Parenting & Families

Tips for Parents on How to Protect their Child from Abduction

Three hundred children are taken a year. Fifty to 150 are usually killed, although it is actually down from last year. A piece of positive news is that most children are returned. In addition, abductors don’t usually fit the profile of a scary, creepy stranger or dirty, old man but, rather, are often under 35 years old. Motives are usually sexual, and most are not true strangers. Sexual predators target children and seek their confidence by developing a casual relationship with them. Family abductors make up the majority of kidnap offenders as the result of a custody battle. New enemies now include sexual predators who target children via the Internet.

Children are vulnerable and trusting so it’s important to establish and reinforce the basic rules:

·  Don’t talk or walk away with strangers.

·  Don’t let strangers, friends or even family members in the house when mom and dad are not home unless you have been given permission beforehand.

·  Remember, an adult doesn’t need help from a child. They should go to another adult — even to find a puppy.

·  At all costs, avoid getting into a car.

Parents have responsibilities and should take the following steps to protect their child:

·  Give your child good self-esteem. Abductors win through intimidation.

·  Give a child a whistle on a necklace — even older children — to wear when they are out playing and remember to teach them to blow. A good commotion can frighten an abductor by shifting the balance of power.

·  Know where your children are at all times and don’t let them go out alone. Teach them the buddy system.

·  Know your children’s friends and parents. Get their phone numbers for emergencies.

·  Have a neighborhood meeting so that children know safe houses where they can run to in case of an emergency.

·  Don’t label their lunch boxes or clothing. This will deter predators from becoming too familiar.

·  Teach young children their home address and telephone number, with area code, and how to contact you or a trusted friend or relative in an emergency.

·  In custody battles, pay attention to threats from your former spouse.

·  Take a lot of photos of your child and keep them current.

·  Keep dental and medical records handy.

·  Create a secret password for your child that must be given before they will open the door to friends or family when you are not home, or demand that they call you at work or on your cell phone. Instruct your child to never open the door for strangers!

·  Pay attention to changes in your child’s behavior that may signal possible molestation.

·  Older children should be encouraged to use their critical thinking, intuition and to anticipate dangerous situation, such as slow-driving cars in front of a neighborhood or playground.

Teach children strategies and escape methods. Practice and rehearse them in groups or with other parents, at home and at school. The following are some escape methods to teach your children:

·  The Velcro technique – Tell a child to grab hold of anything. Grab a tree. Grab a bike. Grab an adult (because another adult is not usually involved in an abduction). This makes it harder to disengage a child in an abduction.

·  Yell – “stop stranger!” – Anyone that is not the mother or father is in the new definition of stranger for children.

·  Windmill technique or swimming technique – Rotate arms in a big circle, which will prevent the attacker from getting a good grip. This can turn attacker’s arms inside out, which creates a weaker position from which to grab hold of the child.

·  Make a lot of noise – Sometimes children are told to be quiet so often that they will not make a sound when they are taken. It’s important to tell children that in certain circumstances it’s okay to scream and yell to get the attention of other adults.

The abductor doesn’t usually hurt the child immediately, and there is usually a three-hour window of opportunity for escape if the child-learned-behavior allows the child not to panic and to be reactive instead. For instance, should the child be thrown in a car, he or she should be taught not to be passive and to attempt the following:

·  Reach for the door. Try to get out immediately.

·  In a four-door car, jump in the backseat and try the door quickly.

·  Stick bubble gum, a pencil or something similar in the ignition to jam it.

·  If placed in a trunk, don’t panic. Look for the panel – it comes right out. Tear the wires to the taillights and brakes. Police might pull the abductor over.

Finally, remember that communication at home is most important. Practice strategies to avoid and escape abductors. Remember to rehearse and role-play with your children. Go over these scenarios with your children, giving them age-appropriate information. Also, ask children what they would do in case of such an emergency. If they are involved and invested, they are more likely to remember and do it. We have to empower our children to protect them.