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August 07, 2005

Comments

Lillian

Just read this old post but this is my reaction. For heaven's sake do we all have to be paranoid all the time!? It was smart to double check on this guy but geez can't a neighborhood guy be outgoing and talkative without being marked as a molester?

elise

I would take a direct approach. The next time that this man comes by your house stop him to talk. Tell him that you know it may sound crazy and overprotective but you know that this is the kind of scenario that you teach your kids to be suspicious about. And that you don't want to go around forever suspicious of him. Then ask him about his clown thing and ask a couple schools he's performed at. Then you can call those schools and find out if he did perform there and if he really is what he says. If he's legit and really does love kids, then he will be understanding. And if he does think you're crazy who cares. For some reason when it comes to the safety of my kids I have no problem being direct with people.

Gina

You are right to be cautious.

And being a clown is no guarantee that he is safe. John Wayne Gacy was a clown who entertained at hospitals (and also raped and killed young men and buried them under his house) . . . Here's how an account of Gacy begins -- from http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial/gacy/gacymain.htm

"It is no surprise that John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was admired and liked by most who had known him. He was a sharp businessman who had spent his time, when not building up his contracting company, hosting elaborate street parties for friends and neighbors, dressing as a clown and entertaining children at local hospitals and immersing himself in organizations such as the Jaycees, working to make his community a better place to live. People who knew Gacy thought of him as a generous, friendly and hard-working man, devoted to his family and community. However, there was another side to Gacy that few had ever witnessed..."

And, by the way, the BTK killer admitted in court that he would watch families and learn about them before he committed his murders. And I forget who it was, but one killer in the news first became interested in a family he ended up killing after saw the kids playing in the front yard in their swimsuits.

So if your instincts bring you to a point of worry, then worry with no apologies, and take all the precautions you need to take until your worry is alleviated. God gave us intuition for a reason.

And yes, this man could be truly nice and truly innocent. But if he is, then he will be very supportive of your caution in keeping your kids safe. He will not want your kids to talk to strange men for their own safety, and he will understand completely when you tell him that your family has a rule that the children don't talk to adults without their parents present (or however you want to put the rule).

jungleboy

Not to put too fine a point on it, any parent that doesn't regularly check their area for child molesters on the web and through personal interaction with the police and neighbors, is an idiot. I work in the correctional system and see too many child molesters come through, after they have ruined some child's life. There is only one person that matters and that is your child. Check out everyone that has personal interactions with you or your child.

Elizabeth

I have moved in the other direction. The number of children being abducted or molested is very small compared to how many children are not abducted. Rather than being scared of every man I see, I teach my children self-confidence, and that they are allowed to say "no" to an adult. They know they should not go with a stranger, but I don't feel they need to be afraid of someone just for talking to them.

I had a comparable creepy feeling about a neighbor when we moved here a year ago, and told my kids not to open the door for him, to let me, etc. He came to our door several times in just a couple of days, and I was creeped out. I let myself get carried away with being afraid of him. Then he asked me to accept his delivery (he was going to be gone) from a place that donates meals to AIDS patients. I thought, oh, poor guy, he's just lonely and sick. I've been misconstruing his interest! We can be kind to him, and give him a real gift with just talking to him.

Back to saying no to an adult....I think we teach our children to become victims by not allowing them to speak their mind. "Give aunt Mildred a kiss! She's your aunt!" When we allow children to make their own decisions, they know it's okay to say no to a stranger. Telling them they have to respect adults (no matter whether the adult has earned that respect) they don't learn how to distinguish a molester from someone they can trust.

I wrote a little about this on my blog:
http://sanfranfamily.blogspot.com/2005/08/scary-people.html

jennyg

RUN THE CHECK. Absolutely. If all child molesters ACTED like child molesters... you get the idea. Maybe he's fine, maybe he's not, and it does not hurt to check.

amanda

In the US, we have Megan's Law and on their california website, I can insert my zip code and pull up the name, rap sheet and PHOTOGRAPH of every registered sex offender in my neighborhood. It's a godsend.

http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/

Julie

I actually probably wouldn't have continued the conversation. I would have made up a reason to go inside and left it at that.

I don't know if Canada has the same type of database as we do in the US, but here we can search for sex offenders in a particular zip code. Granted, such a search is dependent on the accuracy and completeness of the information in the database.

