for posing this important question. Protecting children from any kind of predator is a serious concern to all parents and communities and an issue that must be addressed. In Santa Monica, just like in any major city, it is important for us to remember that a child predator can be anywhere. It is imperative that we instill a sense of awareness and understanding not only in our children but also in ourselves.

Child predators often have well-developed techniques for luring victims. They are able to seduce children with attention, affection and gifts; have hobbies and interests appealing to children; and may show sexually explicit videos or pictures to children. Generally, they are skilled at identifying victims and are able to identify better with children than adults. Teach your children to avoid situations that put them in danger of abuse, molestation, or abduction. A safe and supportive home environment, combined with clear instructions about what behavior is acceptable and what is not will guide your child’s actions and encourage your child to tell you if something improper happens.

Many parents warn their children not to talk to strangers. But more often than not, the child knows an abuser or abductor. He or she can be a school bus driver, teacher, relative, neighbor, or family friend. Many times the molestation occurs in the home of the victim or the abuser. It is best to teach your child to avoid certain situations or actions. Children should know from an early age that some behavior is not acceptable, and that they have the right to tell an adult to leave them alone.

We also need to understand that there are sexual registrants who do reside in Santa Monica in homes or on the streets. It is imperative that we convey this to our children as well as understand that sexual predators do not just prey on children but can also prey on adults.

Know what sexual predators count on

As a society we vehemently condemn child molesters but when someone we know in the community is accused, individuals take sides often refusing to believe that “a pillar of the community” could commit this type of a crime. The true seducer type pedophile is extremely good at what he/she does. They put themselves in a position in their community where they have easy access to children. They will often work hard (sometimes for years) to gain the trust of parents while at the same time be sexually abusing their child.

If an allegation is made against this person by another child, it is often too emotionally difficult for families who trusted and allowed the accused into their home to believe that they could commit such an act against a child. The betrayal is too great and many families will not only deny the possibility, but will blame and defame the child making the allegation. This is what the offender counts on. Families tricked by cunning predators could not have possibly imagined the degree of betrayal possible and the extent to which a predator would go to get at a child.

Here are some specific rules you can teach your child:

• Stay away from people who call you near their car.

• If someone tries to take you away, yell, “This person is not my father (or mother)” and scream.

• If you get lost in a store, find another mom with children or go to the checkout counter. Don’t wander around on your own.

• You don’t have to keep secrets from your parents. No one can hurt your parents or pets if you tell what happened.

• No one should touch you in the parts covered by your bathing suit, and you should not be asked to touch anyone there.

• Don’t let anyone take your picture without permission from your parents or teacher.

Although most high-profile cases deal with stranger abduction and molestation, most child sexual abuse happens with those whom a child has an established and trusting relationship. If you want to prevent this abuse, you have to focus your prevention efforts on clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of those who are in relationships with children. You have the power to protect your child from sexual predators, and you must know that Megan’s Law is not the only answer. Your long-term commitment to changing certain parenting practices will significantly reduce the potential of your child falling prey to a sexual predator.

If you suspect anything, please do not hesitate to reach out to the SMPD at (310) 458-8495. I have also provided some useful phone numbers below:

• State of California Megan’s Law:

www.meganslaw.ca.gov

www.parentsformeganslaw.org/

• Sex Offender Registry for other states:

www.fbi.gov

• Operation Predator:

www.ice.gov

• Office of the Attorney General, Bill Lockyer:

www.ag.ca.gov

290 PC websites:

• Adult Obscenity, www.obscenitycrimes.org

Missing Persons / Children websites:

• California Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit- www.caag.state.ca.us/missing (Int’l missing, most wanted)

• National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

www.missingkids.com 1(800) THE-LOST

• Amber Alert:

(800) 222-FIND

• National Runaway Switchboard:

(800) RUN-AWAY www.nrscrisisline.org

• Interface:

www.icfs.org (800) 339-9597

• Association of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations:

www.amecoinc.org

•The CyberTipLine (Child Pornography Tip line):

(800) 843-5678

This column was prepared by NRO Robert Lucio (Beat 6: Montana Avenue to Interstate 10, 20th Street to Centinela Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0686 or roberto.lucio@smgov.net.

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