Keeping your family safe from sex offenders

May 12, 2010 3:28:09 PM PDT
Eyewitness News takes a looks at what you need to know about sex offenders to keep your family safe. How they often target their victims and what you should tell your children. Eyewitness News spent several weeks in Westchester County, which could be any community when it comes to sex offenders. The average sex offender is a 37 year-old man and the most common victim is a 14 year-old girl. Before they get caught, many offenders have abused dozens of other victims, the average is 54.

Sex offenders in Westchester County are typical. Almost all knew their victims, he molested his own daughter.

"How I violated her, you think about those things," said a sex offender.

They talked to us about grooming. It's like wooing a date, and increasingly, they're meeting their victims on line.

"I made her feel comfortable with me. I engaged in a lot of chats with her to the point where I was able to meet her after school one day, and I abused her at that time," described another sex offender.

Jerry Kiely is a veteran Westchester County probation officer.

"Everybody has this image of what a sex offender is and they're not what everybody thinks. It's not Chester the molester hiding in the woods. It's a teacher, it's the lawyer, it's the doctor, it's the garbage man," said Kiely. "They try to form a bond with their victims. They know what their victims are lacking," said Rory Bellantoni.

Former Judge Rory Bellantoni spent nearly three years presiding over Westchester sex offender court.

"I had a particular case where an adult male dated a single mother with a son for the sole purpose of gaining access to the boy to sexually abuse him," Bellantoni.

The reality is that many sex offenders who should be in prison are on probation living in neighborhoods like yours, after pleading down their charges.

Westchester Probation Supervisor Wanda Baskerville: "Oftentimes the guys on probation, their cases are settled because there is no witness or they won't come forward."

Another reality is that even with treatment, which involves routine polygraph testing, and group therapy most offenders we spoke with couldn't promise they wouldn't do it again.

Eyewitness News Reporter Sarah Wallace: "Do you feel comfortable that you won't have other victims? Are you hopeful that this will never happen again?"

Sex Offender: "It is a struggle."

Wallace: "Do you believe you won't re offend?"

Sex Offender: "I can't say that. I will try very hard."

A salesman charged with raping one victim admitted to me there were nearly two dozen more.

Wallace: "Had you not been caught would you have kept going?"

Sex Offender: "I'm sure I would have."

"They're living next door to us. At least with probation, someone is monitoring them, very closely," said Dawn Allen, Westchester probation officer.

Often, for ten years but the intense work takes a hefty personal toll on the probation officers in the sex offender unit.

"You're not going to hear the stuff that we hear and then go home and want to be intimate with your loved one. You know?" said Kiely.

It's especially hard on new moms.

Westchester County probation officer, Eleni Galiatsos: "I'm not like a regular mom. When I go to the park, I look at people and wonder, because of, because of what I do."

"A lot of times, when I hear them talk about their offenses and what they did to children, I think of my daughter," added Dawn Allen.

Judge Bellantoni believes children need to be taught its ok to resist unwanted affection from adults.

"They don't feel they have a right to say no or to say stop, and I think we have to teach our children they have a right to say not. That their bodies are their own, from the time they are three, four, five years old. That if you don't want someone to give you a hug then tell them that and don't let them touch you," said Judge Bellantoni.

Another thing to be aware of, there is enormous crossover in deviant behavior. For instance, someone who is listed as a child molester could also rape adults if given the opportunity.

For more of Sarah Wallace's interview with Former Judge Rory Bellantoni, CLICK HERE.

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