Editor’s Note: In honor of Pediatric Safety’s 4 year bloggiversary, we are publishing 4 of our favorite posts from the past, one each Friday for four consecutive weeks. This is our 2nd: a detailed look at child molestation, originally posted in August 2009 by Leslie Mayorga. Our deepest thanks to Leslie for the courage to explore and instruct us on such a frightening subject !
As Parents we want to protect our children from all harm and evil! We can’t! But we can be informed and keep our children savvy and enlightened!
There are predators out there and our children are their targets. What I’m going to talk about will shock and horrify you. It will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Some of you might even want to stop reading here because this is the subject of horror movies and nightmares. This is something most of us would rather die than imagine happen to our children. But I implore you to continue, this is too important to ignore.
As a medical professional, I have seen firsthand the toll something like this can take on a child. The effects are devastating and life long. The incidence of crimes against children is on the rise. I’m sorry to have to tell you that unfortunately the times we live in are too dangerous to turn a blind eye.
I have some staggering statistics that are probably going to make you sick. I also have some tools to EMPOWER YOU and your CHILDREN! You do not need to be a helpless victim!
According to family watchdog an online Sex Offender Registry
- 1 of 5 girls and 1 of 6 boys will be molested before their 18th birthday.
- 90% of all sexual assaults against children are committed by someone whom the victim knew.
- The typical sexual predator will assault 117 times before being caught.
- The re-arrest rate for convicted child molesters is 52%.
- That your child will become a victim of a sex offender is 1 in 3 for girls & 1 in 6 for boys. **Source: The National Center for Victims of Crime
- Over 2,000 children are reported missing every day.
Background on Registered Sex Offender Laws:
The U.S. Congress has passed several laws that require states to monitor registered sex offenders; the Jacob Wetterling Crimes against Children Act, the Pam Lychner Sex Offender tracking and Identification Act and Megan’s Law.
On March 5, 2003, The Supreme Court ruled that information about registered sex offenders may be posted on the Internet. Good for us!
Let’s take advantage of these laws!!! This is Not about Vigilantism! This is about being INFORMED! This is about KNOWING where REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS in YOUR AREA LIVE and WORK!!
Here are some excellent places to start:
- National Sex Offender Public Website where you can search by name
- National Alert Registry
- Search for Sex Offenders in your area if there are offenders in your area there is a key to show you where they work and where they live. You can click on these boxes and a picture of the offender will pop up.
- iTouch also has 2 great applications! 1 is free. It allows you to download 3 free searches of Registered Sex offenders in your Area. For a Small one time fee you can download the full program which lets you search whatever zip code you want! This would be very useful while traveling!
- The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children “NCMEC” is a WEALTH of information!! As the nation’s resource center for protecting children they have NUMEROUS free online downloadable publications that EVERY parent needs to take advantage of! Their prevention and safety education programs and materials contain information and tips that will help you keep your children safer. I suggest you go to this site at your leisure and READ READ READ!! It could very well save you some heartache!
For decades, children were taught to stay away from “strangers.” But this concept is difficult for children to grasp and often the perpetrator is someone the child knows. It is more beneficial to help build Children’s confidence and teach them to respond to a potentially dangerous situation, rather than teaching them to look out for a particular type of person.
Here are some tips to help you take some first steps to help them avoid becoming a victim:
- Make sure you know where each of your children is at all times. Know your children’s friends and be clear with your children about the places and homes they may visit. Make it a rule for your children to check-in with you when they arrive at or depart from a particular location and when there is a change in plans. You should also let them know when you’re running late or if your plans have changed to show the rule is for safety purposes and not being used to “check up” on them.
- Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, whether it is running or not. Children should never be left unsupervised or allowed to spend time alone or with others in vehicles as the potential dangers to their safety outweigh any perceived convenience or “fun.” Remind children to never hitchhike, approach a vehicle, or engage in a conversation with anyone within a vehicle they do not know and trust. Also they should never go anywhere with anyone without first getting your permission.
- Be involved in your children’s activities. As an active participant you’ll have a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge interact with your children. If you are concerned about anyone’s behavior, take it up with the sponsoring organization.
