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Child Abduction - What parents should know, and teach their children.
Over seven thousand children are abducted every year in the United States.
Child abduction is a problem throughout the world. Virtually all children are potential targets for child abductors. Abducted children come from all areas of society, though lonely children and those from broken homes are preferred targets. Children hitchhiking or playing or walking alone, are in the greatest danger.
Although the majority of abductors are male, there are also female abductors. Remember that older children and teenagers are just as commonly victims of abductors, as are the very young.
Child abductors stalk their prey, waiting for an opportunity to snatch a child when he/she is in isolation, away from potential help. Small children should never be out of your sight. Older children should be taught to play and walk in groups, and never, ever, under any circumstances, leave a companion behind.
Vans, especially with darkened windows, are the vehicle of choice for child abductors. Watch for these vehicles, or any others that are suspiciously or unnecessarily parked around schools, playgrounds, or where children gather. Teach your children to watch for these and to report them to their teachers or to you.
Child abductors make an effort to seem harmless and normal. They are usually well groomed, and make a conscious effort to blend in with the general population. Some abductors use lures, such as paying jobs, or rewards for helping to find pets, or something fascinating to see, that is 'just around the corner'. Young girls are often flattered on their appearance and lured with promises of modeling careers. Ingrain the phrase, "I have to ask my Mom".
Child abductors may dress in costumes to draw children to them. They may also wear uniforms indicating authority, which children are prone to trust. Some even have flashing lights on their vehicles, such as used by police cars. Teach your children never to go with anyone other than those specially designated as friends of the family. Some parents have a special word or phrase that would be known and spoken by anyone coming on behalf of the parents. (Use this with caution - it may be confusing to small children - in addition some children cannot keep secrets) Children should be taught to keep their distance if strangers try to speak to them.
Abductors may attempt to attract children by using lost or present animals, candy, toys, etc. Older children my be lured by flattery, cash, alcohol and drugs. Teach your children that normal people do not give gifts in this manner. Establish a rapport with your children so that they will be comfortable telling you of such offerings. Teach then that tempting as some things are, they can present great danger. By reporting to you, they may be saving another young person.
Realize that children want to help, the man seeking his pet, or the handsome Ted Bundy, with his arm in a sling, needing help loading his groceries in his car. 'I'll get my Mom" is the phrase to teach here, then run like the wind to 'get Mom'. Commend your children for wanting to help, but tell them, that helping is 'getting Mom'.
Unfortunately, potential abductors try to infiltrate organizations specializing in programs for children. It is important that all parents enrolling their children in any programs investigate the organization responsible as well as anyone, in it, who will be dealing directly with their child.
A child's safety often depends on the relationship they have with their parent. Children must be made to feel that they can tell their parent literally anything and they will never be punished for their honesty. Playing in a forbidden area should be canceled out if the child reports that they have done this and seen something that made them uncomfortable.
Do not use frightening examples to teach your children safety. Frightened children are vulnerable children and will not be able to act appropriately in crisis situations. You want your children to know that if they are afraid or alarmed they should scream and run, and if necessary fight. Discuss this. Practice it. Teach your children all they need to know at each stage of their development, and then do your part to be eternally vigilant. You want your children to be friendly well adjusted human beings
Unloved children, or those who doubt that they are loved, are especially drawn to the advances of anyone who offers them love or attention. Don't let your child be one of these.