Don't disregard worries about unseen child molesters in your neighborhood.
Q: My new neighbor seems a little creepy. I have small children and now I'm a little worried about letting them play outside. Is there anything specific I should be looking for that would tell me my gut feeling is right about this guy?
A:That sound you hear in your stomach isn't because you're in desperate need of some nachos and a cold one. It's your gut trying to smack some sense into you. If you're gut is telling you he's creepy, then he's creepy, at least to you.
You don't need some government checklist to tell you that. Just because your gut is screaming bloody murder at you, don't go burning the schmuck's house down. But you can keep you're kids away from Mr. Smith's backyard kiddie land and save a fortune in liquor and cigarettes that you'd be consuming trying not to worry about it.
Life would be simpler if the pedophiles were all hideous old guys in overcoats baiting children with candy. Those pedophiles are out there, fitting perfectly into society's stereotypes. But those are the easy ones to pick out.
Child molesters emerge from every nook and cranny. They can be men or women, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, religious or non-religious, highly educated or just street smart, or from any race and creed. For the most part, they know their victim, subtly seducing them.
You want your kids to be safe. If you didn't you would have dropped them off on a street corner and let them fend for themselves. But you didn't because you love them. And every night when you tuck them in bed and kiss them good night, they go to sleep knowing you'd walk through fire to protect them.
And that means figuring out where the real danger lies – and sometimes it isn't packaged nice and pretty with a guy with a tattoo on his on arm that says "I (heart) kids."
Luckily, the pinstriped suits over at the Department of Justice have seen a few child molesters over the years, and based on that they've come up with a list of developed characteristics and behavioral indicators of a pedophile. Just because your mailman or the grocery store clerk fits some of these doesn't mean he is a pedophile, but you might to start tuning into your gut.
For the most part they are men, usually married. They're pretty set on preference, gravitating to either boys or girls, and a specific age. They have been molested themselves. And they are givers, volunteering or working in programs which cater to the children they prefer.
Since adults really aren't their thing, child molesters tend to gravitate toward the smaller set or like-minded predator. They are avid collectors of children's erotica, and collect pictures of their victims; they may go to great lengths to hide their illegal activities.
And for the most part, these guys don't have much of a rap sheet. There just aren't too many little kids in the joint and even the lowest of the low of the criminal underworld don't have a high tolerance for the kiddie molesters.
If a Megan's Law search on your new neighbor came up empty, you may have come across the dirty little secret that not all convicted sex offenders are required to be listed. If you're going to worry, you might not want to worry so much about the ones you know about.
Worry about the ones who haven't gotten caught yet.