Posts Tagged ‘child abductor’

How to Save Your Child’s Life

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Yesterday, in-store video from a Wal-Mart near Atlanta, Georgia went viral. It showed a strange man picking up a 7-year-old girl in an aisle of the toy department. It then showed that same little girl kicking and yelling and creating such a huge ruckus that the man put her down–and ran away! For those of you who haven’t seen that video, here it is: Girl Fights Off Kidnapper in Wal-Mart

Kudos to that young lady for doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. How did she know what to do in such a frightening situation? And how did she have the presence of mind to do it? Simple: her parents enrolled her in a Kids Safety class. It may have been radKIDS, or it might have been another class given by an agency that teaches similar principles. But the day her parents brought her to that first class, they saved her life. She learned that Bad Guys hate noise, and often demand that their victims stay quiet. She also learned not to listen to Bad Guys, but to yell long and loud for help.

She learned that no one is allowed to hurt her, and if someone tries to, she can make them stop. The Bad Guy held her arms, so she used her legs to kick him repeatedly as hard as she could–while she was still yelling. He realized almost immediately that he was not going to get away with this child. He put her down and fled (and was arrested by local law enforcement a short time later).

By using what she had learned in that safety class to escape this man’s hold, she saved her life again. He was on parole, having just been released from prison for killing a man. You can be sure his intentions toward this innocent, little girl were not honorable. Nor was he likely to let her go, knowing she could identify him to police.

Several parents contacted me after this video hit the news. They wanted to know how soon they could get their own kids into a radKIDS class, just on the outside chance that some predator might approach them when Mom’s or Dad’s back was turned. I gave them the information they wanted. Most thanked me and set about making room in their child’s schedule for the 4 weekly sessions that a radKIDS course meets.

But, after I’d finished telling one mom about all we teach, all the situations we cover, and the physical skills we give the kids, she shrugged and said, “Well, we’ll think about it.” She explained that her daughter already had a very busy schedule, what with gymnastics, piano lessons, and dance class.

Now, all those activities are fun, and can be life-enhancing. A radKIDS class is also fun, and can be life-saving. Parents must decide what’s best for their children, and certainly, sports and the arts are important. But the life-skills learned in a radKIDS class–personal empowerment, the ability to make decisions, and the choosing of a clear strategy (not to mention how to deliver a good, solid punch to the nose)–can help a kid in situations when no cartwheel, no arpeggio, no pirouette can.

How Child Molesters Fool Parents

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Lawyer: When did you first think that the Accused might be a child predator?

Police Officer on Witness Stand: When I began investigating the crime. Everyone who knew him said, “No, couldn’t be! Not him! He loves kids! He would never hurt a child!” When so many people think that a particular person could never have done this kind of a crime, that tells me something could be very wrong.

Lawyer: Why is that?

Police Officer: Because that’s how predators get away with their crimes. They don’t just groom the child. They train everyone around them to trust them, to believe they’re innocent. They groom their whole environment.


Have you ever seen a news report about the arrest of a child molester? ‘Ever notice that the folks around that individual are shocked to find such evil in their midst? Family members and neighbors tell the reporter, “I just can’t believe it. He’s such a great guy!”

What about, “I knew something was wrong about him. I always tell my kids to stay away from his house!” No one says that. Why not?

Because they’ve been groomed to believe the predator is a great guy. By whom? The “great guy” himself. Those who prey on children can be quite good at appearing kind, lovable, and gentle. They are experts at fooling those around them–not just children, but adults as well. They have to be, because access to the child is often through that child’s parent/guardian.

If mom trusts them to babysit from time to time, they gain access to little Madison. If dad believes they’re just taking the boys on the team to a hockey game, they gain a clear path to young Zachary.

And why wouldn’t a parent trust them? After all, they’re teachers, coaches, scout leaders, church youth ministers, even pediatricians! Good, honest people go into these professions/activities because they care about kids and want to help them succeed in life. But dangerous, lying predators go into these professions/activities so they can have a continuous supply of children.

No parent wants to think anyone in the vicinity of their precious baby is a child molester. They don’t want to believe someone they know actually harbors thoughts of committing horrible acts against their child. Predators understand this and use it to their advantage. One man confessed to police that he simply “allowed the parents to believe what they wanted to–that I would never harm their little girl.”

