The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Sunday in the Park with Pedophiles?

I have to confess, being a parent has made me more suspicious. Maybe it's because I've watched too many crime shows about children being abducted and/or molested. For that matter, maybe I've succumbed to the current hysteria on the subject. Maybe I just can't help it.

During the last three and a half years, I've developed a kind of parental radar that makes me notice things that might have otherwise slipped by me. For example, when we take Parker to the park near where we live — the one with lots of trees, slides, swings and other things for kids to play on — I've developed an ability to quickly pick up on the other adults in the area and which kids they're connected to; parents, grandparents, nannies, etc. But they're not the ones I really notice. It's the adults who aren't attached to any kid that keep one eye on while I keep the other on my kid.

Like I said, too many crime shows. But I start to wonder if I not being paranoid when I read about sex offenders suing for playground access.

Six sex offenders sued the city Wednesday to block a new ordinance that bars them from venturing within 1,000 feet of parks, pools and playgrounds when children are present.

The plaintiffs went to federal court to argue that the law is unconstitutionally vague, violates their rights to vote and attend church, and prevents them from freely traveling on roads that may pass within 1,000 feet of the affected sites.

…  The six, who include convicted child molesters and rapists, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

And the ACLU, bless 'em, is on the case. I have to admit, I'm conflicted here. The card-carrying ACLU member in me says that if these people have "paid their debt to society," they they should be left alone and not harassed by various and sundry ordinances that make it impossible for them to live and work on the outside. What route do you take to work that doesn't bring you withing 1,000 feed of a playground, school, or park? Where do you live that doesn't violate an ordinance like that? And on, and on. 

But the parent in me isn't so sure. Would I want one of these folks within 1,000 feet of my kid? No. So, while I'm not sure about laws like the one mentioned above, I'll continue keeping one eye on my kid and keeping the other on any adults who don't quite seem to belong at the playground. 

4 Comments

  1. Would I want one of these folks within 1,000 feet of my kid? No.

    The best way to rectify that? Longer sentences for Peds. Any chance that they’ll be reformed is hopeless anyway, IMO. So keep them behind bars where they belong and there’s no need for what will probably be ruled unconstitutional law.

  2. This is really tough stuff to get my arms around, too, as a parent.

    Part of the challenge is adapting to the facts that some convicted sex offenders are also parents. While I still lived in Iowa, they led the way toward restricting where offenders could not reside (like, within 2000 feet of any school or park, if memory serves). One mom, post-prison and post-treatment, was restricted from contact with other peoples’ kids but not from her own. But, the family home was within 1/3-mile of a school, and so she was sleeping elsewhere and commuting to the family home every day to be a part of her family.

    In many states, appearing on a sex offender registry is life sentence. The Matthew Limon case demonstrates that it is possible for sex offender laws to be mis-applied. And, of course, we’re only approaching the third anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, until which gay folks could be labeled sex offenders for what happened in the privacy of their own homes.

    I’m glad for increased awareness, better statutes, and increasingly effective prosecution of sex offenders that tell me that we’re moving in better directions.

    At the same time, when I was doing playground time with my kids, I never thought that my hope for keeping my kids safe laid in laws filtering who could be in the same public space. It was in exactly the kind of watchfulness you describe, Terrance.

  3. I think there is a real hysteria about this stuff, but I also think these guy get off pretty easily.

    But all the hype is very misleading because there are two facts that they always ignore–1) The overwhelming majority of sexually molested kids are molested by people close to them, not strangers. 2)The overwhleming majority of sexually molested kids are girls.

    That doesn’t mean strangers don’t molest kids and boys don’t get molested, but it does mean that those NBC “catch a predator” shows don’t really look at the typical molester.

  4. I think more important is teaching Parker (and all children) the difference between touching and inappropriate touching. As well as the the understanding that they can come to you at any time and discuss any topic and you’ll Listen to them.
    Not pass judgment on them but listen with an open mind. You would be surprised how much strength it gives a child when they know they can talk to you about anything at any time.

    Open nonjudgmental communication with your children is by far the most powerful tool you can give them. The worst part is, so few parents do it.

    The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about (which Rachel touched on) is 90% are well known to the victim, not a stranger at the park. In addition sexual molestation is almost always within the same race. So the highest danger to Parker is African American relatives. Uncles, cousins and such. But of course you won’t see any dateline specials on family members who abuse That’s a topic that the American public doesn’t want to listen to or talk about.

    The public still wants to believe its one guy in the park wearing a trench coat.

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