— By STACY URBAN
Are we putting our children in danger? As a mother, it is my duty to love and raise my children to be strong, independent and productive members of society. But in doing so, it is necessary to educate them in the dangers that the world can present – be good little boys and girls, but be wary.
“Don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t go anywhere with anyone without permission from me” are two of many things that we say to our children and hope that if the unfortunate occasion should come up, they will know what to do. However, teaching them what to do does not help if we are circumvented by other adults and authority figures in their lives.
It happened to me and it is scary to see a stranger put my child in their car; the helpless feeling of watching my child being led away and out of my sight. The heart-stopping moment I saw a stranger’s hands on my child, the blood rushing as I began to run and try to scream, with nothing coming out, and the gut-wrenching awareness that might be the last time that I ever see him again. It is something that no parent should ever have to go through.
It was a hard lesson and it made me deeply consider everything that is said to my children about this subject, whether it is by me, a trusted adult or otherwise.
According to the Klaas Kids website, the United States Department of Justice, office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, offers these shocking percentages: Based on the identity of the perpetrator, there are three distinct types of kidnapping: “family kidnapping” (49 percent); “acquaintance kidnapping” (27 percent); and “stranger kidnapping” (24 percent).
My son’s situation fell into that 27 percent that is the acquaintance kidnapping. I had to come to terms with the realization I almost lost my son to a kidnapping. As I watched from my car, he walked home from school and felt that little bit of independence until she pulled him across the road and put him in her car. Luckily for me, the woman who “helped” my son was the mother of one of his second-grade classmates, but I didn’t know her, or her intentions.
For this woman to tell me that it was OK for her to take my child, against his will, that it was “OK because I was a teacher” isn’t the message that I would suggest to my son, or any other child. Going with that logic for a moment, this means that I could go pick up any child and tell that upset parent that it is OK because I, myself, am a mother.
Obviously, that isn’t something that I advocate, but that is the message and lesson that could be learned by the developing mind of a child. Becoming complacent with thinking that anyone working with our children, whether it is school, daycare or even a family friend is a safe place is all well and good, but the words we use when “helping” our children can sometimes be confusing and is the most concerning and something that as adults, we need to educate ourselves about.
Unfortunately for some, it doesn’t turn out to be another concerned mother just trying to “help.”
More detailed numbers from The National Center of Missing & Exploited Children shows that the U.S. Department of Justice reports that, on average, 2,185 children younger than 18 are reported missing each day. In a one-year period, 58,200 children are the victims of non-family abductions and 115 children are the victims of a “stereotypical” kidnapping. Shockingly, it seems children are abducted by many different types of people for several different reasons.
Of all the children abducted yearly, it makes me wonder how many of those taken were told that it was OK because they were a teacher, police officer, fireman, principal, etc. If you ask most any child what they are supposed to do when someone tries to take them, it has been drilled in so much that they will more than likely roll their eyes and sigh out the answer that we are looking for. Basic child psychology and many parenting books tell us that our children want to please the adults in their lives, but child predators are using this against us. State and federal law states that putting a child in your car without written permission from the parent or guardian, is considered kidnapping.
Regardless of our best intentions of teaching our children not to go with anyone, we have to think about what impression we’re making on any child by saying that it is OK to go because someone tells them they are a preacher, doctor, nurse, plumber, judge, etc.; and the next person that might have ill intentions toward that child and what they say to lure our children away.
Stacy Urban is a Weatherford resident and a student at Weatherford College.