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Talking to Kids About Sex Offenders

Why I Had to Talk to My Kids About Sex Offenders

I have always been fairly frank with my kids. I started the difficult conversations about things like sex, sexuality, drugs, and peer pressure when they were very young. As they grew older, the conversations evolved and I felt confident that they were comfortable talking to me. So, I patted myself on the back, thinking I'd done my job well.

Last year, though, I was blindsided when someone in my family was sentenced on charges of possession of sexually explicit material. This was a difficult conversation I never thought to have with my kids — a conversation about child pornography and sexual predators.

Keep reading.

"Stranger Danger" Isn't Always From a Stranger

Sure, I taught my kids about "stranger danger" and I'd read stories about kids being charged with possession of sexually explicit materials as a result of sexting, but this was different. This was personal.


I had to explain to my two older kids why they wouldn't be having any more contact with their relative, and (thankfully) confirmed they hadn't been victimized in any way.

This was a conversation about someone they knew, loved, and trusted, which, as Circle of Moms member Barb S. points out, is the scary thing about this type of situation. Though her circumstance was a little different, she's right when she says, "He's not the creepy stranger danger that everyone fears will hurt their child."

Talking About the Circle of Trust

When you consider that the National Child Traumatic Stress Network reports that in three quarters of reported cases of sexual abuse involving a child, the perpetrator is a family member or someone in that child's "circle of trust," I can't imagine why I hadn't had this conversation with my kids sooner.

So, I sat down with my teenager and told her what was going on. I asked her flat out whether or not she'd been exposed to any inappropriate imagery or touched in an inappropriate way. I talked to my younger child about what child pornography is and how it exploits children. We talked about things we should have talked about a long time ago.

Why Didn't I Have the Tough Conversation Sooner?

Why hadn't I had this conversation before? To be honest, I was one of the people a member named Roberta refers to when she says, "You'd be surprised at how many people live with their head in the sand, always thinking it will never happen in 'their' family."

I didn't think my kids would ever come in contact with a sexual offender, despite knowing the odds. I was a better mother than that. I was naive. I was arrogant. I was wrong.

It was a very difficult conversation, but it was also a real eye-opener to me that these things can happen to anyone and kids need to know about this stuff so they feel comfortable talking to their parents.

Continuing the Conversation

It's been over a year now, and we've continued to have an ongoing dialogue about the issue. I've learned that my daughter has friends who were not so lucky to have their parents talk to them about sex offenders in their "circle of trust."

Not everybody in my family agrees with my decision to talk to my kids openly about this, but I'm glad I did. As Barb says, "This should never be kept a dirty little secret."

