by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Parenting Writer
Imara Woman, Nov/Dec 2002
(Updated version below)
How to Protect Your Child from Abduction
In October 2016, 82 exploited children were recovered by the FBI in its annual 3-day Operation Cross Country. The FBI arrested 239 suspects. Yet, according to FBI officials, this reflects only a small portion of America’s child exploitation cases.
Children as young as 9-years-old are kidnapped for sex and labor trafficking according to various sources, and occasionally even younger children. Runaways are especially at-risk. Though this is only one form of kidnapping dangers children face.
According to the FBI, a child is abducted or comes up missing every 40 seconds in the U.S. Yet only 24% of those kidnappings are by strangers. Nearly half of all child kidnappings are by family members. The balance, 27%, is by acquaintances of the victims. The latter two statistics make it difficult to teach children and teens where to draw the line.
Know how to protect your child from abduction
Abduction is not a child’s only stranger, or acquaintance, danger. Most children who are sexually assaulted will not be abducted. In fact, one in ten children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, according to the organization, Darkness to Light.
Sex offenders are good con artists. They often groom children and even the adults around children. The predators “gradually and methodically build trust,” explains childmolestationvictims.com
Shy children are at higher risk for abduction and for sexual assault. Many predators look specifically for shy children and those who lack self-esteem. These children are easy targets because they lack the assertiveness to speak up for themselves.
If you have a shy child or one with low self-esteem read The Shy Child: Helping Children Triumph over Shyness by Ward K. Swallow, Ph.D., Warner Books, 2000. There are many other good books on helping your child to overcome shyness as well.
Finally, remember teenagers, contrary to what might be expected because of their size and level of maturity, are at the greatest risk of being murdered by a stranger. Finkelhor and Ormrod in their Juvenile Justice Report point out only 3% of children under 12 that are murdered are victims of strangers. In comparison, 87% of teen murder victims were killed by strangers.
Teaching our children to be safe
Getting across to children the dangers of strangers and even sometimes acquaintances requires talking to your children on their level of understanding. You must follow by providing realistic ways your children can protect themselves. The following suggestions could help your child escape a threatening situation.
If your child’s on a bike and someone tries to grab him, he should wrap his full body (arms and legs) around the frame of his bike. Because the bike moves with the child, it makes it difficult for a fast getaway by the abductor.
Children should understand if they’re caught or being chased they should defend themselves. Your child should scream loudly and continuously and attempt to run away.
Create a secret family password that only specific family members and friends would be given in order to pick up your child. If your child is approached and the password is not immediately relayed, your child should run away. This is true even if approached by a police officer.
Your children and even teens should always tell you where they’re going (the exact address); who they’ll be with (first and last names), and for how long. If the time is undetermined, give your child a check-in time.
Your child should always walk with others, never alone.
Try not to scare your child, but offer real-life incidents your child can relate to. If you or someone you know has been victimized, cautiously share this information with your child. Just do it in an age-appropriate manner your child can comprehend and handle emotionally. Especially children, but even adults, tend to live in the moment and tend to believe, “It can’t happen to me.” Sharing a real event that’s happened to someone you or your child knows reveals the reality it can happen to anyone—but there are nonetheless ways to protect oneself.
Teach your child to say “no” to adults your child doesn’t know and even to adults your child does know if something doesn’t seem right. Giving a child permission to say ‘no’ to an adult under certain circumstances is an important lesson in how to protect your child from abduction.
Keep doors locked, even when an adult is at home. Teach this by example. Never open the door to a stranger regardless of appearance. If your child is home alone, your child shouldn’t even open the door for acquaintances unless parents have approved that particular person on that particular occasion.
Books on how to protect your child from abduction:
Kimberly Blaker is freelance parenting writer. Learn more about her writing services.