- Family and Parenting»
Our missing and exploited Children
Missing in America
The topic of missing and exploited children is one that is very dear, and close to my heart. Some of the issues in this article have not only affected my family personally but also the families of some very close friends. When it comes to dealing with our children or our youth, that old saying, "you’re better off safe than sorry" always should be applied.
There is no doubt that life has become such a stressed-out mess for most American families that it's hard to keep up with issues, let alone children. It's not uncommon these days for me to see a young child wondering around crying in a department store, desperately looking for their parent. I look at these children and start to wonder how easy it would be for them to disappear. Two minutes is all it would take for someone to carry them away, and that child would never be seen from again. It really is that fast, and simple to do.
If your one of those parents, who believes that it can't happen to you, then let me present you with some cold hard statistics. The center for missing persons receives 900,000 missing people’s reports a year. Calls are received for 2,300 Americans missing every day! 800,000 of those calls are children younger than 18 years of age. Of those children missing 200,000 were abducted by family members, and 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members. Missing-child reports fitting the profile of a stereotypical abduction by a stranger runs between 100-115. These tend to be the missing children whom you are most likely to hear about on the news.
The constant increase of social networking, online gaming, webcams and internet access gives petafiles, and potential offenders more access than ever to your children. On average 55,000 children are enticed yearly on-line with sexual Acts. There are currently 1,151,419 children involved in child Pornography, and 10,928 who are now involved in child Prostitution.
While on a New Year’s Day shopping spree with my five-year-old daughter at a local California Mervyns store, a child was abducted. A young mother that day had her little three-year old girl wandered off in the clothing department. She desperately searched for a half-hour before announcing it to store personnel. The store had the common sense to lock down until all customers were accounted for. The little girl was found an hour later in the basement bathroom. Left there alone by her abductor, her hair had already been cut and dyed from blonde to brown.
Shortly after that incident I enrolled in the Adam Walsh Program. I had my daughter Photographed, Finger printed and a video created. She was also enrolled in educational classes against being abducted and or molested. For those of you unfamiliar with Adam Walsh, he was the seven-year old boy who was abducted from a Sears department store at the Hollywood Mall in Florida, and was later found, murdered and decapitated. His father is John Walsh the host of America's Most Wanted, and the Adam Walsh Foundation.
Since then AMBER Alerts have also been put into place. A national way to alert media when a child has gone missing. This program also includes Wireless Alerts. The program is designed to distribute Text messages to wireless devices. The Amber Alert is only activated in the most serious of child-abduction cases. The program is named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old child who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996. I know the program works because it helped recover Rae Leigh when she was only eight weeks old back in 1998. I, however, have never received one single text from the program and don't know of anyone else who has either. I feel that this is a program that could be used much more than it is currently!
The CyberTipline is the latest in helping us protect our children. Created in 1998, it is the nation’s 9-1-1 for reporting suspected child pornography, and sexual exploitation against children. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is now more user-friendly and easier to navigate thanks to Google. Since it was created it has handled more than 1.25 million reports.
Reports indicate that an estimated 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before they reach the age of 18. I strongly disagree with those numbers and feel that they should be a lot higher.
There are 20,000 children who are reported to be sexually molestation by non- family members each year. I believe that those committed by family members tend to go unreported even less! We have become a nation of shame and one of catering to our ego. We would rather keep quiet about such embarrassing acts then take the chance of being humiliated or embarrassed. The acts go unreported; the victims suffer in silence, and the perpetrators go free to rape, kill or molest another.
I know for a fact that these numbers are not realistic. Our own family has had to deal with a child being molested by a family member. A close friend of mine was raped, and then molested by her stepfather for five years without her mother's knowledge! I had a husband whose niece was raped at two years old by her then eight-year-old brother. I had a Neighbor which was molested by his own sister on a regular basis. Five of my daughter’s school friends were sexually molested and or raped by their own close blood relatives. Out of all the above accounts only two were reported and only one was prosecuted for his crime. How many victims are you aware of which have never reported their crime? How many of you reading this article have been a victim and yet still remain silent? The more silence that we keep, the more power we give to the offenders. In the silence we are telling them that it’s O.K.
We are going to have to reach a point where speaking out is the norm, instead of keeping quite. Where we can face the fear, instead of running away. We must also start to become more vigilant of our youth, and teaching them of the dangers at a younger age. It’s also important that we listen to the advice from the center of missing and exploited children. Don't ever allow your children into a public place or public facilities alone. Never allow a child to enter a restroom unaccompanied. Keep children in sight at all times while shopping and never allow them into a toy store, or the toy department alone! Do not go shopping, or attend a public event with a child if you feel that you will be distracted in any way. Think twice before dropping your teenager off at the mall. This has now become the best way for pimps to entice teens into prostitution.
In closing, the one thing that I cannot stress enough is, never trust anyone! Not the sitter, not your Neighbors, family or friends. Don't even trust your own shadow when it comes to your children. Once their innocence has been taken away it can never be regained. Once they're gone, they can never be replaced...