- Listen to your children. Pay attention if they tell you they don’t want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may be an indication of more than a personality conflict or lack of interest in the activity or event.
- Notice when anyone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Take the time to talk to your children about the person and find out why that person is acting in this way.
- Teach your children they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others and get out of those situations as quickly as possible. If avoidance is not an option, children should be taught to kick, scream, and resist. When in such a situation, teach them to loudly yell, “This person is not my father/mother/guardian,” and then immediately tell you if this happens. Reassure them you’re there to help and it is okay to tell you anything.
- Be sensitive to any changes in your children’s behavior or attitude. Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen to small cues and clues indicating something may be troubling your children, because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, reassuring, and nonjudgmental. Listen compassionately to their concern, and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.
- Be sure to screen babysitters and caregivers. Many jurisdictions now have a public registry allowing parents and guardians to check out individuals for prior criminal records and sex offenses. Check references with other families who have used the caregiver or babysitter. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and carefully listen to the responses.
- Practice basic safety skills with your children. Make an outing to a mall or park a “teachable” experience in which your children practice checking with you, using pay telephones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who may be able to help if they need assistance. Remember, allowing your children to wear clothing or carry items in public on which their name is displayed may bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people looking for a way to start a conversation with your children.
- Remember there is no substitute for your attention and supervision. Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security. 1
In conclusion, YOU HAVE A RIGHT to keep your children safe!
- You have the right to know if Registered Sex Offenders are in your neighborhood! Be aware!
- Check the registry by location for sex offenders located near Daycare centers, Schools, Camps, Church or anyplace you may be leaving your children, even Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
- Check the registry by name for Church Officials, Teachers, Neighbors, Counselors, Private instruction Tutors, Bus Drivers, after school Activities leaders, Coaches etc.
- Check them often. Take nothing for granted. Everyone is suspect.
- Consult NCMEC’s prevention and safety education programs and materials for additional steps you and your children can take to help them feel empowered, and to know what they can do if they find themselves in a situation where they feel scared or compromised.
- Finally, observe and listen; and TEACH CHILDREN to recognize and respond to anything that scares them. Children are very perceptive by nature. You are not ruining their childhood by talking to them when they are young. You may just be saving it!
Sex offenders place themselves in situations where children are! They make themselves appeal to children. This is NO Accident! Be SAVVY. We have the tools to fight these predators! LET’S USE THEM!
Leslie Mayorga R.N. BSNPin It
Swimming lessons are a tradition for many families – once children get to be school age. But don’t wait so long to introduce your children to the water, and don’t think that swimming lessons is the same thing as teaching children to be safe around the water. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that children start in swimming lessons from the age of one. Why? Because drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 globally. That is terrifying to most parents and many instinctively react by trying to keep their kids away from water until they are older, but the opposite approach will keep your child safer – for their whole life.
Think about it – babies are in water in the womb for their first 9 months. Water is naturally soothing. Do you remember your baby’s expression when they had their first bath? Quizzical at first and then a bit alarmed when they hit the water and it splashed, but then pure joy. Bath-time becomes a treasured ritual. Your baby loves the feeling of your arm around them and your close attention. And, water truly does soothe the savage beast – it’s calming. Children naturally gravitate towards water because it is soothing – and fun, and the source of great joy.
There are a number of water safety things that you can do with your child whenever you are near water, starting in infancy and adding as they get older – and remember, all of these ‘games’ are also fun for children, so it’s a positive experience for both of you.
Bath safety: Start by being positive with your baby in the bath. Toys, songs, allowing them to splash are all important ways of making your baby comfortable in and around water which will lessen their fear later on. It’s especially good for your baby to gradually get used to having water poured over their face – it’s the first step to putting their face in and blowing bubbles. Splashing may make a mess but it also lets a baby control water getting in their face. Talk to your baby, tell them you will always be near them when they are in water – and then do it – never leave your child alone in the tub.
Stories: Use a book like ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’ to teach your child ‘never go near water without a grownup’. You can order the book at Amazon and there are free coloring sheets at the web-site to remind kids of the lessons. Think about hanging up a favorite drawing in the bathroom to remind everyone that a grownup needs to be nearby whenever children are in the tub.
