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Dear Amy: I have been living in my apartment for seven years. I am a single mom, and my son is a toddler.
I am very concerned because there is a neighbor who rarely said hello to me before my child was born. He's a single man in his 50s, seems to be a loner and has lived here for more than 20 years.
Since my son's birth, this man has had an unusual preoccupation with my son. At first I thought it was sweet, because many people showed him attention.
However, as the months have gone on, I have had an extremely uneasy feeling about his interest in my son. I fear he is a child molester. I checked the sex offender list in my state, and his name isn't on it. I told one of my neighbors about my concerns and learned that another neighbor with children told him to stay away from her kids -- this man has a strong attraction to her young son too.
I feel guilty that this man may just be lonely, but he goes out of his way to be with my son (he'll ride back up the elevator just to spend time with him, etc.). I am always with my son, but worry about him as he gets older, because this man is trying to befriend him.
Is there anything I can do or say to him?
-- Very Concerned Mom
Dear Mom: I read your letter to Joan Tabachnick, director of public education at "Stop It Now!" -- a national child sexual abuse prevention program. We both think you're doing many things right.
First of all, you are right to listen to your gut. Your instincts are an important tool in keeping your son safe. You are also right to reach out to other neighbors. You should speak directly with this other mom to learn exactly what concerned her about this man's behavior toward her son.
An educated parent who will advocate for her child is a vital tool in preventing abuse. You need to speak with this male neighbor. Tell him honestly that his interest in your son makes you uncomfortable. Tell him what your boundaries are, and tell him you expect him to respect these boundaries. And then, of course, make sure your son is never in this man's presence without you also being present.
Get to know your other neighbors well -- a secure community of people who will keep an eye out for you and your son is an important safety tool. For more information on how to determine if a child is at risk for being sexually abused, check www.stopitnow.org. You can also call 888-773-8368 to speak with a counselor who will help guide you through this.
Good advice, Amy…and good instincts Mom. go with your gut!!! And his not being on the sex offenders list means nothing - he could be one that hasn't gotten caught yet.
at any rate, his attention is making you uncomfortable; his attention has made other parents uncomfortable - go with your gut.
He may just be a lonely man who loves kids, but she is right to be cautious. You just never know.
A truly "lonely man who loves kids" will find a way to love them with their parents around. My dad loves to be around children, so he volunteers for a family amateur astronomy program. After several meetings with the family and in group settings, he invited a pre-adolescent boy to come to a "star party." I went with them. The parents were comfortable sending their son on an overnight with an older man because they knew my father well when the invitation was issued to them - not to the boy. Also, they were told there would be a group of people - not just him and the boy. Of course, he could have lied and taken the boy to an isolated place and done terrible things to him. We all have to take some chances in life. One should use your brain and gut to decide what risks are worth the rewards. What "reward" is there for this woman to encourage her young son to spend time around this lonely old man? BTW - The boy had a blast! Got to stay up till dawn and sleep in till noon.
The mother finding out that another neighbor had had problems and had to tell him to quit hanging near her kids makes me believe it would be better if Mom erred on the side of caution than not!
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