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According to statistics from the National Crime Information Center, 85% to 90% of the 876,213 persons reported missing to America’s law enforcement agencies in 2000 were juveniles. A large percent of child abductions are committed by relatives or someone who knows the child. However, it is important to talk about safety with your child to teach them to be aware of strangers and what they can do to help prevent being abducted. The largest percentage of child abductions by strangers is of teenage girls, between the ages of 12 and 19. It is never too early to start talking to your children about abductions.
As soon as your child is old enough to talk, you should begin teaching basic facts that will protect him or her against an abductor. By the age of three your child should know; when it is appropriate to yell “Help!”, their phone number, the color of their house and where their house is located. Teaching your toddler these facts will help protect your child in a dangerous situation by making him or her smarter and not helpless. By the time your child is five, he or she can learn how to resist an abductor. Below is a list of tips to teach your child in the event that someone tries to kidnap him or her:
Draw attention to yourself in any way possible: Scream, kick and physically resist. Yell “Help!” Yell “This is not my father or mother!” It is vital to your child’s well-being that he or she resist an abductor by putting up a struggle. Any reasonable person who sees a child screaming, kicking, and yelling will offer help. So, informing your child to make a scene could save your child’s life.
- Run in the opposite direction of traffic on the sidewalk. This is another way for your child to resist and draw attention to him/herself.
- If you are riding a bike, do not let go of it. It is more difficult to get a child and an object into a car.
- If your child can’t get away and ends up in the abductor’s car, there are some things you can teach your child to get away:
- Before the abductor gets in the driver’s side, reach over and lock the doors and pull the keys out of the ignition.
- Roll down the window and yell if there are others around who can hear the yelling.
- Jump out of the car at a stop sign or stop light.
You can also talk to your child about ways to prevent an abduction from happening. Some important rules for your child’s safety are:
- I always check first with my parents or the person in charge before I go anywhere or get into a car, even with someone I know.
- I always check first with my parents or a trusted adult before I accept anything from anyone, even from someone I know.
- I always take a friend with me when I go places or play outside.
- I know my name, address, telephone number and my parents’ names.
- I will say “No” if someone tries to touch me or treat me in a way that makes me feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
- I know that I can tell my parents or a trusted adult, if I feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
- It’s ok to say “No”, and I know there will always be someone who can help me.
- I am strong, smart, and have the right to be safe
Other helpful tips to help keep your child safe include:
- Children should not have clothing, toys or gear (backpacks) with their name visibly displayed. An abductor will have an easier time luring your child away if they are able to use your child’s name.
- Give your child a secret code word that only the family knows. Children should know they should never go anywhere with anyone unless the person knows the code word.
- Even when not being followed, children should walk against traffic on the sidewalks to avoid the possibility of someone coming up to them from behind. They should follow the same routes to and from school or other activities, and not take alleys or shortcuts, where there are not as many people to hear your child scream in the event of an abduction.
- Teach your child not to get close to a car that approaches them and not to answer questions a stranger might ask them from a car.
- Never leave your child alone in a public place. This includes the mall, a store, a public restroom, or your car.
- Arrange for safety houses in your neighborhood. Make sure your children understand they can go there if they need help.
- Check out your child’s older friends and all potential babysitters. You must know who you can trust with your child. Most children are abducted by people who know the victim.
- Always carry information with you about your children. The information should include: 1.) Name and nickname. 2.) Current photo (update each year). 3.) Eye and hair color. 4.) Current height and weight. 5.) Medical alert, birthmarks, scars and specific physical characteristics. If you can hand a policeman a card with all this descriptive information, he or she can immediately put it out over the radio or PA system and increase the chances of immediate recognition. In a panic, you may only give vague descriptions.
Predators are more likely to seek out children who look vulnerable. You don’t want your children to be easy prey for an abductor, so empower them with confidence. Tell them to hold their heads up high, act like they know where they are going and what they’re doing. Doing this could make a predator pass by your children.
It is recommended that parents should choose teachable moments to discuss safety skills. For instance, if a kidnapping occurs in your community, you should use this opportunity to talk to your child candidly, but with reassurance. Encourage their asking you questions. Teaching your child should not end after just one conversation. Make these issues part of your daily routine. Role-play and rehearse potential situations that might occur.