THE LIE YOU WANT TO BELIEVE
The most dangerous lie is the one you want to believe. These are lies that you believe because the truth would be uncomfortable. “Do what I say and you won’t get hurt,” is a lie as old as the father of lies. You want to believe that you will not get hurt, so many people will obediently comply and face terrible consequences. The same thing happens when parents think that safety guidelines don’t apply to their own circumstance. To imagine that their child might be taken is nightmarish.
BUT I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN FEAR
One way parents and children can better secure themselves is by accepting that we live in a world where predators look for easy prey. Children can be taught how to make themselves less of a target and what to do if the unthinkable occurs. Rather than traumatizing a child, these measures can give the child the confidence he or she needs to act quickly in an emergency and AVOID danger.
USE EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES
Talk to your child about who qualifies as a stranger. Running errands to the grocery store, the library, the bank, the park, or any other routine outing can be used to reinforce and teach important lessons.
• Point out strangers that can be trusted if your child is in danger or needs help.
• Play, “Who is a stranger” with your child. Remind them that strangers don’t always look frightening or creepy or old. Sometimes bigger children will victimize smaller children.
• Identify safe places a child could run to if they need help: stores, restaurants, homes of friends or family members, libraries, community centers, local police stations, etc.
• Observe people and talk about the difference between someone that is well-mannered and someone that is overly familiar. Help them identify when someone is ‘too’ nice or eerily perfect.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION YOUR CHILD SHOULD KNOW
• A stranger is someone they do not know.
• They should never go with someone they do not know (not even walking in the same direction), even if they seem nice.
• Never go into a house, building or car with a stranger, no matter if they promise a reward, toy, candy or anything else, not even if the stranger knows their name. Yell “NO!” and run away.
• It’s okay to hit and hurt an adult if you feel you are in danger. It isn’t rude or bad to run for help.
• A child should never help adults who claim to be in trouble and in need of assistance. Yell, “NO!” Get away and go for help. Adults can ask adults for help. An adult has no business asking someone else’s child for help.
Avoid suspicious scenarios such as:• Consider using a secret word so that a child knows you sent a trusted adult. If a stranger (or other person) knows the child’s name, but not the secret word, the child should refuse to go with him/her. Change the word often.
* Someone with a leash looking for a lost puppy.
* Someone needing directions.
* Adults asking a child for help with a broken down car.
* Someone asking for help to find something in a car or house.
• Always tell the child if someone else will be picking them up or giving them a ride, and tell the child who that person will be.
• They should never accept gifts from a stranger. Candy or toys, etc. Unless you are present and give permission. Anything offered when parents are not there should be refused. These items can be used as lures. Sometimes candy is drugged, or something is placed in or on the gift that will harm the child.
• They should trust their instincts. If something feels weird about a situation, they should run away. They should run for help if they feel scared. RUN – don’t walk – to the nearest safe place and TELL SOMEONE THEY NEED HELP.
• It is more important to be safe than it is to be polite. Better safe than sorry.
• Three R’s – Recognize, Respond and Report any stranger that makes them feel unsafe – IMMEDIATLEY.
ROLE PLAY; MAKE IT A GAME
• Pretend to be a stranger asking for directions or help to find a lost pet.
• Show the children how to keep a safe distance – beyond arm’s reach.
• How to run away if the stranger gets too close or grabs another child. Go get help right away.
• How to yell and scream effectively to attract the most attention.
• How to flail and kick effectively to break an abductor’s grip.
• Teach them how to claw the stranger’s eyes, ears, nose or mouth.
TEACH CHILDREN TO BE A DIFFICULT TARGET
• Teach children to look out for each other and stay together.
• Train children to never go with those who invite them to leave the group.
• Always walk or play with a safe buddy or in a group.
• Require children to check with you first before leaving your home or some other location.
• Organize parents in your neighborhood to teach their children these tips.
If these guidelines and information are incorporated as part of daily living, your child should not be traumatized. These items can be taught just as parents teach their children to wear seatbelts, watch for traffic and wash their hands before eating to safeguard their physical well-being.