I have to admit: I'm borderline paranoid when it comes to my
I used to read stories here and there about
abductions and abuse, but it was not until I became a mom that I realized the
magnitude of the problem. The other day my daughter went on a field trip, and it
was torture for me. I was pacing back and forth all morning and, overall, pretty worried and anxious. (I blame Lifetime and its movies
inspired by true stories.)
Anyways, I got a phone call at noon from the
school. When I saw the number, my hands started shaking, I felt I couldn't
breathe and, in those 10 seconds, a million awful scenarios went through my
head. Turns out, she wasn't feeling well. But in that moment I was in such panic
that I decided I needed to step up my game.
Did you know that more than 700 children are abducted every day?
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there were
466,900 entries for missing children in the U.S in 2014. Those are not counting
kids that don't get reported, because they are thought to be runaways. These
are minors, under the age of 18.
Hearing those stats is truly shocking. Imagine: those could be the children
of your neighbors, coworkers or even your own. I can't even deal with that thought,
and that's why I'm always so fearful.
We tell our kids the basic principles of safety: "Stranger
danger", don't talk to anyone you don't know, always stay with your group
during field trips, don't accept things from others, never open the door when
you are home alone, ask for help if anyone bothers you.
But, there is so
much more we could do to prevent our children from been harmed. Here's how to start:
1. Go beyond the basics
Teach your kids to be aware of their surroundings and to always trust their instincts. If they see someone unusual, they should let an adult know right away. That includes
someone offering candy or showing puppies. If you are in a public place and
a stranger sits next to you and casually interacts, this could give your
child the perception that it might be someone they could trust. That is why, in my opinion, they should never trust anyone unless you verbally approve, even if they see
you speaking to them.
2. Be detailed with
Let your child know who can pick them up from school—or any
other activity—in case you can't, so they know who they are allowed to go
with. Tell them to never go with anyone, not even a parent of a
friend, or anywhere, unless you have previously agreed to that. Sadly, most cases of
abductions and molestation come from relatives or people that present
themselves as someone who knows the family, so they can gain the child's trust. Please,
always listen to your child even if what he/she tells you sounds outrageous or hard
to believe. Assure your children they can trust you with anything.
I am a 30-year-old woman and, when I can't find my mom at a store, I do our whistle. We find each other right away. Katniss has got nothing on me!
3. Karate Kid 2.0
It sounds silly, but teaching our kids, including our grumpy teenagers, about self-defense can truly save their lives. Reassure them that, just like
Ant-Man, they can be small but strong. This is the time that is OK for them to
bite, scratch, low-blow, pinch, poke eyes, pull hair, stomp and scream as loud
as possible. Remind them to never believe threats about someone being able to
hurt you, if you don't agree to their demands. Coercion and guilt is a method
used by abductors and child molesters to exercise control over children.
4. Safety in style
let your child blend in when you're out and about. Neon and bright colors are
great ways to keep an eye on your kid—or find them quickly. Someone
trying to hurt them wants to remain unnoticed, and those attention-grabbing
colors do exactly the opposite. Also, look into jewelry with GPS built in that can
help you track your child's location in case of an emergency. Another thing is
having your own mockingbird-style whistle. I am a 30-year-old woman and, when I
can't find my mom at a store, I do our whistle. We find each other right away. Katniss has got nothing on me! Now, imagine how powerful this could be in a moment
5.Research your resources
First, go to your local police department and create a fingerprint card with a
current picture. Always keep those in a safe spot and available in case of
emergencies. Learn about the child molesters in your area. There are tons of
free websites that give you the location of registered sex offenders and, I
would say, go ahead and check their criminal record to know the charges. Even
if you think your neighborhood is safe, there might be predators closer than
you imagine. The first three hours after a child is taken are crucial. They can be the difference between life and death, so don't hesitate to reach out to the authorities to release an AMBER Alert. Review the steps and educate yourself about the process, just in case.
While you make sure the requirements are met for an AMBER Alert, find other
resources. Blast it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Trust me, it helps! The Lassy Project, inspired by the murder of 10-year-old Jessica
Ridgeway is an app that uses GPS and crowd-sourcing to inform the local
community about an abduction. John Guydon, CEO of the company, advises building a strong community. "Kidnapping a child that the entire community is watching out
for is a bad idea," he says. "A great understanding of where and, most importantly, when a child is doing their daily activities is key. This way you can jump
into action quickly when something is out of the norm. If it does, just go to
the app and click escalate".