Megan’s Law turns 20
In 1994, a 7-year-old girl was raped and murdered in her own neighborhood by a known sex offender. The crime led to the creation of Megan’s Law – legislation that requires all sex offenders to register where they are living so the community can be alerted. In addition, offenders are under constant supervision by the authorities. There has been much controversy since the law’s passing, about its effectiveness, privacy issues, and past offenders having trouble progressing with their lives.
Twenty years have passed since the law went into effect and whether Megan’s Law has been successful in preventing sex crimes is still debatable. But whichever side of the debate you are on, we all agree that any sexual offense against children is very wrong. Although the National Sex Offender Registry can help you see those who have committed sex crimes in the past living in your neighborhood, it still doesn’t protect you from those who haven’t been caught yet. Also, remember Megan’s Law is a great tool but your child could be sexually abused by someone very close to him/her. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 3 to 5 percent of child molestation occurs between a child and a stranger.
There is still much to be done legally to keep children safe from sexual predators but there are ways to protect your children:
- Always listen to and trust your child. If your child is telling you that someone has touched them in a bad way, believe them. They rarely lie about sexual abuse.
- Watch for any symptoms your child might have. Have they become more withdrawn? Are they gaining or losing weight? Are they more rebellious than usual?
- Let your child know the difference between a “good” touch and a “bad” touch. For instance, a pat on the shoulder is fine, but a touch in their private area is bad.
- Remind them that it’s not their fault if it happens to them. Sexual offenders might tell them that they are the reason he/she is touching them this way.
- If you feel your child’s relationship with someone is not right, act on that instinct. You may be wrong, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.