A false sense of security on the islands? | Guest column

Kim Bryan

By Kim Bryan

Special to the Islands Weekly

April is sexual assualt awareness month. Look for an article from Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of San Juan County each week this month with valuable educational thoughts.

The following comment was stated at a public meeting a year ago, “Our Island is a safe place where our children can go play at the park or ride their bike to the store alone. We don’t have to worry about sexual abuse issues around here. If you allow this registered sex offender to move into our county then that safety will be gone!”

Really?

Statistics tell us that one in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually assaulted by their 16th birthday. Over 90 percent of these victimized children know and trust their abusers. Can we really believe that one registered sex offender will burst our “safety bubble?”

At this meeting I was sitting behind a family with a small boy, approximately 5-years-old. About half-way through the meeting he asked to go to the bathroom. His parents sent him alone, out the door, down the hallway and around the corner to the restroom. He returned, only to ask to go again a few minutes later. As the minutes ticked by, I so desperately wanted to tap his father on the shoulder and ask him if he knew who might be in that restroom with his little son. Thirteen agonizing minutes later he returned.  While focused on keeping a registered sex offender off their island, his parents seemed oblivious to the risk their little boy had just been exposed to.

Could it be possible that we have lulled ourselves into a false sense of safety?  Statistics tell us that there were at least a few sex offenders at that meeting. Isn’t it time we islanders open our eyes to the real dangers living amongst us?

It’s not that we want to distrust everyone in our circle of friends and family. It is just that, for the sake of our children, we must educate ourselves on the insidious threats that are living and working next to us every day.

Next week we will discuss the “grooming behaviors” used by those around us to dishonestly gain our trust.

Kim Bryan is an advocate and prevention coordinator for DVSAS.