Prepping Your Kids
Local news is focusing on a story out of the Fredericksburg, Virginia area where at least five times over the past few days, several men in a van have approached young girls in their yards or on the sidewalk and tried to abduct them. Probably every state in the country has a missing child who has been kidnapped by a stranger. Many, if not most of them were kidnapped for sexual assault. This particular story has significance because that same area, back in 1995 and 96, had first two sisters, then a third girl, kidnapped from their yards. Their bodies were found several months later, but no viable suspects were on the radar. About five years later, the killer was caught and killed by police in Florida when they stopped him for a South Carolina abduction and rape.
What can you do to help your children limit their chances of becoming a victim of such a crime? You don’t want to raise a child who is afraid of his own shadow. You don’t want your child growing into her teenage years scared to walk to the mailbox. But they need to be aware and have tools.
Talk to your children about risks. Don’t depend on the schools to do it. You know your child’s maturity and level of understanding and can adapt the conversation better than any “one size fits all” curriculum. If it fits, use news stories to open the discussion. Have “what if” practices. Drill with your child for this situation the same way you do for an intruder in the house at 3 a.m.
If you are uncomfortable having such a conversation with your kid, think about how “uncomfortable” you would be if he or she was taken from you.
As far as tools, look at distress signals, communications and defense… all in accordance with your child’s age and maturity.
Nearly every child can be trusted with a loud whistle. Get a good one that is loud and shrill. Have her carry it on a beaded dog tag chain around her neck. Yelling “help, you’re not my dad!” may not work well. There is a video making the rounds showing a test on a busy city street of a man grabbing a child by the arm and dragging her away as she yells that, and time after time, others just walk on by, averting their eyes. A Fox40 whistle right in the ear will make most anyone back off long enough to get away.
For communications, consider a cell phone. They don’t need text messaging, a thousand minutes and the latest apps. An old phone with no service but a good charge will call 911. Teach them how to responsibly use it. Of course, with age and maturity, you might give them a regular phone with more features, but it is not needed to call 911.
For defense, there is a wealth of tools available, but most will get you kid expelled from school or possibly arrested, so be careful… But, look at OC spray, martial arts, or even a pistol under certain circumstances. Even if your 14 year old daughter doesn’t carry OC spray to school, maybe she could carry it to the mall. Your 19 year old daughter at college might risk expulsion or arrest for carrying a concealed weapon in some states, but check state laws and different colleges for different rules. I’m not sure of the approved age, but Wyoming residents don’t need a permit to carry concealed, and last time I checked, students at the University of Wyoming can carry on campus, just not in the dorms, so an off campus apartment could be just the ticket.
In short, it’s a dangerous world out there, and kids are irreplaceable. It is each of our duty to help our kids stay safe, without smothering them.