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
AliciaOakley89889 AliciaOakley89889 4 years
I think it is important to start this conversation early if my older girls wouldn't have been abused, we wouldn't be as open about talking about sex and wrong touching. My 4 year old got off the bus last week and told me hersubstitute bus driver had tickled her in the wrong spot, and points to her privates. I called the police and they set up an appointment with the children's advocacy center here. They talked to her and feel strongly that it was accidental. Had we not been open and talked so much she wouldn't have told me that. And I'm grateful that it was accidental but it could have not worked that way.if you suspect or are told something it is your responsibility as an adult to report it, even if your not sure. You should protect these children. The advocacy center tolD me they would rather have to investigate an accident than have the child be a used over and over. I am proud my daughter told me. My older girls got to see what should have happened when they told. You are the only person that can protect your child by talking to them early. YOU HAVE TO BE THEIR VOICE!!!!!
AliciaOakley89889 AliciaOakley89889 4 years
Michelleweidman- if a child/teen has told you about abuse it becomes a tricky situation. By law at least here in Texas you are required to report it. If not you can face criminal charges. My mom is looking at them right now for not saying anything when my girls had told her. But then you don't want to loose the trust that child put into you. I say explain to the child that you want what's best for them and you will always keep their secret unless it would put them in danger. And not reporting it places them in danger. Danger of it happening again and danger of mental and emotional damage for it not being helped.
nbattle78 nbattle78 4 years
I would always talk with my daughter about "wrong touching" and if ANYONE touched her in a way that made her feel bad, or dirty, then she should tell me. Never in my life could I have imagined what I am experiencing right now! I married a man and had a son with him. My daughter was happy to be a big sister after ten years. One year, my daughter's grades started slipping in school and I did everything from talking with her, punishing her, hiring tutors etc...nothing helped. Early June of 2012, I received a call from a health services worker saying that I was not allowed to remove my duaghter from school. I immediately ran to the school only for the principal to pull me into the office and tell me that my husband had been molesting my, now 13 year old daughter for two years! My world crashed. I was stuck and had no idea how to hanlde it. In the meantime, I was in the principal's office with a social worker, my daughter and the principal. My daughter admitted to me that he had been molesting her and she did not want to tell me because she didnt want to see me unhappy! It has been a tough road since then and my daughter has been denied by her most desired high school because of her grades during that time. We are still struggling to put back the pieces of our lives. My husband is in prison and I am fighting to get a divorce. Now, I have to figure out how to protect my daughter and not hurt my son with the truth. He is only three but he will eventually ask. My main concern is always my children, but as for me, I am struggling with this and it is tearing me apart litterally. I have gained so much weight from stress, high blood pressure, borderline diabetes....etc. I just wanted to get my story out because there may be someone out there who can benefit from it. thank you for listening.
AmyVelis AmyVelis 4 years
I already have the talk with my 3 year old every few weeks about anyone touching them in a bad way or touching their no-no spots and we go over what their no-no spots are. I told them they can tell me and their daddy anything. If they are told me or daddy will be hurt if they tell then than the person is lying because they dont want to get in trouble. I am starting early due to the fact that I was molested by a trusted relative. I just don't want my children to grow up thinking what I thought. I don't want them to have to experience what I had. And I have an anxiety disorder and serious trust issues that stem from that occurance. Many kids don't realize that telling people helps the pain go away. That pain will always be there. but I want my children to know they don't have to hurt like mommy and I want others to learn from my experience too. The perv in my family is Bi-Polar and Skitzofrenic and is spending the rest of his life in a jail for the mentally impared. His parents put him in there and told them they won't allow him free for fear to the younger generations being born now. So those mothers who have victimized children, just be there as a supporter and don't force your children to talk about the experience, no matter what the doctors say. It will only cause more problems. Just be there when they need you to be. If you need someone to talk to find a doctor that will help you get through this horrible time. But as I was saying before, as a victim of sexual assult at the age of 7 I want to have my children be aware. Starting at a young age teach them the no-no spots and tell them often that no one and you mean no one touches them and if they do, to tell you immediately. When they learn about lying thats when you tell them bad people will tell them not to tell because they will hurt the person they love most. Tell them the bad person is lying and don't want to get in trouble. Just aproach the conversation often so it will stay in their mind.
deidrabarnes deidrabarnes 4 years
In 2009 one of my cousins what arrested for child abuse and I am a firm believer that if you are going to hurt or take pictures of child/ren you deserve to be hurt your self. I don't care if you are family or not if you hurt a child I hope you get what you deserve!
In 2011, I had my step-father arrested for aggravated rape of my daughter who at the time was only 4 years old. In 2012, he was arrested again for child pornography involving my daughter at a younger age. I found out this had been going on since my daughter was about one year old. It is now 2013 and this case has yet to go to trial in the slow state of Louisiana. My daughter, my mother as well as myself have all been through some counseling, but that doesn't help in the least bit of the emotional trauma we are all going through, especially my daughter. I pray everyday that God will give my daughter justice by putting my step-father in prison where he rightfully belongs, he is out on bail no thanks to his parents. Also, what I need the most is an attorney in the state of Louisiana that will handle a civil suit against my step-father. One way or another, he will pay for what he has done to my daughter along with the emotional trauma she continues to undergo. Think about this ...this man is out in public on bail and can do this again and again! This man needs to be stopped and put in his rightful place ...legally! Any help on a civil suit attorney would be a great help! Isabella
