Forum on sex abuse scheduled11/6/08

Residency restrictions to be discussed

Nov. 6, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

A forum next week will give residents a chance to learn about and discuss issues related to child sex abuse.

The forum, titled “How to Keep Our Children Safe,” will be held Thursday, Nov. 13 at Williston Central School. It begins at 7 p.m.

Slated to serve as panelists are Robin Castle, child sexual abuse prevention manager for Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, Sally Borden, executive director of KidSafe Collaborative, Cathleen Wilson, executive director of the Women’s Rape Crisis Center, and Chris Ford, Williston Central School counselor. Williston resident Dawn Philibert will be the moderator.

The forum will include presentations by each panelist and a question-and-answer period. Topics will include prevention of child abuse, the impact of abuse on children and punishment and residency restrictions for offenders.

The forum grew out of a proposal by Williston Selectboard member Chris Roy for an ordinance restricting where sex offenders can live.

Williston is one of several Vermont towns to mull such restrictions following the slaying of Brooke Bennett. The 12-year-old disappeared in June and was found a week later in a shallow grave in Randolph. Her uncle, Michael Jacques, has been indicted on charges of sexual assault and murder in connection with the case.

Residency restrictions typically establish buffer zones where convicted sex offenders may not live. An ordinance passed this summer in Barre, for example, bars offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools and child care facilities.

Advocates of such ordinances say they keep children out of harm’s way. Critics contend that such rules are based on the false assumption of “stranger danger” when in fact such offenses are typically committed by family members or others known to the victim.