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Trick of Treating for Sex Offenders

Do you remember going Trick‐or‐Treating as a child?  After a certain age, our parents let us go around the neighborhood without them, with our only instructions being “Don’t eat too much candy.”  Our parents’ biggest worries were razor blades being hidden in our candy.  Then we were told not to accept any unwrapped treats (apples, homemade sweets, etc.) because they could be poisoned.  Where did these worries come from?  Have you ever heard breaking news of “Dozens of children poisoned by Halloween candy!”  I haven’t.  Often we worry about things that are highly unlikely, particularly when it involves our safety.  And we do the most worrying about our children’s safety.  Nowadays, the media is less focused on razors in our kids’ candy and more on our children being abducted by a sex offender!  By now we know not to believe everything we see on TV.  Nevertheless, I guarantee that most parents have at least thought about these terrible scenarios.  This column will show you the facts to reassure you that the chances of your child being sexually abused or poisoned on Halloween (or any other night) are very slim.    Lots of research has been done on Sex Offenders lately.  We now know that the chances of your child being sexually abused on Halloween are no greater than it happening on any other Monday night.   Furthermore, the vast majority of Sex Offenders (93% according to Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000) know their victims.  The offender is usually a family member, neighbor, or close family friend.   Unfortunately, it is usually the last person you would suspect.  Experts now advise parents to be cautious with anyone who especially enjoys spending time with children, particularly if they do not have children of their own.  So, coaches, babysitters, religious leaders, and neighbors are prime suspects.   Your children are probably not around these people on Halloween.  So the idea of your child being in danger of sexual abduction on Halloween is highly unlikely.    Furthermore, with the advent of the Sex Offender Registry, sex offenders are more closely scrutinized, especially on Halloween.  For the past few years, Washington County Parole and Probation has contained all sex offenders currently on parole/probation in one supervised location during city Trick‐or‐ Treating times.  Other counties in Maryland have required sex offenders to post “No Candy” signs on their doors or similar directives aimed to increase public safety.  With this in mind, your children are probably safer (from sex offenders, at least) wandering the city streets on Halloween than on any other night!    Bottom line is that as parents we tend to over‐worry about our children.  Whether it is sex offenders or razor blades, parents will always worry about their children.  It’s important to remember that most of the time these worries are unfounded. We will never be able to protect our children from all the dangers of the world, and ironically, the things that do end up harming our children are the things we didn’t think to worry about anyway.  Whenever someone is burdened with worry, I encourage them to think of two things.  First, how likely is this to really happen?  And second, what is the worst case scenario?  Think about what is the worst thing that could happen in that situation and then how you would deal with it.  Realizing that you will survive despite terrible circumstances can be reassuring.  You may be surprised how prepared you actually are to handle the situation.  Often it is fear of the unknown that we are most afraid of. 


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