Safeguarding Our Children

It was ironic that just days after Gov. Jim Justice proclaimed this to be “Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” West Virginians were given evidence of why that matters to us.

Last Thursday, federal, local and state officials revealed some work being done by a special task force operating in the state’s southern counties. U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, who handles the Southern District of West Virginia, said that during the past six months, the Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force has made 19 arrests, executed 27 search warrants, obtained 10 indictments and gotten nine convictions.

And, it was noted, the task force’s work did not include prosecutions by Stuart’s office of nearly a dozen cases involving child exploitation and internet pornography.

Again, accomplishments by the task force were just during the past six months and only in the southern half of our state.

“Child exploitation is an epidemic in America today — and West Virginia is not immune from the predators that prey on our children,” Stuart said. The numbers make it clear he was not exaggerating the extent of the problem.

Investigators in the office of William Powell, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, have been active in hunting down and prosecuting predators, too. Just a few days ago, they revealed a man in Triadelphia had been sentenced for failing to update his sex offender registry information after moving here from New York.

One factor contributing to the epidemic is that sex predators have a relatively new tool — the internet. It can give them some measure of anonymity, along with a much larger pool of potential victims.

At one time, before the digital age, it was relatively simple to protect one’s children against predators. The internet has made the task much more difficult.

It is still an imperative facet of parenting, however. Parents must educate their children on the dangers of online predators — then monitor their internet activity.

That can make mom and dad unpopular with the kids. But — and you’ve heard this before ­– being a good parent is not about being your child’s best friend. Sometimes, protecting them requires being the adult in the room. Clearly, there is more against which to protect them than ever before.

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