How to Protect Your Children from Sexual Predators and Other Dangers. (Crime)

Ebony, August 2002 | Go to article overview

How to Protect Your Children from Sexual Predators and Other Dangers. (Crime)


FOR some strange reason, the number of Black children, especially young Black females, who have been kidnapped raped and murdered has increased dramatically.

There has also been a startling rise in the number of young Black females who have been lured into compromising situations by sexual predators, claiming to be or claiming to have access to celebrities. A great deal of national attention has been focused on R&B singer R. Kelly's indictment on child pornography charges--he denies the charges--but the number of child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation cases involving vulnerable young women has reached epidemic proportions. In a disturbing number of cases, the offenders have turned out to be family members, in-laws, or "pillars of the community."

In Atlanta, Jean and Victor (all names have been changed) really liked their daughter's new piano instructor. He was loved by his students and respected by the community, both as a piano teacher and as a mentor. He had gained special recognition for his unique ability to get the most out of his students.

Jean and Victor invited the piano instructor over for dinner numerous times, and even allowed their daughter to go to band camp with him. Imagine their shock when they discovered that the "charming" piano teacher had a 15-year history of molesting hid students--in and out of music class--and that their daughter was one of his many victims.

In Cleveland, 14-year-old Gloria Pointer left for school 15 minutes earlier than usual. She was to receive a good-attendance award that day and was very excited about it.

Gloria never made it to school.

She was raped and murdered shortly after leaving her home, police say. Although the crime happened nearly two decades ago, to this day, the family is distraught over the fact that Gloria's killer has not been caught. "It is an unsolved case, this murderer is walking around ... and unfortunately our children were born Black [so the general sentiment is] `Who cares?'" Gloria's mother, Yvonne Pointer-Triplet, child activist and author of Behind the Death of A Child. "But I do care because I'm her mother. I care for her and for all of the other children who could be his victims as well."

Another mother, Ayanna Bourgeois of Milwaukee, is distraught over the disappearance of her daughter, Alexis Patterson. On May 3, Alexis' stepfather reportedly walked her a half-block from their home, just across the street from her school. Despite the efforts of the Milwaukee sheriff deputies, dozens of civilian volunteers (who provided, among other things, free billboards and an Internet site to help locate the child), there were still no clues to Alexis' whereabouts at press time.

"Whoever got my baby, they don't know how they're hurting me," Bourgeois told a reporter. "I am weak."

And in Chicago, a young mother hasn't seen her two daughters since July of 2001, despite nationwide search efforts and an appearance on America's Most Wanted. The two missing sisters, Tionda Bradley, 11, and Diamond Bradley, 4, reportedly left their home to go to the store while their mother was at work. They haven't been seen since.

The large number of cases of children who have been snatched from their beds in the middle of the night, lured into ears and abducted from grocery stores has created a national climate of fear. In Chicago, talk radio station WVON, the Southside YMCA and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. sponsored a community forum to discuss the issue.

The biggest disadvantage the community has against protecting the children is that child predators do not wear nametags and don't look like monsters. Police authorities say that child predators don't creep around in dark alleys, choosing instead to operate in the open and have chosen professions (or perhaps volunteer in areas) that give them access to their prey. And one of the more common mistakes parents make is giving the assailant unsupervised access to their children.

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