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Sex Offenders – School Children at Risk on Many Fronts
The recent arrest of a school bus driver in Hayfield, MN on sexual assault charges has had widespread repercussions in this town of about 1,300 people. About 50 people, many of them concerned parents, attended a community forum on child safety at Hayfield High School. The forum was organized because of the recent arrest of David Gerlach, a 49-year-old bus driver from Brownsdale, who has been charged with several counts of sexual abuse.
Gerlach was a bus driver for Hayfield Public Schools. On July 25, Gerlach was charged in Dodge County District Court with third-degree felony sexual misconduct and third-degree attempted sexual misconduct involving a boy, who was at least sixteen years old at the time.
“On August 1, Mower County prosecutors filed criminal charges against Gerlach, charging him with 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of first-degree burglary. Mower County said in the complaint that Gerlach committed incidents of sexual abuse between approximately 1993 and 2001 in Brownsdale, involving a boy who was 8 years old when the misconduct began.”
Tori Miller, victim advocate for the Austin Crime Victims Resource Center, told people in the audience to “trust your kids.”
“Kids don’t normally make things up like that,” said Miller, one of ten panelists at the forum. “It is very important that parents educate their children about good and bad touch, what is right and what is wrong.
Tips to keep your child safe:
o Monitor your children’s activities, including internet use and mobile text messages.
o Introduce yourself to your child’s bus driver.
o Be wary of adults who are too involved in your child’s life.
o Talk to your children about “good touch” and “bad touch.”
o Ask questions.
o “Go with your gut.” Talk to school administrators and law enforcement officials if you suspect something is amiss.
Although the advice given in this forum is effective, it does not meet what children need to know and practice.
Sex offenders use acceptable touch to condition the child to feel comfortable in their interactions. Therefore, when the sex offender feels that the child is comfortable and trusts the interaction, he/she progresses to ‘bad touch’, without warning. In an instant, the child was sexually abused.
Children usually have a sharper sixth sense than adults – i.e. their sixth sense tells them – something is wrong, their posture is a little off, there is an undercurrent. Allowing your child to express reasonable doubt will more often than not be a protective barrier against potential sex offenders. If your child is uncomfortable being around a person, including the bus driver, respect and honor your child’s sensibilities. Do what you need to do to protect your child from anyone who makes your child uncomfortable. It is much better to err on the side of caution than regret later.
Moreover, know the signs that your child is being targeted.
There is no reliable prevention of child sexual abuse, because sex offenders are cunning predators, who have perfected their skills to get what they want. Therefore, pay attention and investigate any warning signals.
Warning signals include, but are not limited to:
o Aversion to an adult – even an adult your child knows and has seemed content with up until now.
o Sudden outbursts of anger towards a person, event, activity, etc. and no obvious reason is known for such rage.
o Any unusual or unexplained change in behavior.
o You don’t want to go to school on a certain day of the week – for example, on a day when gym or music lessons are held.
o You don’t want to ride the bus or be around a certain person.
o The gym teacher says your child is athletically ‘gifted’ and wants to develop your child’s athletic ability if your child has had one-on-one practice after school. Never allow your child to be alone with someone who may have an ulterior motive.
o The teacher gives your child a present. A gift is sometimes an overture to gain your trust and prepare your child for seduction.
Source: In the case of the bus driver, parents ask questions, 8/16/2007. 10:20:54 Karen Colbenson, Post-Bulletin, Austin, MN
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