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Mommy Minute

Child Abductions Part One: Innocence Lost
Posted by Rachel Greene on Aug 14, 2002 - 7:40:00 PM

CALIFORNIA  Erica Pratt of Philadelphia, PA. Elizabeth Smart of Salt Lake City, UT. Samantha Runnion of Stanton, CA. These are just three of the more well-known names of children who have been abducted. Unfortunately, there are many more that we don't hear about. Every day 314 attempted non-family abductions occur in the United States (statistic from The yearly estimate of non-family abductions is 3,200 to 4,600 (from missingkids). I think it's fair to say that these numbers are terrifying for any parent. With so much attention being given to the subject of kidnappings, I, as a parent, have been thrust into the responsibility of protecting my children with more urgency and fear than I am comfortable with. Granted my youngest is only 15 months, but my oldest (4 years) has reached the age where he needs to learn that the world is not as safe and innocent as he has believed it to be.

Official White House photo of Elizabeth Smart and her mother meeting former President Bush.
It started shortly after the Elizabeth Smart abduction. An unnerving realization that our children are not safe anywhere, not even in our own homes. As my oldest son, Ryan, gets closer to an age where he won't always be under my watchful eye, I can't bare to think of all the things that could happen to him. To combat my many fears, I do what every responsible parent should be doing to teach him to be safe. It is tremendously sad to me that a child his age has to be introduced to the possibilities of danger and evil that lurk in parks, in schools, in churches, in our own homes and yards. But, neither I nor he can live in ignorance and expect to remain safe. So, I've started educating Ryan with information I've gathered through news reports, episodes of Oprah and so on to help him protect himself in these worst case scenarios. Below, you will find some useful and probably familiar information. Please share it with your child or children you know.

- First off, be calm and reassuring when going through these things with your child. If he or she seems scared, back off for awhile. Just do a little bit over a period of time and review once and awhile. Don't overwhelm the child.

- "Don't talk to strangers" is NOT an effective technique. What does "stranger" mean to a young child? Probably not a whole lot. Or they get the impression that it's going to be a scary, monster-like person approaching them. "Non-family member" is more understandable for children.

- Give them specific situations and or actions these abductors use to lure children. These guys are slick. Listen to these techniques:

"Can you help me find my lost puppy? He really likes kids and I think it'll help if you come look for him with me."

"Your mom is hurt in the hospital and she wants me to take you there."

Sometimes, the abductor has learned the child's name (from hearing another person say it or from a label on a backpack [so don't put your child's name anywhere clearly visible]) and will say it to appear friendly and like he knows the child. Warn your child that even if a "non-family member" says his name, that does not make him safe.

While you should not go overboard to completely freak out your child, they do need to hear some of these techniques so as to be more prepared. Children are naive and these abductors know how to use that to their advantage.

- Create a password that only you and your child know. Teach your child to ask for the password if someone is asking him to go somewhere. If the person doesn't know it, or says he forgot it, or says it's in his car and that your child should come and get it with him, tell your child to say "No!" and to get away quickly.

- Teach your child that it is indeed okay to say "no" to an adult. Tell him to listen to his gut and if he's uncomfortable in a situation, say "no" and get out of there.

- Tell your child to never go near a car unless he or she has your permission.

- If a person grabs them, scream "Stranger! This person is not my parent!". Then, scream some more.

- It is so tremendously important for the child to not be taken from whatever location he's at. We all know what happens once the abductor gets the child. So, the child needs to be taught to kick and scream and do whatever he can to get away. Things such as if the abductor grabs the child's backpack, slip out of the backpack and RUN while screaming, "Stranger!!!!!".

You can imagine that these things are frightening for a child to hear. Ryan does not like when I calmly review some of these things. Just the other day he said, "I don't want to review anymore.". He's also become more clingy when we're in crowded places. He has never had nightmares, but since starting to discuss these things, he has had a few. How sad is that? I've scared my own child out of necessity. His innocence has been lost. All because of these evil people who prey on our children. But, if any one of these tips saves Ryan from becoming an Erica, Elizabeth, Samantha or any of the thousands of missing children, then I will have done what I had to do.


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