Archive for the ‘Predators’ Category

Predators

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Driving down a country road the other day, I stopped behind a school bus and watched a young teenager get out. Even before the bus had pulled away, he had his thumb out in the universal sign for hitchhikers. With nationwide concern over the rising amount of crimes against children, this young man was literally risking his life.

When I talked with some 13 and 14 year olds that I know, I found that they had a distorted view of child abductors. They felt they were too smart to be lured by promises of candy and too big to be forcibly abducted. They became more thoughtful when I pointed out that grown men could be mugged, and that no one was immune to a gun or a surprise attack.

Rapists and child molesters do not necessarily look seedy or suspicious. They would rather offer a ride to a hitchhiking youngster than resort to a public show of force that might be witnessed. They might stop to ask directions, or for help with reading a map.

They aren’t relying solely on the physical weakness or inexperience of a child; they are relying as well upon the trust of children towards adults. This makes the crime even worse, and the need for educating children even more imperative.

Children should be taught to recognize a potentially dangerous situation, and what to do in such an event. No matter how pleasant a stranger seems, a child should never go over to their car, or even within touching distance.

Teenagers need to be reminded that it is not ‘cool’ to be macho in a case like this. However grown up they feel, they will be helpless against a well-planned or well-rehearsed attack. A real hero will run and get help, not try to fight alone.

Families can help by having a Secret Code Word that only the family knows. Teach them not to go off with anyone who claims to be sent by their parents unless they know the family Secret Code Word. This applies to people with official identification, since ID’s can be forged. (It’s harder to fake a uniform and patrol car, although not impossible.)

And with the growing number of sexual abuse cases within families, teach them that this Code Word is the only secret a family member should ask them to keep! If someone tries to touch them, they should never keep that a secret. All children should be aware that they have the right to say ‘no’ to an adult.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just strangers who may try to molest children and young people. Babysitters, relatives, or the friends of friends may be guilty as well. The most important thing to teach your children is that they should tell an adult they can trust about the assault. No one has the right to touch them in a way that feels bad. And they are not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ because someone else assaulted them; they are not at fault! Let them know that they are not to blame, and that they will have your support and protection.

There is no simple way to be sure that your child understands these suggestions. You will need to sit and discuss these carefully to be sure your children understand them. Open the lines of communication with your children and keep it an open dialogue, and you can increase their safety without frightening them unnecessarily.