The good news is stranger danger is not as common as you might think. While it is terrifying to think of our child being kidnapped, the vast majority of kidnappings involve family members, and people known to the family/child. Although rare, when a child is abducted by a stranger it is often publicized repeatedly by the media that it heightens our sensitivity to the issue. (Imagine if they publicized common cases of child sexual abuse as often?)
This is what poses the greatest risk involving sexual abuse of children & strangers:
- If your child is involved in a beauty pageant, dance competition, sports event, etc., be careful and aware of people who may want to “photograph” your child. This may seem flattering, but it may very well be a ploy to obtain images to share/exploit your child – even if they are clothed! Be sure to ask for references and check their credentials. Make sure your children know to contact you if someone is attempting to isolate them or says they are interested in them on a professional level.
- The Buddy System – it’s still going strong! Kids should stay together in at least pairs any time they’re in a public place away from parents.
- If your child is younger, and not yet ready to roam the park or department store, make sure they know what type of person to look for if they ever become lost. Their first choice to seek help should be a “mom” or “dad” with kids. Even a security guard or employee of an organization/business may exploit their position of “expected responsibility” to take advantage of an opportunity to abuse a child. Security guards are not highly trained professionals.
- The mall, playgrounds, fairs, and concerts – where people with children congregate, you can expect pedophiles. Most parents are already on heightened-alert in these situations, and it’s important to stress with our children the need to be confident and trust their instincts if they are faced with a situation that makes them uncomfortable. Create a plan and talk about how they can work their way out of an uncomfortable situation. Make sure they understand the importance of updating you when they travel from place to place.