DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Even in safe places, with parents nearby, moms like Chrissy Brecheen know that you can never be too careful.
“I was saying we need to buy all neon clothes,” she exclaims with a joking laugh. “The way that they run around! [I’m] totally trying to keep an eye on them at all times… you never know.”
So, Brecheen wants to know more about a proposed Dallas city ordinance that would prohibit registered sex offenders from living near places where children gather. The locations would include areas close to schools, playgrounds and parks. But, will it be enough?
“Absolutely not,” said Brecheen, who lives in Dallas’ Lake Highlands neighborhood, “I don’t trust hardly anyone with my kids.”
Mother of two Renata Jensen agrees. “Not every sex offender has been prosecuted and we still have to watch out for that—that’s our job.”
And to do it well, experts say parents need to know that the concept of ‘stranger danger’ can be very misleading.
“We tend to believe that people who harm our children are somehow easy to spot,” explained Ellis Magnis, Chief of External Affairs at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. “But, it’s really more often than not people that we know and we trust, which is sometimes why it’s so very hard for children to come forward.”
Magnis says more than 90-percent of the Center’s cases are “little nine and little 10-year-old girls who are sexually abused by someone they know and trust.” So while she says they are “thrilled when anybody does anything that protects children”, she is also concerned that laws that limit where sex offenders may live can give parents a false sense of security.
“We just don’t want to give a feeling of overconfidence that this solves the problem for us—it’s much, much bigger than this.”
Magnis says it’s important that parents be able to spot the red flags —
– Who is paying more attention to your child than you are?
– Are they trying very hard to be alone with them? Perhaps by offering to pick them up from school or take them to the movies.
– Is your child receiving gifts from an adult without your knowledge? And if a child absolutely must be alone with another adult, ask open ended, calm questions about how that time was spent.
She also cautions that parents should never, ever be guilty of believing that danger, can only come from a stranger.
“It’s sad,” said Jensen, adding, “but that’s the reality nowadays. You do have to be on guard—no matter what–or with who– you always have to be on guard.”
Dallas city staffers have been instructed to draft an ordinance for the council to review.
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