Over the past few years, stories of adults sexually abusing children have been making the headlines. We’re all familiar with the horrific abuse cases discovered in the Catholic Church, Penn State, and Syracuse. The other day, I read a story about a man who was viewing child porn in the first class cabin of an airplane.
All of these cases make me wonder: Are there more sexual predators today are or we simple more aware of them?
When I was a child, people didn’t openly discuss this issue. Many people turned a blind eye to abuse. I was aware of adults behaving inappropriately towards children. In fact, it almost happened to me.
I was about 10 or 11 when it happened. I was on my way home from the barbershop when a taxicab pulled up next to me at the bus stop (note: I was an independent child and had the freedom to travel the city alone at an early age).
“Hey, kid,” the driver said. “You need a ride.”
I knew the bus would take a long time to arrive and I was ready to get home after spending several hours in the barbershop.
“Sure,” I replied. I jumped into the back seat and the driver sped off. I didn’t think much of getting into a cab because my mother dated a cab driver. I trusted them.
We drove quietly for a few minutes and then out of the blue, the driver asked, “Are you in a hurry to get home?”
“Yes, I am in a hurry,” I said.
“You’re too young to be in a hurry,” he said. “You need to relax and have some fun. I can take you to somewhere you can have some fun.”
“What kind of fun?” I asked.
“You know, you can get undressed and kiss some girls. You like girls don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“I got some girls who can make you feel good,” he said.
I knew something was wrong about this conversation so I grabbed the door handle and was prepared to jump out of the car. As we neared my neighborhood, I told the driver to drop me off several blocks from my house. He insisted on driving me all the way home, but I told him that I needed to run an errand for my mother. He dropped me off in a parking lot and I ran to nearby Walgreens and stayed inside until I thought he was gone.
I never told anybody about this incident, but I often think about. I’m thankful that the car didn’t have automatic locks and I was able to escape without harm, but I wonder how many other kids he may have picked up and abused.
I urge all parents and care givers to protect your children from the sexual predators who wish to harm them. Instill in them the confidence to speak up if a situation feels uncomfortable. But most of all, build a strong, trusting relationship where your child feels comfortable talking to you about anything. Together we can defeat the predators and keep our children safe.