JesabelleAzzopardi JesabelleAzzopardi 4 years
Thanks Deanna for answering and sharing your experience. I can understand what your kids went through at such a young age! It is a horrible experience which can haunt them all their life unfortunately. It is to their benefit that they r having therapy as it will help a lot. Yes with God's help and prayers u will make it. Never lose hope!
Deanna28573 Deanna28573 4 years
Oops posted to soon, I always talked to my kids about strangers and never expressed that family had no right to violate them mistake, two of my children were sexually molested by a cousin to them on my husbands side of the family, it started happening to my kids when they were 4 and 6 years old and it went on for almost 4 years, finally one of them came and let me know what was going on, just last year he was sentenced to 6 years in prison, that to me was not enough time considering all my kids went through and continue to go through, they both take meds for ptsd and see counselors and we will have a long road ahead of us, my husbands family don't talk to me as much as they use to, but I know that with Gods help we will make it through this.
Deanna28573 Deanna28573 4 years
Thank You for sharing this story, I think it is extremely important to educate your children at a very young age about sexual abuse and teach them that NO ONE is aloud to invade their bodies, I always talked to my
JesabelleAzzopardi JesabelleAzzopardi 4 years
Thanks a lot for sharing this story with us! When you said you should have talked to your daughter before, what age would you recommend? I have a nine year old daughter. She is very mature for her age. I have talked to her about sex and to be careful whom to trust since she was 7. I would like now to share some bad experiences I had with a sex offender in our family. He is no longer a threat now as he is in an old people's home. The experience still effects me and sometimes she sees me crying.... Do you think I should speak to her about it to make her even more aware of how careful she needs to be.? Or is she still too young? I don't want her to be disturbed, that is my query. If anyone can answer me I am much obliged. Thanks
ValisaCarter ValisaCarter 4 years
Sorry, I meant to say women don't get date raped by men they "don't" know. I was just typing so quickly and a lil uptight just bringing up the past and reliving it after reading this article. My point was that nine times out of ten, you will know the person who molests, assaults and rapes.
DavinaHarrison DavinaHarrison 4 years
It's amazing to hear your bravery through your stories. Thank you for sharing! I was molested as a kid and did not tell anybody until I was an adult. When I had kids, I told them about the subject. I didn't allow them to sleep at friends houses. I asked the questions and nobody had any experience of the sort. I didn't allow sitting on laps of men whether family or friends...and explained more "do nots" and "it's okay to tell me" messages all their lives. I died inside when my 16 year old informed me that my brother-in-law had molested her since she was FIVE!! Where did I go wrong?? What did I miss?? Why?? When?? It took a long while for her to tell me that she protected me from the hurt. I don't quite understand because I'm the protector!! We went to court, he's sentenced to prison for 12 years. My mother and my only sister (her husband) no longer speak to me. My daughter tried to commit suicide. Through it all, I'm literally hanging on to God. Who else can have the power to help me and my family? Fast forward 5 years, my daughter is stronger and living independently. I recently saw my mother and she hugged me. And my sister emailed me "hello" the other day. Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!! [Tears flowing down my cheeks!] I give you all the glory God!!!!
SueCoyle44582 SueCoyle44582 4 years
Kids should most definitely be told about these things and hopefully parents have a good enough relationship with their kids that they are never afraid to tell you. 2 things I'd like to say: My son (6 yrs. old at the time) was almost molested by my gay uncle...yes...he was gay! Luckily my sister in law at the time caught him before it he could do anything. It started with him just tickling and running around the house with him and then ended up in the bedroom at my aunts house. When he closed the door my sister in law went right in and caught him undoing his pants. I was in another room in the house. And he was drinking. Needless to say, we never spoke again. The other thing I'd like to say is...yes...woman CAN and DO get date raped by men they know. Voice of experience here! I've been raped 3 times and one of them I was drugged with something put in my drink. I was so out of it I couldn't defend myself. It was a guy I knew well. So there ya go! One of the other times it was also guys I knew from high school........4 of them. My points are: DO teach your kids what's going on in the world today and the signs to look out for in suspicious people. Keep track of your kids, don't smother them, just keep track and always know where they are, especially when they become teenagers. Make sure they know to not ever put themselves in a position that this could happen like I did. I had a Mom that was too busy with her own life to worry about mine so I had to deal with it myself. The 3rd time it was because I wanted to get stoned and went in a strangers car to get some pot. Bad idea! At that point in time (1975) all they got was a slap on the hand and put in a mental hospital for a couple yrs. Yes, he got out. And the bad thing....he was charged with it before and they let him go. They just kicked him out of the state (California). Anyway.....TALK TO YOUR KIDS!
BrittneyYoumans BrittneyYoumans 4 years
I'm teaching my kids about "tricky people" instead of strangers. Because "tricky people" can be anyone, even someone they've known their whole lives. If someone starts acting "tricky" I want to know about it.
ValisaCarter ValisaCarter 4 years
I was abused for many years by someone in my immediate family. Yes its important to teach children about "stranger danger", but we must also educate our children about "non stranger danger". Women don't get "date" raped by men they "do" know and the same goes for molestation. When I looked up the meaning for "molest" it says, "to annoy continually or chronically", "harass or assault sexually". Its ongoing. Children are more likely to be molested by someone they trust for years, so as parents we have to be wise and not naive to these true and relevant facts of life. And don't be so naive as to think its always an adult predator. It can be the child of your best friend or their cousin or brother, most likely a child themselves and parents never ever suspect anything is going on while they're in one room and the children are playing in the next. If you should suspect there is something going on then it may be wise to talk with a professional on how to approach your child to even discuss whether or not they are being molested just so they will trust you enough to talk to you about it. And as a child of molestation I can honestly say, I thought I was doing something wrong and was afraid to tell, especially when I was getting threatened of what would happen to me if I did tell. When I grew up and had children of my own, I finally told my mother of all the years of my terror, she said she never suspected anything was wrong, but I can remember being very upset and withdrawn at times and afraid. Know your child! "Look" for clues when spending time with close acquaintances, family and friends because its the only way you can truly know. Take care and God bless.
