A new state bill on the verge of being signed into law seeks to educate parents on recognizing signs of child predators. The law addresses what many child advocacy experts consider an education gap between children and parents when it comes to sex offenders.
Originally introduced by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, who represents Greenpoint and Williamsburg, the bill mandates the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) make an educational video about how pedophiles lure children by first securing the trust of their parents.
Most pedophiles know both their victims and their victims’ parents.
The law mandates the video be available in public libraries and police stations throughout the state, as well as on YouTube and other Internet venues.
In addition, it mandates DCJS do extensive outreach in conjunction with the video’s release, which advocates hope will be sometime in the next year.
“As caregivers and parents it is our responsibility to make sure we are fully educated as well [as children]. Unfortunately, many parents don’t have this vital information or know where to get it,” Lentol said.
Lentol proposed this bill in his role as Assembly Chair of the Codes Committee, which oversees criminal laws and the penalties attached to them.
Having passed both houses of the State Legislature, the bill awaits the signature of Governor David Paterson, who is expected to sign it within a few days of press time.
“The sad truth is that most victims of sexual assault know their abusers. Abusers work very hard to gain the trust of not only their victim, but their victim’s entire family,” said Lentol.
“Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply teach out children to be wary of strangers. We must teach ourselves how sex predators lure their victims and gain the trust of parents and children alike,” he said.
According to Lentol spokesperson Cathy Peake, the video will be modeled after videos made by child advocacy organizations, many of which feature in-depth interviews with incarcerated pedophiles divulging their methods.
“It will be an uncomfortable video to watch, but it will make parents that much more aware of how they can be the first victim of pedophiles. They fall prey by trusting the pedophile,” Peake said.
This latest bill designed to curb sex offenders comes on the heels of Governor Paterson’s signing of the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (E-STOP) last month.
The E-STOP law, which was also introduced by Lentol, mandates that all sex offenders register their internet accounts – including email and instant messaging addresses – with DCJS.
This information – which must be updated if changed, under penalty of law – will be made available to social networking websites like Myspace and Facebook. These website, in turn, are advised to prescreen and remove offenders and advise law enforcement of suspicious behavior.
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