Know The Danger
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare – suddenly their child is kidnapped, snatched away by a total stranger! I’m sure we have all imagined this terrible scenario. Most parents try to prevent it by teaching their child some protective phrase like “Stranger – Danger” at a young age to help prevent such a thing. But is that helpful? Will it save your child?
Before we decide what’s the best way to keep our children safe, let’s first ask – What is the actual danger most likely to harm them? I studied this issue for an organization I was working for as we developed our Child Safety Policy. At the same, this scary video became popular on YouTube:
It shows a man doing an experiment, with the permission of the children’s parents, to see if he can lure the children away with a puppy. It is disturbing how quickly it works. At the end of the video he says “Over 700 children are abducted a day.” While I appreciate the issue the video is trying to address, I found out that this scary statistic doesn’t really get to the facts. It’s unclear where that number was from, but it is not an accurate representation of the official statistics on missing children. In fact, it seems this video is more about playing to a parent’s worst fear instead of helping them actually protect their child.
The most important thing to know about kidnapping is that a stranger snatching your child off the street is extremely unlikely. In 2015 86% of missing children in America were “runaways.” This means mostly teenagers who left home of their own choice. 10% were family abductions, usually a custody battle. 2% were lost rather than taken. And the numbers go down from there. Of course we MUST protect our children from danger, but there is a much more common danger that we rarely discuss.
See this website for more details on kidnapping: http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys are sexually abused while under the age of 18*. Take a minute and think about how horrible that is! This is a very real, very likely danger to your child. Even more concerning, 90% of abusers are well known to the child.* This is not a stranger, this is someone in your close circle of acquaintances. There is a very helpful book I highly recommend for parents called “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin de Becker. It covers how to choose who is safe for your child at a very young age, all the way up to how to help your teenagers protect themselves.
Here’s a link to the book on Amazon
So how do we protect our children from this horribly likely danger of sexual abuse? The first step is to realize – This does happen, and only you (the parent) can prevent it. You are going to have to stop trusting just anyone to watch your child, especially in situations of privacy or physical intimacy. A friend asked me recently “Do you think I’m being silly? I went to a church group and I asked the girls in the child care to call me if my son needs a diaper change. I just don’t know them very well.”
“You are NOT silly,” I said, “You are being wise.”
I recommended for her to ask the leader of the group how the child care workers are screened and trained for their jobs. If there is no screening in place, the workers may be perfectly nice people, or they may be actual child predators who are using the trusting environment of a church group to get access to children. Ask yourself: What situations right now do you drop your child off, and why do you trust that the people watching them are safe?
A former prosecutor of child predators named Boz Tchividjian has founded a special organization called GRACE to help churches and faith organizations understand how important it is to screen all child care workers and have safety protocols in place. Here’s a chilling quote from a convicted child predator that motivates his concern:
“I consider church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people. I think they want to believe in people. Because of that, you can easily convince them, with or without convincing words.”
If you work with a church or other faith group you will want to read more on Boz’s informative blog here: http://religionnews.com/2014/04/26/sex-offenders/
Although most abusers are men, there are some women who also commit this terrible act. One of the most disturbing things I learned is that most predators have a warped idea that they are doing nothing wrong. They were most likely abused themselves and have come to believe that sexual touching with children is actually a way of communicating love. You will never be able to tell who is a predator by just looking at them, they look like a normal person rather than the monster we imagine.
Here are a few more statistics to convince us of the danger:
90% of abusers are well known the child and/or their family.*
A study conducted by Dr. Gene Abel revealed that the average convicted male abuser who molests girls averaged 52 victims, while those targeting boys averaged 150 victims.+ Only about 3% of the crimes had been prosecuted. When asked if they had been suspected of abuse in those other times but not prosecuted 100% said yes.
12% of abuse of children under age 6 is by women.^
23% of all sex offenders were under the age of 18.^
81% of the time, abuse occurs in a “one on one” situation^
In the end, there is a minuscule chance that your child will be kidnapped but there is HUGE risk that your child will be sexually abused. So it’s only logical to put your time and effort into preventing the harm that it VERY likely to happen, rather than the one that is unlikely. Some researchers consider that child abuse is like a cancer or virus rapidly moving through our society, unchecked because of lack of knowledge about how to prevent and stop the disease. In Part Two I will discuss practical steps every parent can take to prevent this tragedy.
Be the one who who protects your children and all the little ones around you starting today!