An EXCELLENT book about keeping your children safe is "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin DeBecker. It has been an amazing resource to me already, and my older daughter is only 3.5. I know I will continue to refer to it as both of my girls grow up.

Polichick

Have the police run a check, but let them know your fears have been somewhat allayed and you are just doing it to be thoroughly cautious (on the off chance they'd stop by to give an innocent man a 'warning talk' or something).

Kristin

i think you played it just right. i don't think you can be overly concerned about things like this (unless you're locking your children in the house and not going anywhere)

i worry about what my kids (7 and 5) will do when confronted with a real life stranger situation, or what they will do when they need help. like you, we practice what to do, but you never know how they will react for real.

the other day, i was at the disny store with the kids. my daughter and i walked one aisle over from my son, after announcing to him that we were going to look at the "girl stuff." he apparently didn't hear us, and when he looked up he thought we were gone. he went to the store clerk and told her he couldn't find his mommy. she called security, and then decided to look around the store to see if i was there, which i was.

he was upset, but i was thrilled that he did exactly what we praticed. he found a person at the store with a nametag and asked for help. i made a huge deal about how proud i was of him, and what a big boy he is, etc., etc. by the time we left the store, he had a big smile on his face and was really proud of himself.

i won't stop practicing scenarios with my kids, but i do feel like what i'm doing (and what you're doing with your kids) does make a difference.

Robin P

I would've done exactly what you did. I would definitely give the name and address to the police.
Every neighbor of a serial killer always says,"He was such a nice boy. Always shoveled my driveway for me. So kind and loving,he was."
Ya right!!!!!! Don't take any chances. Have him checked out.

I have given Lillianna every "what if" scenario I can think of. The rest is up to her.
One day her friend Mollie was in the car with us and I said,
"Mollie,what if one day,I drove up to the front of your house and asked you to come for ice cream with me. You know me. You like ice cream. Would you come?"
She said she would. I said,"NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!! If I don't get out of the car and you don't see me ask your mom or dad for permission,do not go with me!!!!
If I am a good person,which I am,then I know that by taking you without permission,your parents will be scared and worried. I would never do that. I would ask permission in front of you so that you would know it was ok to come with me."
Mollie didn't know that. Just another lesson for the kids. I do this with Lillianna all the time.

It's a sad world when we are suspicious of kind and chatty neighbors,but that is the world that has been created and we have to deal with it with our eyes wide open.That's just the way it is.
In this day and age,being overprotective is a way of life. Not too smothering,but just enough caution to keep us all safe!

chris

I think I would have been just as freaked out as you and I would have handled it the same way. Additionaly, I would probably tell my kids not to talk to Mr B* if they see him.
The one thing I have told my kids is that if they are lost to go up to a mom with kids. We routinely role play what to do in various situations and brainstorm ideas. Some silly, some serious, but I want them to realize there are different ways of handling situations and that I will never be mad at them for being rude to someone who made them feel "funny".

Great thought provoking post!

Ancarett

I hate to say, but just because you know where he lives and that he entertains kids doesn't mean he can't still be a creepy molester. I would pass the address onto the constable, in any case.

jason

I think these are very rational worries. My wife and I have debated time and time again over posting pictures and our surename on the internet, and decided better safe than sorry. Though we have attempted to remove our surname to the best of our abilities we still post pictures here and there.

"What would I have done?", Well, I probably would have been as concerned as you were, and followed through with the same actions you took. There is no hurt in looking into the background of some stranger that comes asking about your children, and even reporting the incident to the local authorties. If anyone watches the news these days, I'm sure they would understand? However, how much of the mass media news is an attempt to catch our attention rather than reporting facts. It would be intersting to see the statistics on how many children are actually abducted each year.

Great article Andrea, I think this brings up many very relevant questions and I would be interested to get other parents concern on this.

I'm going to put some statistics I found on missing children below.

How many children are abducted each year?

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

"How many missing children are there?
Answer: The problem of missing children is complex and multifaceted. There are different types of missing children including family abductions; endangered runaways; nonfamily abductions; and lost, injured, or otherwise missing children. The best national estimates for the number of missing children are from incidence studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

To date two such studies have been completed. The first National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-1) was released in 1990, and the second, known as NISMART-2, was released in October 2002. According to NISMART-2 research, which studied the year 1999, an estimated 797,500 children were reported missing; 58,200 children were abducted by nonfamily members; 115 children were the victims of the most serious, long-term nonfamily abductions called "stereotypical kidnappings"; and 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions."

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