~ Is this the first year your child will be coming home to an empty house after school?
~ Is your child starting school for the first time?
~ Is your child walking to school alone this year?
Are you concerned about your child’s safety? You should be! Today, the threat to children from predators is greater than ever before. Predators come in a wide variety. There are those who kidnap kids for ransom. There are perverts who kidnap children for their twisted sexual pleasure. And there are predators who kidnap mostly girls but also some boys for the sex industry. Some are forced into prostitution; others are coerced into posing for nude or sexually explicit videos or photos.
Are you scared yet?
Kidnappings and other bad scenarios occur through a variety of ploys. Sometimes a kidnapper will grab a child and try to force him/her into a car. More often, a lure is used to make the child want to go off with the predator. “My dog just had puppies. Do you want to come see them?” is still a popular ruse, as is, “I’ve lost my dog. Will you come with me to help me find him?” A more recent ruse is, “We’re filming a commercial [or a movie] a few blocks from here. Do you want to be in it? Come with me.” Some predators will watch for a child leaving school and walking alone, and then follow him or her at a distance, so the child doesn’t realize he/she is being followed until he/she is almost home. Then the predator makes his move.
Another ruse occurs when the predator singles out a child who is apparently waiting for a ride. The predator tells the child, “Your mother is busy and couldn’t come get you. She asked me to pick you up and bring you home.” But of course, home is not where he will take the child.
But my use of the pronoun “he” shouldn’t leave you believing it’s only men who are predators. While the majority are men, there are women predators too, especially those recruiting kids for the sex industries.
Teach your child these basic safety rules:
- If a kidnapper tries to carry you away by force, scream loudly, “Let me go! You’re not my father!” so passersby don’t think it’s just a case of a dad disciplining an unruly child.
- Turn around from time to time as you walk and be aware of your surroundings.
- If you think you’re being followed, look for a police officer, or go into a store, or look for a woman who has a child with her, and ask for help.
- If you think you’re being followed and nobody is home, go to a neighbor’s house and ring the bell.
- If you’re home alone and the doorbell rings, ask who’s there without opening the door. Never tell anyone you are home alone. Say “My mom is busy, she can’t come to the door.” If the person says he has a package someone must sign for, or if he says he’s a police officer, don’t believe him. Call a trusted neighbor and ask her or him to come over and find out who’s really at the door.
- If you are really scared, call 9-1-1 and tell them what is going on.
And finally, establish a code word with your child. If you usually pick him/her up from school, band, dance class, Scouts, or wherever, and one day you really do need to send a friend in an emergency, share the code word with the person you’re sending. She (or he) can then say to the child, “Your mother asked me to bring you home. Your secret code word is ‘kangaroo.’” Your child hears the code word and knows it’s safe to go with the person. After you’ve used the code word, change it.
There are definitely “bad guys” out there, but with caution and common sense you can keep your child safe from predators.