So what can you do? Watch your child. If he or she behaves differently around a particular adult, find out what’s behind that.

And trust yourself. Don’t let the practiced charm of a molester fool you. If you get any kind of “funny feeling” from the coach, the scout leader, the neighbor across the street, accept that you’re on to something. And step between the Bad Guy and your child.

Why “Stranger Danger” is Harmful to Kids

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

ChildLostInCrowd









I have received several phone calls and emails recently from parents concerned about their children’s safety. Specifically, they want to know how best to teach their children about “Stranger Danger.”

As a Child Safety and Violence Prevention Instructor, I understand their concerns. Also as a Child Safety and Violence Prevention Instructor, I cringe at the phrase “Stranger Danger.” Yes, it rhymes, it’s cute, and it’s easy to remember. But it’s also misleading to the point of being downright dangerous to kids and parents.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are approximately 58,000 child abductions each year. About 57, 885 of these crimes are committed by someone the child already knows: a neighbor, friend of the family, divorced parent, etc.

In the remaining 115 kidnap cases, the child is taken by a stranger. While a very serious crime, stranger abduction accounts for two-tenths of 1% of all child abductions. Still, when I ask kids in my classes what they know about how to stay safe, one of the first things they shout out is, “Don’t talk to strangers!”

So, what happens when your child gets separated from you in a store, at the amusement park, or on a crowded street? (You can try to reassure yourself that, as a concerned and watchful parent, this will never happen. But I can pretty much guarantee you it will. Even the best parents blink their eyes occasionally, and that is all it takes for a child to spy something fascinating, and break away from mom or dad’s grip to get a closer look.)

As concerned and watchful parents, you are wise to equip your child with the knowledge of what to do should they find themselves separated from you. The problem with Stranger Danger is that it rules out the vast majority of resources available to help kids in this kind of situation: practically everyone they see around them will be a stranger to them. And they have been taught that anyone they don’t know is likely to harm them. With no familiar face to turn to, they have nowhere to go for help.

And, in the simple, black-and-white process of a young person’s thinking, if strangers are bad, then people we know must be good. This, too, is problematic because it puts a child’s trust in an adult who may not be worthy of it.

So, aside from keeping kids locked inside the safe confines of their homes until they’re 18, what can we do? Simple: teach them how to ask for help, who to ask, and where.

Make sure they know their first and last name, and their parents’ names as well. Having them memorize your cell phone number makes it easy to contact you. If your child is too young for this, consider writing down your name and cell number on a piece of paper and putting it inside a pocket of their clothing.

When you are running errands with your child, point out the people whose job is to help them if they ever need help. Show them who they can go to for assistance if they can’t find you. Should they ask that man on the corner, or would the store clerk be better? Would that guy asking for spare change be a good choice, or the mom with 2 small children inside the shop?

Talking about “what-ifs” doesn’t scare kids. In fact, they’ve probably already thought that they could get lost. What scares them is not knowing what to do if it should happen. Having a plan of action “just in case” reassures them that they can stay safe and find a good person to help them, and that they’ll be reunited with you quickly.


Predators Use Games to Grab Your Kids

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Fiverr Color Image 1 Hand Out of TV Screen RESIZE

Predators are playing your Wii… in your house… to get your child.

At a Child Safety Seminar the other day, an agent from the North Carolina Department of Justice told me that the newest way child predators are finding victims is through video games. XBox… Wii… Nintendo DS…. They like smart phones and tablets, too. In fact, whatever the latest technology,theĀ  Bad Guys have figured out how to work it to their twisted advantage.

Can’t be, you say! My child is playing in the safety of our living room; I can see him/her with my own eyes! Yes. But the game in their hands connects to the internet. Predators connect to the internet to find kids–and they know where kids gather. As the DOJ officer explained, it’s easy for an abductor or sex predator to make contact with young, innocent players by chatting and sending messages about the game they’re playing. Kids are flattered that someone they don’t even know wants to talk to them about their strategy, technique, and scores.

Once initial contact is established, luring a victim out of parents’ protective reach is simple. In fact, for these guys, the whole process is virtually as easy as reaching through the tv screen to snatch their next victim.

