Sex offender spurs forum

Two months ago, when a convicted sex offender who the state unsuccessfully tried to keep behind bars moved to Mont Vernon, a wave of fear and worry rolled in with him.

After awhile, however, a few parents began wondering aloud if some people’s reactions were a bit misdirected: While they fully understood the parental instinct to protect children, experts know through experience that children are at a much greater statistical risk to be abused by a family member, abused by a family member, family friend, trusted authority figure, or someone else they and their family knows.

The parents’ discussion led them to organize a public forum, to which they invited local police and representatives of Bridges, the domestic and sexual assault support agency based in Nashua and Milford, and the Hillsborough County Child Advocacy Center. The forum was held Tuesday night at the Village School.

Nancy Foster, a Mont Vernon parent and forum organizer who lives on the same road as the offender, said his early April arrival got people talking.

“The presence of our new neighbor sparked a lot of dialogue around town, most of it was good, informative . . . but too much of it began centering around one individual – the sex offender,” Foster said.

“Focusing all our attention on one person doesn’t make our children safer. We can only keep our children safe by learning how to do it right,” she said, adding that the best thing parents can do is empower themselves through knowledge, and in turn empower their children.

Roughly 30 people, mostly women, attended the forum. They watched a lengthy, statistics-rich documentary called “Stewards of Children: Darkness to Light,” which included candid, sometimes graphic interviews with several adult survivors of child abuse.

Police Chief Kyle Aspinwall, who attended the forum with other local police, including Amherst Middle School Resource Officer Mike Knox, said the forum was a good educational tool.