Have we had a day yet when the morning news hasn’t reported on an abduction, an attempted abduction, or catastrophic results of an abduction? Children go missing every single day and when we finally hear about the outcome, generally, it’s not a happy ending.
It’s been reported that on average, 90,000 people are missing in the United States at any given time. While many of them end up being found, alive or dead, many others remain missing to this day.
In Arizona, 11-year-old hazel-eyed Mikelle Biggs, waited expectantly for the ice cream truck. Her favorite was the gumball Popsicle. As the music from the truck grew closer, she continued to ride her sister’s bike in tight circles at the empty intersection.
Mikelle’s mother, noticing dusk was coming, sent her younger sister, Kimber -who had come inside only moments earlier-to tell her big sister it was time to come home.
When Kimber arrived at the intersection, her sister was nowhere to be seen. Only the white bike with purple ribbons remained, left on the ground with its wheels spinning, and nearby, two shiny quarters that Mikelle had taken when she left the house.
In the massive search that was conducted after her disappearance, over 800 pieces of evidence were collected, and tips were called in reaching to the 10,000’s. Despite all the effort expended, no solid evidence of what transpired was ever discovered, and the suspect count remains at zero.
To this day, 20 years later, the whereabouts and fate of Mikelle Biggs remains a mystery.
That’s just one family’s sad story. Unfortunately, we live in a world with many more unfavorable outcomes.
In 2018, www.missingkids.com reported that 424,066 missing children were entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The actual final tally was 464,324. Sadly, those numbers may be higher. As crazy as it may sound, many children are never reported missing. If we’re not frightened by that, we should be.
So as a parent or relative, how do we protect our children from the threat of abduction and/or abuse? Read these safety tips and share with your loved ones:
GET RID OF ANYTHING PERSONALIZED WITH THE CHILD’S NAME
Do not personalize your child’s backpack, key chain, or lunch box. If a child hears a stranger use their name, immediate trust has just been established.
MAKE UP A CODE WORD FOR EMERGENCY SITUATIONS
When making up a simple code word for emergencies, don’t use a word that’s too common. But also, don’t pick one that’s so strange your child won’t be able to use it in a natural way. Think strategically. An example could be the word “Fountain.” If you heard your child say, “We were supposed to meet at the fountain,” you would know he/she was in danger.
Another tip is to share the code word with those who may pick your child up from school or extracurricular activities. No exceptions. Teach your child not to leave or get in a car with anyone who does not know the code word. Again, no exceptions. Even if it’s a family (kids are more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know) friend. If your child was out and felt unsafe in any situation, they could call you and use the code word.
WHO’S A STRANGER?
Sounds silly, right? But I’ll bet if you asked your kids, their answer may be along the lines of someone who looks scary or disheveled. This could very well be a fatal miscalculation on their part. Successful child predators are often the ones least likely to draw attention. For them to get close to a child, they must look harmless and approachable. Scary doesn’t work for them. Believe me, they know exactly what they’re doing and what’s at stake if they get caught. They risk losing everything. Family, friends, job, freedom will all be gone in an instant.
To misuse an old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” your child must be taught that when it comes to strangers, nice clothes and a friendly smile can be more dangerous than the homeless guy begging for change.
Your children need to be prepared to question the smiling strange man, just in case something was about to happen. If Ted Bundy was not the prime example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, many more women would be unharmed and alive today.
Teach your child to not be afraid to scream and draw as much attention as possible. Screaming is an excellent deterrent.
Coach your child to run away. If the person is in a car, run in the opposite direction. If the person is on foot, tell your child to just run. If there are people, houses, or open businesses nearby, inform your child to run towards them and make a bunch of noise in the process of fleeing.
If the worst-case scenario happens, and the person gets ahold of your child, it’s imperative that he/she understands that getting in the car must be avoided at ALL costs. Once the perpetrator has physical control of the child, the odds are in his favor.
Your child must understand that nothing is off limits when it comes to getting away. Kicking, scratching, punching, and biting anywhere on the person’s body are all acceptable ways to fight.
Occasionally, we see children struggling with a parent. Whose child hasn’t thrown a temper tantrum? Tell your child they must not only scream, but make sure anyone within hearing distance knows this isn’t a temper tantrum or unruly child. Words like, “Who are you,” and “I don’t know you,” or just the old standby, “HELP” will make a difference.
THE FINAL TIP
Tell your child that getting in a stranger’s car is not an option. EVER.