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Parents are reminded of warning signs regarding sexual predators

Colleton County officials are continuously working to manage registered sex offenders throughout the county and are reminding parents of tips to look for in keeping their children safe from sexual predators.
There are currently 129 registered sex offenders in Colleton. These offenders are forced by a judge to register into the state’s registry bank based on the crimes they have committed. These crimes can range from sexual intercourse with a minor to sexual assault.
In Colleton County, a designated deputy is assigned to monitor all sex offenders throughout the area. The official title for this position is the Sex Offender Registry Coordinator Deputy.
“Ninety-five percent of Colleton County’s offenders are required to report quarterly, while the remainder report bi-annually,” said Shalane Lowes, spokeswoman for the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has a two-tiered system to monitor sex offenders, based upon the level of charges they have committed. The Sheriff’s Office works with the state’s Probation and Parole Department and area municipal police departments to monitor all registered sex offenders.
“This registration process consists of the offenders’ information, such as an address where they live, employment, a physical description of the offender, and ways to contact the person,” said Lowes.
“If any of the offenders’ information changes prior to their registration appointment, offenders’ must report to the Sex Offender Registry Coordinator Deputy at the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office within 72 hours to provide their updated information. If they fail to do so, they will be out of compliance and a warrant will be issued for the Violation of the Sex Offender Registry. Sex Offenders are also monitored by conducting random home visits to ensure the information they provided to authorities is accurate. If the information is found to be false a warrant is issued for their arrest,” she said.
As far as a concentrated area where registered sex offenders live, Lowes said the offenders reside throughout the county, and not concentrated in one particular community or town.
With summer months upon us, law enforcement leaders are also encouraging parents to be aware of children’s activities in the community. There are additional rules in place to keep sex offenders away from children’s holidays and areas, such as Halloween, schools and playgrounds, but the summer brings a more relaxed schedule to families, and a reminder to be aware of where the children are and who they’re interacting with.
“We encourage all members of our community to contact law enforcement ASAP if you suspect something has occurred with your child, or someone else’s child,” said Sheriff Strickland, “even if you think someone is suspicious.”
“Also, if any incidents have taken place, go to your local hospital immediately. Hospitals are mandated reporters for incidents of this nature and they will contact law enforcement promptly to advise them of the situation,” said Strickland.

“We are no longer in the era of “stranger danger.” Yes, children and parents still need to be aware of suspicious individuals who they aren’t familiar with, but more importantly parents/guardians need to be mindful to the individual who is paying close attention to their child,” said Strickland.

“This individual isn’t always another adult. It could potentially be another juvenile.” he said

Safety tips
Teach your children to not keep a secret from their parents/guardians. “Children are taught to respect their elders,” said Lowes. “If one of these individuals says, ‘This is our secret,’ it’s the importance of parents/guardians to educate children what is wrong from right.”
Teach children to be aware of their surroundings. Children should be encouraged to listen to themselves and be taught ways to get out of an uncomfortable situation.
A child’s entire community should support the teaching of “if you see something, say something.” “The community plays a huge part in prevention, it’s the age old saying “if you see something, say something,” said Lowes.
Call local authorities if you suspect any suspicious behavior or abuse. “Out of the various cases that have been reported, Detective Marcurella who handles all Child and Special Victim Crimes has only dealt with one reported case that was founded false in nature,” she said.

Grooming Signs
“Sex offenders or predators know what they are looking for,” said Lowes. “They approach families already having a ‘target’ in mind.”
“These individuals (sexual predators) ‘groom’ children by befriending the parents/guardians and becoming close with them, this in return lets them become closer with the child because they’ve already gained the parents trust. These types of individuals aren’t going to be in a long trench coat with dark glasses, these are most likely people you converse with and encounter at every day functions where you think your child would be the safest. Prevention starts by parents/guardians educating themselves and their children on the ‘grooming’ signs. “
A predator might pay special attention to a child and make him or her feel special. They will get to know the child’s likes and dislikes very well. A predator is likely to try to win over the affection of his or her intended victim by sharing these likes. “I got us a box of your favorite candy to share.” Or to an older child: “You like that band? That’s my favorite band. I could get us tickets to their next concert.”
A predator might isolate your child by involving him or her in fun activities that require them to be alone together. Part of the manipulation process is lowering the inhibitions of children. A skilled predator who can get children into a situation where they must change clothing or stay overnight will almost always succeed in victimizing them. An adult who invites your child to sleep over at his or her house alone should raise a red-flag warning to you.

A predator might touch your child in your presence so that he or she thinks that you are comfortable with the touching. This act might be as simple as draping an arm over the child’s shoulder or asking for a hug to say goodbye. Be aware of your child’s reactions to other adult’s touches.
Keep in mind that the first physical contact between a predator and his or her victim is often nonsexual and designed to desensitize the child. It breaks down inhibitions and leads to more overt sexual touching. It may begin as an “accidental” bump or rub, an arm around the shoulder, a brushing of hair.
Teach your children that any physical contact between child and adult is something to be wary of and questioned.
A predator might take advantage of a child’s natural curiosity about sex by telling “dirty” jokes, showing him or her pornography or by playing sexual games. If your child starts to talk (uncharacteristically) about sex and things related to it, never overlook this kind of development because it might be a sign that he or she is being groomed. Be aware of the physical signs as well. If your toddler is trying to touch others inappropriately, this may be a sign that there is a problem.
A predator may offer to play games or buy treats for young children. To lure older children or teenagers, they may offer to buy drugs or alcohol. “After a while, the predator starts to ask for something in return,” said Lowes. “This ‘something’ may be a sexual act or forcing the child to watch pornographic material.”
Pornography is often part of the grooming process in order to lower a child’s inhibitions. If your child is old enough to have internet access, make sure you are monitoring his or her email and social networking correspondence. A predator will send explicit materials this way as part of the grooming process.
A predator might present him or herself as a sympathetic listener when parents, friends and others disappoint a child. Predators often target adolescents who feel isolated from their peers. “Your parents don’t understand you, but I do,” “I can tell you’re lonely. I was the same way at your age,” he or she may say to a child they are trying to lure. Unfortunately, children of single parent homes are frequently preyed upon because they are seen as vulnerable or having a void that needs to be filled.
A predator might eventually treat the child victim as a co-conspirator in their “relationship”. “A predator might say, ‘Your parents would be angry at both of us if they found out what we did,’” said Lowes.
Things to Remember
Begin talking with your child about sex and anatomy at an early age.
Teach your children that any physical contact between child and adult is something to be wary of and questioned.
Teach your children to recognize grooming behavior.
Let your children know that they can always come to you and trust you with concerns.
Never blindly surrender responsibility for your children without question.
You as the parent should know your child’s teachers, day care providers, coaches, and any other adults in their lives.
Be aware of, and monitor your child’s online activity, including; who they’re talking to and what apps they’re using.
Visit schools and practices unannounced.
Ask questions.
“As a community it is our obligation to provide a support system for our children, and stand up against the people who commit these unspeakable acts. Child abuse hinders the lives of many, together we can break the cycle,” said Strickland.

Heather Walters (1738 Posts)