Humpty Dumpty: Start playing ‘Humpty Dumpty’ as soon as your child can sit up. Your child sits on the side of the pool while you hold them, you sing ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and when Humpty does a big fall you help your child ‘fall’ forward and then say ‘turn around and hold on!’ Their head doesn’t go under water and at first they probably can’t even grasp the side, so just put their clenched fist on the side of the pool. But over time you graduate to having their head go under and eventually letting go of them, but always, ‘turn around and hold on’.
Monkey Hands: When your child has the physical coordination, have them hold on to the side of the pool with both hands, with feet against the wall and ‘walk’ their hands around the pool. At first they may only be able to go a couple of feet – to the ladder or steps, but over time they’ll want to try going around the whole pool and then pulling themselves out on the side – no ladder or steps!
For Older Kids: Once they get a bit older and have mastered Humpty Dumpty and Monkey Hands, hold your child’s hand and have them push down to touch the bottom of the pool where the pool slopes. Again, it will help them internalize the correct reaction if they fall in – ‘oh yes, I just push up from the bottom and grab the side’. You are teaching them to just react correctly to save themselves.
Then move on to jumping in the deep end and swimming the length of the pool, diving for rings, and ‘coral reef dives’ – swimming between your legs without touching the coral (your legs) or the coral will scrape them. Whatever fun games you can devise that will get your kids comfortable with being in the water and out of their depth will help keep your kids safer.
The idea with all these water safety games is the same – give the child confidence, let them learn their limits in the water gradually, and most importantly, teach them what to do if they ever do fall in the water unexpectedly. You are teaching them to rescue themselves, or at worst, not panic for at least a crucial minute or two until you notice they are missing. And be prepared for each child to progress at a radically different rate. My son was diving and swimming competently at four, my daughter didn’t really connect until seven – but they both love water and understand safety and their own limitations.
Water will be around your child their whole life, and it is a source of great joy and health – help your child to enjoy the water safely!
For decades, pop psych has embraced the premise that there are three basic parenting styles: authoritarian (“Follow my rules because I say so!”), permissive (“OK, you can stay up to 11 p.m., but you’re going to be really tired tomorrow!”), and last but not least, authoritative (“I know other kids are doing it, but we think it’s too dangerous, so no, you can’t.”). It’s that approach — a combination of no-nonsense limit-setting with understanding and concern — which experts say is ideal. (A fourth parenting style, uninvolved, is for parents who check out entirely.)
“Authoritative parents certainly make demands, but they also take time to listen to their kids, empathize with how they might feel and explain why they think their decisions are best for them in the long run,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. This kind of parenting style produces the most emotionally healthy children, she adds.
Not sure where you fit in? Check out these scenarios:
Scenario No. 1
You find out your child, who’s not allowed on Facebook and is under the age-13 limit anyway, has been checking it out at her friend’s house.
- Authoritarian “You not only broke my rules, you broke Facebook’s rule. I am taking away your computer privileges for two weeks, and you won’t be allowed at Sara’s house until I speak with her mother.”
- Permissive “I’m really disappointed you went behind my back. But I guess you must be very curious about this stuff so why don’t we open an account together?”
- Authoritative “I’m not happy that you broke the rules. Were you tempted because it seems like everyone else is Facebooking? Let me explain again why I don’t think it’s appropriate or safe for you right now. And if you do break the rules again, you will lose your computer privileges.”
Scenario No. 2
Your 8-year-old wants you to move his bedtime from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Authoritarian “Sorry, but you need eight hours of shut-eye. Period. Now let’s go read a story before bed.”
- Permissive “Just because your friend Joey is allowed to go to bed at 9 doesn’t mean you should. I tell you what, though: Let’s compromise and make it 8:30. Does that work for you?”
- Authoritative “I know it must drive you nuts that Joey gets to go to bed at 9, but you need your sleep to have enough energy and focus for school. What is it that you want to do with the extra time you’re awake?
Scenario No. 3
You ask your 11-year-old to empty the dishwasher. An hour later, he’s still playing his guitar … and the dishwasher is still full.
