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Protect your family from online predators

Justparents.com has collated information from leading charities and organisations to keep your children safe while you search for love

‘Research shows that children are more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know.’ Parents will find this statement from child protection charity Kidscape alarming – particularly those who have plucked up the courage to start looking for love.

Indeed, recent statistics make grim reading. The NSPCC revealed in May that the number of reports of child abuse in England and Wales in 2009-10 had increased by 8 per cent in a year. More than 23,000 offences – including rape, incest and gross indecency – were logged. And the UK’s national centre for child protection – the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) – reported its highest yearly figures of child sex offender arrests in the past year. A total of 513 arrests were made, but that means 414 children were safeguarded, the agency said.

Its chief executive Peter Davies told the BBC Radio 4Today programme that the number of online victims was increasing. ‘There’s more harm going on on the internet… this is an immense problem,’ he said. The NSPCC’s Jon Brown urged ‘everyone to be vigilant and report any concerns they have about a child’.

Peter Davies (CEOP) “This is an immense problem”

So how easy is it to spot a predator?
‘The caricature of the “evil paedophile”portrayed in the media really doesn’t help. If you think about it, what child would trust such a frightening character or allow someone like that to get close to them?’ says the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service(CCPAS). ‘Sex offenders are, in other respects, ordinary people just like anyone else.’
So a cautious approach to a new relationship is always best, says Simon Bass, CCPAS’s chief executive officer.

He explains: ‘Paedophiles will use every method available and a good form of communication is the internet. That happens with children through to adults on dating sites. It’s more likely an adult will fall victim.’ Because single parents often feel lonely, it can make them more vulnerable to advances by sex offenders. A social worker, who works with sexually abused children, says appearing confident and independent can help deter predators.
She told Justparents.com: ‘It’s a tricky area. Keeping yourself protected is not coming across as being on your own. Paedophiles target single parents who are isolated so they won’t bother if they know the father is on the scene. Even if there isn’t a father, lie to begin with.
‘If someone is trying to exploit you, they are looking for an easy target. They are looking for vulnerable, lonely parents. Come across as strong and confident.’
Kidscape recommends protecting your children by explaining to them the difference between ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ secrets.
It says: ‘A secret about a birthday party is OK, but no one should ever ask them to keep kisses or touches a secret.’ It adds: ‘Most paedophiles are not strangers. Tell children that is anyone, even someone they know, touches them in a confusing or frightening way, they should tell you.’

If you do suspect someone is a sex offender, there is a way of finding out if they have a criminal record through Sarah’s Law, which allows police to release details on request. Named after Sarah Payne, who was kidnapped and murdered by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting in 2000, the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, as it is officially known, was piloted across four police forces from September 2008. Now all 43 police forces across England and Wales take part.

Sara Payne pioneered ‘Sarah`s Law’

Anyone who is worried about someone who has contact with their child can ask officers to check if the person has a record of abusing children. Since its introduction, 111 sex offenders have been exposed as the direct result of inquiries, it was reported recently. But criminologist and child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas believes Sarah’s Law is partially flawed.
‘Just because somebody hasn’t got have a conviction, doesn’t mean that they are not a risk,’ he says. ‘What we know is that a large majority of offenders who are caught for the first time have been offending for many, many years. I don’t want the public to assume that that means the individual’s safe.’

Although all parents must do what they can to protect their family, it is worth noting that child sex abuse is relatively uncommon, with fewer than one in every 500 youngsters affected.
So the fear of bringing a predator into your home should not put you off looking for love online, particularly when the number of single-parent households in Britain stands at 23 per cent, or 1.9million single parents. That’s a lot of potential new partners – just be sensible, careful and take it slow.

NSPCC advice on keeping your child

Help your child understand about sex, about his or her body and about what is sexually healthy. Be as positive as possible – children should feel proud of their bodies and not ashamed.
Talk to your child about sexual matters. It is important that you also know what is appropriate sexual behaviour as children grow older and become adolescents.
Help with sex education. Talking about sexual matters is normal but if you feel embarrassed, your health visitor or doctor should be happy to advise you. Or why not ask your child’s teacher for advice about talking to your child at home? Build an open and trusting relationship with your children from when they are very young. Explain the difference between good and bad secrets. Teach your child they have the right to refuse to do anything they feel is wrong or that frightens them. Stress that they should not hesitate to tell you or another adult if something happens they don’t like.

(This is an extract from the National Society for the Protection of Children’s advice leaflet, Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse. You can download it at nspcc.org.uk.)

NSPCC advice on spotting paedophiles

Abusers often build up a close relationship with a family through friendship or marriage. They may befriend hard-pressed parents who are having difficulties coping with their children.

Single-parent families are particularly at risk of this kind of approach. It is impossible to describe a typical sexual abuser or paedophile. They do not look different to other people and they behave in a variety of ways.
They are found in all areas of society and can come from any professional, racial or religious background. Contrary to the popular image, people who sexually abuse children often appear kind, concerned and caring towards children. This is part of building a close relationship with children, which allows them to abuse without being suspected or discovered.

(This is an extract from the National Society for the Protection of Children’s advice leaflet, Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse. You can download it at nspcc.org.uk.)

Where to turn to for support:
If a child is at immediate risk, dial 999.
If you suspect someone of child sex abuse, contact your local social service department or police force.
Kidscape, 08451 205204, kidscape.org.uk
see the advice leaflet, Help! Someone I Care About May Be a Sex Offender at http://www.ccpas.co.uk/Documents/

CCPAS (Churches’ Child Protection Advisory
Service, 0845 120 4550, info@ccpas.co.uk, ccpas.co.uk –

NSPCC, 0808 800 5000, help@nspcc.org.uk,
nspcc.org.ukStop it Now!,
0808 1000 900,
help@stopitnow.org.uk, stopitnow.org.ukChildLine, 0800 1111, childline.org.uk

Published by JustParents.com, the _single_parent_dating_ site.

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