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What About Prevention?

To the Editor:

Metroland’s recent article “Fun with Numbers” [Newsfront, June 16] discusses discrepancies in the numbers reported on recidivism for sexual offenders. The data is skewed. This is not the only area dealing with the issues of sexual abuse and offenses where there is misinformation.

Let’s consider Megan’s Law, which seems to empower parents. It feels comforting to identify the bad guy and know where he lives, especially with a reported 500,000 sex offenders in the U.S.

The schools have the task of issuing letters to parents about offenders moving into the community. Some offer educational resources with websites providing information and statistics. For instance, sexual abuse is in epidemic proportions—impacting 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys. I wonder how our treatment plans measure up for this epidemic.

Parents receive letters warning of a predator who may commit sex crimes in the neighborhood, but the schools sending the letters do not teach prevention.

Would a doctor tell us about an illness that could affect our child without teaching us how to ease the symptoms or avoid it?

Elementary-level programs such as Stranger Danger and Child Lures are not nearly enough. High Schools are mandated to teach Health which includes a unit on sexuality and lightly covers such topics as sexual abuse. A unit within a half-year course. Is this enough treatment or more like an aspirin for cancer?

Some schools have been under fire for not including sufficient detail. But where do they go for guidance in implementation, when the law is loosely written leaving the how, what and when up to each district? Sounds like a prescription with no pharmacy to dispense the medication, or inform on dosage and possible side effects.

How did the schools get this responsibility in the first place? I can only speculate that because they have access to names and addresses it appears logical they would notify parents. Have we entrusted schools to describe the carriers of an ailment, but not armed them with information or authorization to assist in prevention?

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I know how complicated the issue is. I believe we have a false sense of security in what exactly Megan’s Law will do. Reporting offenders is a step in the right direction. But the next, and more important step, is prevention.

For school-age children, prevention education could be woven into their schools’ curriculum, teaching about healthy relationships. Community education for parents would help but is not available for a variety of reasons, one of which is funding.

This year’s budget cuts will affect agencies providing some of these services, which are slated to lose 14 percent. Some of those same agencies provide treatment to survivors ensuring recovery to stop the cycle of victims and perpetrators.

Health costs—Medicaid dollars specifically—are a concern for Albany County. Will there be a backlash of treatment needs if prevention is not the priority? Is that what is happening now?

And, about those letters, is this information important enough to disseminate to the general public?

We need to look at this issue more closely. What purpose is being served by knowing where an offender is, when we don’t have enough good information or services? Parents for Megan’s Law is a website with some useful information, but in my opinion, promotes a quick fix. There is no quick fix for sexual abuse. Ask any survivor.

Parents should contact their local legislature or school board and let them know we need better programs and more information.

Personally, I feel like that little girl who was victimized. I know where the offender is, but don’t know what to do to stop the abuse. It seems the offender is getting all the attention. I hope this changes sometime in the near future.

I applaud Metroland for stepping up to the plate, and having the courage to print some aspects of this issue.

Laurie Schaible


Making It

To the Editor:

I stumbled across, and enjoyed, the “All Over the Map” review [Art, June 9] of Josh Dorman’s current exhibit at the Lake George Arts Project Courthouse Gallery. In response to the comment that perhaps Josh was not showing his best works—was represented in his Cue Gallery show last fall—I would like to point out that just about every single work shown at Cue was, in fact, sold. He was even pulling out works from the basement to meet the demand. I know, I was there. And as the proud sister of this amazing artist, I can tell you that he has been working nonstop since then to keep up with the demand for his work.

The comment about Josh being “that kid in your fourth-grade class” who was always drawing was on the mark. That’s Josh, and as I marveled at his creations when we were young kids, I still do.

Shawn Dorman McKenzie



In “Would You Like to See the Kids’ Menu?” (Newsfront, June 9), we incorrectly identified Betsy Mercogliano as a midwife. She is not; she is a doula, which is an advocate and support person for families in their childbearing year.

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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