Yesterday, I saw a little girl who looked like she was seven walking home from school by herself. I’m hoping she was just small for her age. She was alone. She wasn’t walking firm and with a mission in mind, either. She was kicking rocks and staring at the pavement, slowly making her way to wherever she would spend her afterschool hours. There was no one around for blocks.
When I was a kid, we would do this too. We walked everywhere by ourselves without a second thought. Our parents would let us go to a new friend’s house without meeting the parents. We would ride our bikes, alone, outside, even after dusk. There was trust because there was little knowledge. The nightly news and newspaper were the only vehicles for reporting. Ignorance was bliss, but the times have changed. Sites like Megan’s Law in California hand us all of the information we need. There’s no excuse now.
I used to be terrified of Freddy Krueger. His image would haunt my dreams, waking and sleeping. When my daughter was a year old, I did a search for sexual predators in my area and stumbled upon the Megan’s Law site. We were living in San Francisco at the time in a neighborhood, bordering both wealthy and not-so-wealthy areas. I discovered there were three registered offenders within two blocks of my house. They weren’t limited to one side of the border. Social class didn’t make either area any more risky.
I spent hours staring at their pictures. I would walk into the grocery store and actually believe that I saw one. I was obsessed for days. They weren’t just red dots on a map anymore. I knew their faces. I knew where they lived. They were buying coffee at the same shops. They were sitting on the same bus stop bench. We shared the same sidewalk. I knew the color of their eyes. They were each my real Freddy Krueger.
Let’s just say our condo was up on the market within weeks and we were out of the city and into the burbs in no time. There are still red dots in my area, but they’re not within walking distance. I’d prefer them to keep their distance. Still, when I go to the park and see some guy staring at my kid, my mind always wanders to think his dog is just a prop and the lioness in me guards my cub. I know I overreact, but better that than underreact.
There’s simply no excuse for seeing a seven year old being exposed like a free can of bait for fishing pedophiles. Another parent recently said to me, “it’s a one-in-a-million chance for something to happen. Why worry about it?” She wasn’t a mother who watched her kid like a hawk at the park. I barely blink, if the park is too big. When did we start gambling with our kids and assuming the odds will be in our favor? I’m zero risk when it comes to my kid.
Do you want to be scared? Well, I can put any “BOO!” to shame. These numbers will haunt you, and I’m hoping they’ll keep you from letting your kid wander home alone.
The Counter Pedophilia Investigative Unit (CPIU) states:
One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement was under age six.
From the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children, the U.S. Department of Justice reports:
- Nearly 800,000 children younger than 18 are missing each year, or an average of 2,185 children reported missing each day.
- More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
- More than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members.
- 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These crimes involve someone the child does not know or a slight acquaintance that holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.
We’re exposed. We’re exposed to it all. So, why aren’t that kid’s parents riding the information super highway? If you can’t afford to leave work and make sure your kid is safe, then foster a buddy system. Find a kid that lives close by and let them be accountable for one another. As parents, we have to be resourceful and solutions-oriented. There is a safer way, just think harder.
In A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy’s victims are jumping rope and singing:
1, 2…Freddy’s coming for you
3, 4…You better lock your door
5, 6…Grab your crucifix
7, 8…Better stay up late
9, 10…Never sleep again
If we’re not careful with our kids, a real Freddy Krueger could make our nightmares come true. I’m not suggesting everyone be paranoid like me, but awareness is essential.