Although parents in Minneapolis have grown up with stories and urban legends of strangers lurking with candy, waiting to abduct children and do horrible things, the reality is that very few children are harmed by strangers. When we look at the numbers, nearly all incidents of child molestation are committed by family members or acquaintances, with only 7 percent being committed by strangers. So, if the “creepy man in the van” is a myth, why are we still so worried about him?
Perhaps it is the national response to individuals on the sex offender registry. There are communities across the country that are taking a hard-line stance against former offenders, especially around Halloween. From preventing them from decorating to making it painfully clear that they are not giving out candy, communities continue to buy into the fear of “stranger danger.”
Although it makes sense to want to protect our children against those who would do them harm, towns can take it too far. If we look at the facts, we can see that individuals on the registry are much less likely to reoffend. On top of that, they are already on a sex offender registry. If parents are still concerned, much of these former offenders’ data is available online. Parents can always just steer clear of offenders’ homes without forcing ex-offenders to remind community members of what they’ve done.
The people on the registry have made mistakes and they’ve paid a price for them. They have spent time in jail or prison and they continue to remain on the registry. Why must we insist on pushing them to identify themselves during Halloween, too?
Source: The Huffington Post, “Manufacturing Fear: Halloween Laws for Sex Offenders,” Emily Horowitz, Oct. 24, 2013