SaraCrew51652 SaraCrew51652 4 years
Sex crimes are a more prevalent threat than we'd like to think. I talk to my kids about this issue, not to scare them but to educate prepare them in the event they have such an encounter. I also encourage them to know basic self defense if running is not a option. People tend to believe that sex offenders will be strangers when they are actually often friends, relatives, neighbors or people in positions of trust such as teachers, coaches, religious figures, medical or legal professionals.
MichelleBritto MichelleBritto 4 years
Please check out my new book Mom's.. It talks directly to this article. I have not been able to keep this book in the boxes long. I am a social worker and got tired of the stories and beliefs that parents, as well as society hold about this. 95% of children are molested by people they know. I'm in NYC doing book signings and a TV interview on a morning show April 13 called " Our Live". The name of the book is "What's Below Your Tummy Tum?" It is targeted for ages 2-5, but anyone can appreciate it's gentle interactive approach. The website is
michelleweidman michelleweidman 4 years
Rebecca, you said you have had kids tell you they weere molested, I am wondering, if these are friends of your kids that tell you this, what do you do about it? I know of some kids that are being abused but I am not sure what I can do to help> What kind of actions should I be taking?
AprilBunting55481 AprilBunting55481 4 years
My Ex was a well liked computer engineer. Well spoken and highly intelligent. He was also a sociopath and had abused our oldest daughter for years. Unfortunately my oldest also suffers from serious personality disorders. It is linked with genetics. No, it wasn't from the abuse, but the pd's between the both of them allowed it to happen. There were suspicions a couple of times throughout the years and serious investigations, but he was a master manipulator, as are all psycho/sociopaths, there was no evidence, and she absolutely denied anything happened for all of that time. Ironically she chose to live with him at age 13 during our divorce. She got anything she wanted from him, including a car, but turned him in when he refused to rent her an apartment of her own (at age 15!). It was my therapist that had untangled the disturbing PD's in all of it. I just knew that she had serious violent issues with her siblings, friends, animals and myself daily since age 9. He on the other hand was a workaholic (which everyone wondered where he got the time to do anything with her because he was never around), controlling and emotionally abusive to us. Back 30 years ago nobody had pinpointed Borderline or Narcissistic behavior. The Catch-22 is the secrecy, and it is particularly rough when it's a loved family member that you grew up around that is doing wrong. A lot of time it's confusion. Did they really DO that? Or they make it seem like it's the child's imagination, or they didn't really mean it the way the child took it. The whole myth of a seedy stranger in a van offering candy is really not what happens. It could be Uncle Jack after Thanksgiving dinner who asks you for help getting something out of the shed. The sad and insane part of this is the need to create a seed of suspicion and paranoia in a child about anyone. I have a friend who was sexually abused by her mom. But it's so sad that now we have to take away that refreshing part of childhood where you have a loving family and don't have to second guess the adults in your life. I wish there were better answers. My Ex just got out of jail in WV for the second time. He still doesn't think he did anything wrong. The irony: She doesn't blame him, she blames me for not knowing. Very sad.
doraHetrick doraHetrick 4 years
When I taught young children I was supposed to make sure they knew the "stranger dangers". The problem was that almost none of them actually knew what a stranger was. When asked what (who) a stranger is they always said, "It's someone who hurts little kids" or some variant. They had some kind of mental image of an evil person. It took a long time and maturity to teach them that a stranger is someone you don't know. As often as we came back to the subject they always said the same thing.
Cyndi14373260 Cyndi14373260 4 years
AliciaOakley, I totally stand in agreement with you. One of the first verses I told my daughter was Genesis 50:20. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. She now wants to help other kids. She tried to write an essay for a school contest. The subject was suppose to be "My Greatest Fear". But the school would not let her submit it citing it "explicit". You can check it on our blog. My husband wants to help the fathers with their role in all of this. It was HIS father that he had to press charges against. Our daughter now see her father as a hero. It's important that the children know that you are willing to fight for them no matter who the perpetrator is.
Cyndi14373260 Cyndi14373260 4 years
We have blogged our journey, in hopes that it will help others. We found that there is a lot of support for victims and even counseling for the perpetrators. But not much for the caretakers of the victim. We are starting a ministry for the whole family. It's still in it's infancy, but hopefully it will be operational.
DeborahGearhart DeborahGearhart 4 years
75% of REPORTED cases involve someone that is inside that "circle of trust." Many counselors know that number to be low because so much child sex abuse goes unreported.
TheresaFerrari TheresaFerrari 4 years
My step daughter was molested by her mothers father, he is in Santa Barbara jail waiting for trial to begin in a few weeks. We as parents need to be very open with our children so they can be open with us. I hope that every patent reads this article and talk to their children today about it.
RebeccaBaldwin64616 RebeccaBaldwin64616 4 years
Alicia, I asked myself the same about myself when I was a child, & you are right God will use this situation in some was, He has brought so many guys & girls into my life who never told anyone until they met me through my 5 children. It is so sad to hear that, even with all the publicity & registers for offenders that our kids STILL don't know what to look out for!
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