Monday, October 12, 2015

Halloween: Scare Tactics and Distractions

Fear is real. It is felt, and when we feel it, it can immobilize us. It can cause panic and anxiety attacks, or worse. Halloween is a time that we can safely flirt with our fears. Haunted houses, movies, TV shows, parties, and other events are frequently attended. Costumes, of course, are worn. Halloween is a time of year we can have fun with our fears.

Yet, for a huge demographic of our population, Halloween is a time that many new reporters and websites like to take advantage of fear, and make the fun parts of Halloween downright scary by feeding us information about sex offenders. As I have cited before, 10% of all child sex abuse cases are perpetrated by strangers, so there is 10% of truth to the myth that we must be vigilant against sex offenders on Halloween. However, the other 90% is severely worrying: Not because the 10% does not matter, but because it represents a very, very small proportion of what really happens. That fact alone is scarier than anything Halloween has to throw at us.

Several studies have been done on the relationship between sex offenders and Halloween. One, done by ATSA, shows no statistical difference between sex crimes on Halloween versus any other time of year. News articles, like this one, have shown much the same. Yet year after year, news organizations have put something in the news about sex offenders. Patch.com is notorious for releasing sex offender safety maps and similar campaigns in their various outlets.

The bigger danger is those escorting your children around your neighborhood. That is what the statistics say. I can attest to that- Halloween was one of the times I abused my victim. I was not yet a sex offender. I was not on the street, lurking around some corner to lure him to my home. No, I was escorting my victim home, and when we returned was when one of my abusive acts occurred. It has left me with a bad taste for Halloween, because it is one day I can clearly remember the horrendous and stupid behavior I engaged in. It is an ugly anniversary I wish I could forget.

So this year, instead of studying sex offender maps and reading stories on sex offenders, do something different. Evaluate who is going treating with your children. Estimate the amount of time it should take them to hit each house, and at the end of the night, ask them how many houses they visited. Ask yourself if the person taking your children meets any number of the warning signs. Call Stop It Now at 1-888-PREVENT or click 'get immediate help' on their homepage. Instead of focusing on useless misinformation, do something that will actually prevent harm from coming to children in your community.

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