When former Prince Georges County, Md. teacher’s aide, Deonte Carraway, was sentenced to 100 years in prison last week – he pleaded guilty to sexually defiling and abusing dozens of children in his care – parent Perry Davis was relieved but still uneasy. The father of three said 100 years would not erase the pain and trauma Carraway caused. It also would not repair the breach in safety he feels when sending his children to school.
“It’s a sick, sick mentality that drives a person to shatter a child’s innocence and no matter how often you hear about these types of things happening, I think I was naïve that it could happen among Black folks and within a school,” Davis told the AFRO. “I look at everyone differently now.”
Davis’ children attend a Christian school in Clinton, Md. yet Carraway’s access to children remains troubling. “It could be anyone, anywhere,” he said.
Many share Davis’ fears.
About 90 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser(s) and count them as either family or trusted by their families. Additionally, according to the non-profit Darkness to Light, which works to aid parents in eliminating sex abuse, age is a significant factor in sexual abuse. The organization found that though a risk exists for children of all ages, those most vulnerable to abuse are between the ages of 7 and 13 – with the median age for reported abuse being 9. Race and ethnicity also proved vital in the factors for child sexual abuse, with Black children facing almost twice the risk of sexual abuse their White counterparts.
Melanie Tilden, a mother of a two in Largo, Md. said she and her husband worried about allowing their daughters to attend sleepovers and trips away from home, but not so much about school employees. Like Davis, Tilden said following the Carraway sentencing, a family meeting allowed the kids and the parents to share concerns.
“We asked them a lot of questions and tried to make them feel as comfortable about talking about their bodies and experiences as possible, but I think my husband and I were a bit embarrassed,” Tilden told the AFRO. “The girls were very open and a few things came to light about social media that we need to address, but we all feel better about guarding them from predators.”
Darkness to Light suggests several tips for parents concerned about how much to talk to their children about sexual predators, which include: Show interest in the children’s day-to-day lives; Know who the child spends time with, including other children and adults; Ask your child about the kids adults they encounter, such as teammates or coaches; Choose caregivers carefully; Become familiar with the warning signs of child sexual abuse, and notice any changes with your child, no matter how small; and Encourage children to speak up if they believe their boundaries have been crossed.
Carraway, who served as an aide at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School, pleaded guilty to 23 counts of sex abuse and child pornography charges stemming from the abuse of children as young as nine-years-old.