- Authoritarian “This is the third time this week you’ve ignored my requests! You can forget allowance for this week, and we’ll have to see what happens next week.”
- Permissive “Hey, didn’t you hear me? I asked you three times to empty the dishwasher. I took care of it, but can you please take the garbage out after dinner?”
- Authoritative “I know how much you love guitar. And I’m thrilled to see you’re practicing. But I’m going nuts downstairs getting dinner on the table so we can all eat before midnight. To do that, I need your help. That means if I ask you to empty the dishwasher, you need to do it.”
Authoritarian parents aren’t meanies, and permissive parents aren’t pushovers. But the middle ground, experts agree, works best for kids.
“Children raised by authoritative parents grow up feeling that they are heard, that they are worthy of having rules explained to them,” says Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and editor of the Web site Aha Parenting. “They understand and ultimately appreciate their parents’ limits and demands because they believe their parents are on their side.”
In the U.S., a disproportionate amount of press is given to children drowning in swimming pools, and while it’s true that children ages 1-5 are most likely to drown in swimming pools, it’s not the whole story, and I think it gives parents a false sense of security about water safety. It’s important to know the different dangers, and how to teach your children to navigate the dangers at any age.
So, let’s look at where children are most likely to drown at different ages and what you need to know:
Age: For infants, birth to one year, bathtubs pose the greatest danger. The statistics don’t break it down by months, but I’d guess it’s as soon as your baby can sit upright unsupported that you feel you can dash out of the bathroom to grab clean jammies, answer the phone, or stop a fight between your older kids. Or maybe you think they are safe in that bath seat with the suction cups on the bottom. Or you put the baby in with an older sibling who, you are sure, will raise the alarm if necessary.
Solution: Never, ever leave your child alone in the bathtub until they can swim the length of a 25m pool. Young children reach for toys and fall over. Those seats tip over – never trust them unless you are in the room, or don’t buy them in the first place. As for older siblings, well, they may feel a bit conflicted about your new bundle of joy and give a gentle push or not call if the baby falls over, but then know they did something wrong and not want to get in trouble. It takes one minute of submersion for brain damage to begin and two minutes to die.
Age: 1 to 5 – swimming pools.
Solution: Check out www.poolsafely.gov for great trips on keeping your pool safe. The best rule of all, tell your children to ALWAYS have an adult with them when they go near water. When I had a pool, the rule was no one could even go down the steps to where the fenced pool was without me. Period. This is one limit you need to set and stick to diligently. When your child is in the pool, you need to watch them, constantly. The lifeguard is not there to babysit and since I know you understand how hard it is to keep an eye on one child, imagine a lifeguard trying to watch 200 children. The most important strategy is to talk to your child regularly about how to act around water – no horseplay (dunking isn’t fun, it’s scary and dangerous), always have an adult nearby, and KNOW YOUR LIMITS!
Age: 6 to 12 – open water
Solution: Lifejackets in boats. Again, a non-negotiable rule. But beyond that, again, talk to your child, have them in regular swimming lessons, and help them to KNOW THEIR LIMITS. A tranquil pool is radically different from the wave pool at a water park or the surf off Santa Monica. For complete guidelines, Seattle Children’s Hospital is cutting edge. (insert link: http://www.seattlechildrens.org/classes-community/community-programs/drowning-prevention/open-water-guidelines/ )
Age: 13 to 18 – alcohol
Solution: It’s not just drinking and driving you need to be worried about, it’s drinking and drowning. Alcohol is the greatest contributing factor in drowning deaths for teenagers. By now, hopefully, you’ve been talking to your teenagers about the dangers of mixing alcohol and heavy machinery, you need to add in what happens when you mix with water. And again, teach them to KNOW THEIR LIMITS around water because teenage bravado, alcohol and water are an unforgiving combination.
All fairly dismal statistics, but as you know, I’m all about JOY! in the water. If you are teaching your child, from birth, to navigate water respectfully and safely, while they have fun, you have given them the greatest gift of all, you have taught them to navigate their environment independently and intelligently – and isn’t that what parenting is all about?
