How to Protect Kids from Sexual Predators
Open communication with children is vital
Anchorage police say sexual abuse of children is happening more often than we know – and the scary part is the abusers are people both we and our kids trust and love, which makes it harder for the victims to talk. And with new cases popping up all the time, the question is how can we truly protect our kids?
It’s cases like convicted child pornographer and therapist Andrew William Young and Leonardo Lovette, the after school tutor accused of eight counts of sexual abuse of a minor, that leave all of us parents shocked, disgusted, and mad. But advocates say in order to put sexual perpetrators in jail, we have to get our kids to feel safe to talk and teach them to be comfortable to do so.
It is every parent's nightmare: a trusted neighbor like Leonardo Lovette who is accused of raping a 9-year-old girl and her 5-year-old sister. Then, there's Andrew William Young, who worked with sexually abused children and taught sex education to fifth-graders. Young was recently convicted of possessing what police say was the largest stash of child pornography in the city. A neighbor, a counselor – people both kids and their parents knew and trusted, those we often suspect the least could be causing the most harm.
“It’s relatives, it’s friends, it’s baby sitters,” said Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, the medical director of Alaska Cares, an outpatient clinic that provides close to 900 sexual abuse evaluations for children in Anchorage. “Its sickening,” said Sgt. Cindi Stanton, who is head of Anchorage police’s Crimes Against Children unit. “I say it matter of factly, but it’s true, and it’s really, I think, important for the public to understand that’s the case and its not just something that just springs up every once in awhile.”
But it's difficult to get child molesters convicted because the victims sometimes take years to talk usually because they've been threatened, which is why experts say communication is key. “Maybe it’s not physical violence, maybe it’s your mom's going to be mad at me,” said Stanton. “You have to think down on a kids level on what threats might work with a child.”
“The more parents talk with their children about this issue, the less scary it becomes,” said Jamie Bridges, the education development coordinator for Standing Together Against Rape.
Using tools like “The Right Touch” book to break down what's okay and what's not okay when it comes to their bodies. “Being able to just openly talk about body parts and what body parts are okay for someone to touch and what body parts are not okay for someone to touch and what body parts there should be never be secrets about,” said Erin Daniel, the family care coordinator for Alaska Cares.
“If they're voicing that they don't feel safe with the person, that they don't want to go with the person, [it’s] then sitting down and having that conversation and figuring out why,” said Bridges. Have an open line of communication to protect your child.