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Getting the message out on child sex abuse

Child sex abuse ranks right at the top of heinous crimes. What could be sicker? When we read about it we shake our head in disbelief. But disturbing headlines keep coming, even here in Lincolnton. We had one Wednesday and another Friday. A Lincoln County man pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of indecent liberties with a child. One of the victims was only 11 at the time of the abuse. The second story involved a 34-year-old Stanley man who was charged with taking indecent liberties with the 5-year-old daughter of a friend.
What’s disturbing is the frequency of these reports. They seem to be happening on a routine basis. It’s not at all unusual to have more than one of these incidents reported in a week’s period in Lincoln County alone.
The reasons for child sexual abuse are complex and varied. But we do know that some of these offenders are predators who will repeat their crimes over and over again. Today, repeater sexual offenders are publicly labeled as sexual abusers, and their addresses are available if their neighbors want to check public records and Web sites. Public labeling is a cruel, but effective way to alert people of this threat.
Educating the public is probably the wisest approach to this problem. And, perhaps educating these troubled individuals themselves is another effective approach. In Richmond, Va., a giant black and white billboard chides young men as they motor along Interstate 95 through the capital city, according to a story carried this weekend by the Associated Press.
“Isn’t she a little young?’’ the sign bluntly asks. It continues: “Sex with a minor. Don’t go there.’’ The billboard is one of many unveiled across the state this summer as part of a unique state health department campaign aimed at reducing statutory rape. Napkins, stickers, coasters and matchbooks bring the same message to bars and restaurants where young men tend to congregate. The campaign has drawn praise, criticism and more than a few snickers.
Advocates say whether it’s well-received or not, the campaign is at least generating awareness.
With this horrible, continuing problem, public awareness is essential.

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