The Three Village Herald

To the editor,

A recent high-risk sex offender notification implemented in our community provides us knowledgeof one individual and offers us the opportunity to take necessary safeguards for ourselves and ourchildren but should by no means lead us to believe that if a particular registered sex offender isnot residing here, our children would be safe from those who commit sex crimes against them. Infact, the U.S. Justice Department estimates that there are over four million child molestersresiding in the United States but there are only approximately 265,000 registered sex offendersacross the entire country.

Most childhood sexual abuse, 85 percent, occurs between a child and someone that child has anestablished relationship with, often someone in a position of authority. Further, most of thosechildren will not report the abuse because of the dynamics of the relationship that they have withthe abuser or person in a position of authority. The FBI estimates that only one to 10 percent ofabuse is ever reported.

Pedophiles use a process known as grooming to establish relationships with our children forthe primary purpose of sexually abusing them. Incarcerated pedophiles tell us to be suspicious ifsomeone seems more interested in our children than we are. There are many red flags you can teachyour children to keep them safer.

There are currently over 9,400 registered sex offenders in New York. Since May of 1998 over7,000 have been protected from community notification because of a court injunction. Beginning inJanuary, because of an amendment to Megan's Law, those who were protected will no longer be, and weshould expect to see a significant increase in the number of notifications implemented over thenext year. Keep in mind that sex offender notifications are not required by law but arediscretionary.

If we demand that our government vigorously implement sex offender notifications so must wedemand of each other that we use the information responsibly. The success of Megan's Law in ourcommunity and in New York State is predicated upon the vigorous implementation and responsible useof sex offender notifications. As we vigorously disseminate notifications we must keep in mind thatresponsible use means that members of our community not harass, discriminate or commit a crimeagainst any registered offender.

Our first sex offender notification presents a number of challenges that communities across thecountry have been faced with since the enactment of Megan's Law in 1996. We may be concerned but wemust recognize that sex offenders have been living amongst us for generations and Megan's Lawnotifications provide us the opportunity to be made aware only of the presence of those who havebeen caught. We must use this notification as an opportunity to educate ourselves and our childrenabout sexual abuse. We must use this information responsibly because if we don't it will withoutquestion jeopardize future notifications for all of us in our community and in New York State.

Laura A. Ahearn, C.S.W.

Executive Director

Parents For Megan's Law