On May 25th 2011 our lives changed forever. Though we awakened a little late, the day started as usual: we played for an hour with our daughter (she was a morning person) before getting her dressed for daycare. It was tropical day: the children were to wear “tropical” attire. We dressed Ray Ray in a cute little flowered dress and she smiled back as if she knew she looked so adorable. We carried Ray Ray to the car and placed her in her car-seat. We kissed her and told her we loved her as we buckled her in her seat, and she waved the most mysterious goodbye to us: a wave we had never seen before and one we would never forget. It was the last goodbye we would ever have from our little angel.
Brett drove away in his truck with Ray Ray tucked securely in her carseat. She dozed off into sleep, probably tired from playing all morning with us. Then our perpetual nightmare began: for reasons we do not know or understand, Brett drove past the turn that he would normally take to drop Ray Ray off at daycare. A simple left hand turn, beyond which daycare is only about 300 yards away. He turned right instead. Why? This is a question that will haunt us forever. Brett continued his drive to work, assuming that our daughter was safely in the hands of her daycare teachers and enjoying tropical day. We carried on with our regular work routine.
A few hours later we met at Brett’s office for a lunch date before I went out of town for a business event. As we drove to lunch, we talked in the car about Ray Ray and how pretty she looked for Tropical day. Suddenly, Brett’s heart skipped two beats and his mind raced chaotically as he tried to understand why he could not remember seeing the reaction from her loving teachers about her cute little Tropical day dress. Reality hit. Brett’s heart sunk to the bottom of his chest: he couldn’t remember dropping Ray Ray off at daycare that morning! He screamed out loud for me to get us back to his office as fast as possible.
We raced through traffic lights, stop signs, one-way streets, and arrived at Brett’s office in record time. We called the office manager as we drove, instructing her to check the truck. As Brett was awaiting a response from the office manager I called the daycare. When the teacher confirmed she was not there, I hung up and immediately called 911. Simultaneously the office called 911 as well. The nightmare had happened. Ray Ray had been forgotten in the truck for nearly three hours in 90 degree heat.
The office manager took Ray Ray out of the truck, ran cool water over her body, and began rescue efforts—she was still alive, making gurgling sounds and having difficulty breathing. I continued aggressive attempts at resuscitation once we arrived while the office staff stayed on the line with 911. Our last visions of our living daughter were of her lying on the floor as she lost consciousness and CPR was being performed. She gazed into mommy and daddy’s eyes one last time. That will haunt us forever. One hour and 19 minutes after this nightmare began she was pronounced dead.
We have asked ourselves thousands of times how could this happen. Where did we go wrong? How could either of us ever possibly forget our most precious gift? How can we ever move forward? How can we ever live after this? Can we ever forgive ourselves?
We searched for answers and to our shock we found that we were not alone. Data derived from media reports of child hot car deaths from 1998 through 2010 suggest that, in 51% of cases, these children were “forgotten” by their guardian. Forty-four percent of these “forgotten” children were supposed to have been dropped off at daycare/ pre-school on the morning of their tragedy. That’s more than 1 in every 5 child deaths due to vehicular heatstroke!
Ray Ray’s Call to Action
Ray Ray’s Pledge aims to prevent the more than 1 in every 5 child hot car deaths due to heatstroke that occur because the child was not dropped off at daycare in the morning and his/her whereabouts went unquestioned. It takes a village to raise a child, and good communication in this village is key to prevention of tragedy. Ray Ray’s Pledge is designed to create a safety net surrounding a child’s morning drop-off time at daycare—a time when parents may be vulnerable to human error, as history has proven from our story as well as the stories of more than 100 other known families who also never imagined that this could happen to them.
This CAN happen to YOU! Please don’t be the next victim! By signing the pledge, you are committing to keeping your child’s teacher informed of any planned changes in morning drop off. In exchange, your child’s teacher is committing to you that he/she will act as your guardian angel by calling you if your child does not arrive on time and a planned tardiness/absence has not already been communicated. The first and most important step relies on YOU: please communicate planned absences to the teachers so that they can provide an effective safety net to your family when one is needed. DO NOT allow yourselves to become a statistic! MAKE THE PLEDGE, and take it seriously. The risk of heatstroke is too often an unheeded risk to child safety, one that we learned of after it was too late.