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Working for missing children

After I read your article dated Jan. 30, Pequot Lakes parents warned of offender I felt the need to address what I feel parents should know.

Every year there are approximately 800,000 reported missing children. The vast majority of these cases are runaways (630,000) where the child leaves of their own accord. Studies suggest that these children are at extreme risk for assault and exploitation, but it's worth asking, what these children are running away from. About 300,000 of those children reported missing turn out to be benign cases and the child is unharmed. Nearly half of those reported missing, however, are taken by someone the child and their family knows and trusts. Of the 58,000 non-family related abductions that occur each year, just 3 percent are strangers, but the motivation is very often to sexually abuse and/or exploit the child.

It is important to note that most offenders don't use force. They use and abuse trust, first to gain access to children and then to manipulate or frighten them into quietly accepting the abusive situation.

Depending upon the study, the statistics vary slightly, but it is conservatively estimated that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually assaulted before the age of 14; the rate goes up to 1 in 3 and 1in 6 by the time the children are 18. This is a pandemic issue that is devastating the lives of children in every socio-economic strata in the nation!

These facts and many more are the reason that I along with others parents (who met while we were in Washington D.C. lobbying for the Adam Walsh Act, which was signed into law July 27, 2006) formed the Surviving Parents Coalition (SPC) Our Mission: To advocate for legislation that will aid in the prevention of crimes against children and young adults; especially child sexual abuse, sexual assault, exploitation, abduction and murder.

I'm currently working along side of Minnesota's State Public Safety Committee to help our state to come into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act, which includes the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website. I encourage you to help the Surviving Parents Coalition by writing to those that have the means to pass and fund laws that will help to ensure the safety of our nation's No. 1 asset, our children.

LINDA WALKER of Pequot Lakes is the mother of of Dru Sjodin, who was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks, N.D., shopping mall and killed in 2003.