Monday, May 08, 2006

What Do You Do When A Registered Sex Offender Moves in Next Door?

Good question. Unfortunately, I am about to find out.

Three months ago we moved into what we hope will be our "forever" house. For the first time, we have a house large enough to comfortably accomodate our ever growing family, our piles of laundry, the storage bins of waiting-to-grow into clothing and the overflow of Costco pantry items. We waited months for this house, watching it get built from the ground up, dreaming of all the Christmas trees that would fill its generous foyer and the summers that would be spent playing in the backyard.

Not once did any of these dreams include keeping my children out of the front yard at all times, making sure they didn't run naked in the backyard for even one second, and never allowing them to even run down the street unaccompanied to retrieve the mail. But this is our new reality.

Yesterday, as my children played on the front lawn and I vacuumed a quantity of crumbs from the car that might feed a family of four for a week, our new neighbors approached us, paper in hand, and introduced themselves. "We noticed you have young children," they said, "so we thought you would like to see this." They handed over a page from the Megan's Law website showing that just four doors down lives a man who is registered as having performed sexual acts with a child younger than 14. How can this be? In my neighborhood? On the street where my children will be trick-or-treating? It can't be.

I drove slowly by his house this morning. It is well kept and beautifully in bloom with carefully planted flowers. There are toys belonging to young girls in the yard (his daughters, I am told). What do I tell my children? Something, of course, but how much? I want them to be cautious but not scared, aware but not paranoid. This should be more my problem than theirs, but they also must watch their own backs.

The sheriff will not give further details of this man or his situation. But there is a lot I want to know. How young were the children he molested? Were they boys or girls? How long ago was his offense? Has he been arrested for this more than once? Every detail I get will help me better protect my children. According to the law, I am told, it is enough that I simply know he exists on my block. And, yes, that is something.

It occurs to me, through my unease, how awful it must be for him that every parent in our new neighborhood is aware of his past now. Perhaps whatever this was ocurred long ago and he has successfully built a new life. I hope this for all of our sakes, but when my children's safety is at stake, I cannot give him the benefit of the doubt. I have to assume he is a threat.

Please, God, protect my family, help heal this man, and assist me in acting like the Christian I profess to be while at the same time doing my job as a mother.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

You have my sympathy. This is a tough situation. I recommend a video called "On the Safe Side" which is for kids to watch. John Walsh is the narrator. It teaches kids about "Don't Knows", "Kinda Knows" and "Safe Side Adults". It's fun, funny, and teaches kids to be "on the safe side." My kids, ages 7 and under, all love it. It's not a guarantee, but it definitely is a good foundation for beginning a conversation about safe behavior. My kids used to run to the front door whenever the doorbell rang. Now, they say, "Wait! I need my safe-side adult!"