Too common to ignore

School, nonprofit and church officials are learning a difficult lesson. Child predators are after our children.

News reports of predatory activity are becoming too common to ignore.

And, in this electronic age, predators’ ability to prey upon the innocent is enhanced not only through social contact, but also through cell phone texting and Internet chatting.

Parents, of course, are the first line of defense in protecting our children. The importance of daily vigilance in terms of monitoring your child’s telephone and computer activity cannot be understated.

Parents also must keep an open line of communication. Children should know some secrets are bad, and they should feel free to share any secret with their parents.

But officials responsible for activities where adults interact with children also are responsible for appropriately screening employees and volunteers, and they also must keep an eye open for signs these adults may be developing a rapport that’s a little too close.

Trust your instincts when you think something may be wrong. Some signs of a relationship that is not quite right include an adult spending time with a child in a unique or isolated situation, a child withdrawing from friends and spending time with one adult and a child receiving unexplained gifts.

Any of these signs warrant investigation by a responsible adult or law enforcement.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the U.S.:

• Two-thirds of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

• One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies was under age 6.

• The year in a male’s life when he is most likely to be the victim of a sexual assault is age 4; a female’s greatest risk is at age 14.

• Nearly half (49 percent) of the offenders of victims under age 6 were family members.

The typical sex offender molests an average of 117 children, although most offenses are never reported, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

That statistic alone teaches us that too often, community members shy away from becoming involved. Ignoring signs that a child may be abused is equivalent to condoning the activity.

We share responsibility for making our neighborhoods, our schools, our after-school activities and our churches safe for our children.

Sexual abuse inflicts wounds that never heal.

If you suspect something is wrong, speak up.

– The News-Star, Monroe, La.