Your child may be in danger without you even knowing about it. As a private investigator for four states and a former Deputy Sheriff, I’m all too aware of the statistics. If you have children under the age of 18, you should be, too.
The truth is startling and alarming:
Approximately 11 children out of every 1,000 go missing each year
A child is reported as missing or abducted every 40 seconds
Over 2,000 per day go missing, or 800,000 per year
Unfortunately, this isn’t the frightening part. The frightening part is that even parents who worry about child abductions don’t understand how they happen or how to prevent them. The frightening part is in stereotypical kidnappings (the child is abducted and either assaulted or held for ransom), 44% never make it back home.
I don’t tell you these facts for you to grab your children and never let them out of your home. I tell you because being aware is really the only way to protect them.
Most people assume their children need to learn about “stranger danger”: never talk to a stranger, don’t get in a car with a stranger. However, a striking percentage of abductions are by people they know. In fact, 82% are kidnapped by family members. Of the non-family member abductions, only 37% were committed by a stranger.
As well, most people assume at-risk children are those who hang out in parks or wooded areas. The sad part is that a high percentage is taken within a quarter mile from their homes: from a busy street or mall, or from their own front yards.
What can you do to protect your children? Do you have to turn them into “shut-ins” that never leave your house? No, but knowing the facts helps. As well, here are a few more tips to protect your children from becoming statistics:
Never leave your child alone at the bus stop. If you can’t be there, ask someone you trust to be there until you son or daughter gets on the bus.
When your children play out in the yard, either be out with them or make sure you stay in an area of the house were you can see the entire yard.
Keep pictures of your children off the Internet. This could be an invitation to child predators.
Keep current pictures of your children. They grow fast; should the worst occur, an out-dated picture can make them impossible to find.
Teach them what to look for and to be aware of their surroundings. Many stranger abductions start out with the stranger watching them.
Lastly, don’t keep the truth from them. In 2008, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) surveyed 4,549 children in the U.S. Of that number, 60% were exposed to some form of violence, whether directly or indirectly. Weapon assaults, sexual harassment and kidnapping become part of the statistics as early as age 10. By age 14, children are being introduced to sexual victimization and assault, assault by a peer, dating violence and unwanted online sexual solicitation, among others.
If you don’t prepare them for a situation and teach them awareness, most are left unable to cope and unable to talk about it. By setting a good foundation of talking carefully with your children about these possibilities, you just may save their life.