The importance of knowing the people who interact with your kids and the nature of those interactions cannot be overstressed.
A seminar hosted by the Crawford County Domestic Violence Task Force walked attendees through scenario after scenario showing the ease with which a child can be victimized, whether by a sexual offender or through sexual trafficking.
Craig E. Hill, associate director of training for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, spoke about both topics in an effort to raise awareness of the facts for local agencies and to help the community consider how best to be prepared for these situations.
"You have to prepare for this in your communities just like I’m sure this community prepares for tornados," Hill said, as he shared the story of Alexandra Kemp, a Leawood teen who was murdered at the pool where she worked.
Hill talked about different types of sex offenders, their modes of operation and ways to prevent children from becoming victims.
"Prevention is key," Hill said. " It can happen anywhere. You have to be prepared for it."
"The acquaintance down the road can’t molest your child if your child doesn’t go in their home; if they’re not alone with them," Hill said. "Offenders commit these crimes because they are allowed that time alone with the child."
Hill also talked about the topic of domestic minor sex trafficking, which is a new focus in terms of training.
He said children who run away frequently become a part of the commercial exploitation and human trafficking industry within a very short time, and he said hypersexualization and changing attitudes toward sex play right in to the problem and the ability of traffickers to prey on youth.
"The bottom line is children today are at risk, because regardless of race or background these predators are there," Hill said.
While the material presented was admittedly disturbing, members of the task force who helped plan the event said the goal was to provide information on topics that are taking place in communities of all sizes across the nation.
"With a better understand and better knowledge, people will walk out of this training and seminar with a newfound commitment," said Michael Gayoso, Crawford County’s district attorney.
He said developing a more thorough understanding of some of these situations is of local importance.
"One of our goals is to bring great presenters to this area to enlighten the Southeast Kansas community on these topics," Gayoso said, adding that the topic is important for the professionals represented at the seminar to be aware of.
"We have everyone from law enforcement, social service agencies, attorneys and judges," he said.
Rebecca Brubaker, executive director of the Safehouse Crisis Center, said the ability to hit the pavement and know that children being victimized by sex offenders or through sex trafficking is an extremely serious topic is important, and she said the information presented at the seminar will come to mind in situations faced by many of the professionals who were present.
"Those things are going to be useful because they’re going to pop back in their heads," she said.