Child Abductions Part One: Innocence Lost
By Rachel Greene
Aug 14, 2002 - 7:40:00 PM
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
www.elizabethsmart.com). 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.
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.
Official White House photo of Elizabeth Smart and her mother meeting former President Bush.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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,
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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