It’s an internet-enabled world, and kids are taught from preschool onward how to operate a computer. So, throwing the Wii out the window and forbidding our kids to touch a keyboard is not the answer. Then what can we do to keep our kids safe? Talk to them! Tell them never to put their personal information out onto the ‘net. No one needs to know their real name, age, where they live, what grade they’re in, what school they go to… even what sports they like or that their pet hamster’s name is Scooter. The Bad Guys might try to trick them into revealing important facts with questions like, “What kind of job does your mom or dad have?” Make sure kids know that any attempt by another “gamer” to make contact could be dangerous. If it happens, they should simply stop playing and go get a parent. The connection should be immediately ended, and the contact reported to police.

Yesterday it was desktops and laptops. Today, it’s smart phones, iPads and games. Tomorrow, it will be… who knows what? Doesn’t matter. The rule is always the same: Don’t give your personal info to anyone over any form of technology. Just as legend says vampires cannot enter your home unless you invite them in, predators can’t get to your kids unless they are allowed to. By repeatedly stressing that we don’t give out any personal info over computer/phone/gaming systems, etc., you keep the Bad Guys from getting in.



What’s in a Name? Too Much Information

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Heading to my gate in the Delta terminal the other day, I found myself following a family of four. Mom and Dad led the way; behind them were two young boys, Nathan and Daniel. How do I know their names? Because they were emblazoned in big, bold letters across the rolling backpack each little guy was pulling. You’ve probably seen these things. They look like this: http://www.personalizationmall.com/cat_image/600/8999-8819.jpg

Nathan and Daniel seemed to love their personalized luggage. I, however, could not share their enthusiasm. While their parents sat, one reading the newspaper and the other checking messages, the boys stood at the window, watching planes take off. If I were of a nature to want to harm children rather than protect them, how easy would it have been to go up to them and say, “Hey, Nathan! Daniel! I didn’t expect to see you guys here!” Pretending that I know them makes them think I’m not a “stranger,” therefore, not a Bad Guy.

I could go on with my ruse: “Remember me? I’m a friend of your folks’. I met you guys at school a few months back. My little boy is in Nathan’s class.” Children are generally taught not to question adults, and while they might be embarrassed that they don’t remember who “I” am, they won’t reveal this. They’ll just accept my word as the truth.

So, when I continue, “Hey! Can you guys come to that little shop and help me pick out some candy for the plane ride? I’m really hungry, but I don’t know what’s good. And I’ll bet you two are experts when it comes to candy!” they’ll come along willingly.

As a child molester, kidnapper, or worse, I’ve just gotten a bonus–two kids for the price of one! What made it so easy? I knew their names. And the craziest part of the whole thing? Without realizing it, their parents are the ones who told me.

Labeling your child’s tee shirt with their first name, their backpack with a nickname, or a team jersey with their last name is unnecessary and dangerous. It gives personal information about them to everyone who reads it–information that those who don’t know them should not be privy to. Why take the chance with your child’s safety?

The Toy Department Is NOT a Babysitter

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Taking young kids shopping with you can be… difficult, shall we say? They want to stop and look at something when you’re in a hurry, and they’re in a hurry when you’ve stopped to look at something. They get hungry at inopportune times, and urgently need a restroom when the store may not even have one. Then, of course, there’s the fact that they tend to want everything they see!

A neighbor of mine copes with the situation this way: “When my husband isn’t home to watch them and I have to bring them with me, I send them to the toy department. It keeps them happy and lets me do what I have to do. Then, I swing by and scoop them up, and we’re done!”

I probably turned pale when I heard of this harried, but well-meaning, mom using the toy department as a babysitter. I explained to her that her precious, albeit bouncy, little tykes were safest when they were under her direct supervision. They could get lost, hurt, or, heaven forbid, taken while she was elsewhere in the store, picking up milk or trying on a shirt.

She maintained that she was never away from them long enough for anything bad to happen–and besides, there were other adults in the area. One of them would surely step in if help was needed.

Yes, that would be great. Except, here’s some information about one of those “other adults in the area” while kids are looking at toys: He’s a registered sex offender. He enjoys watching little kids play. And he was arrested this past weekend in the toy department of a Wal-Mart in Virginia, not just for doing that, but for exposing himself and masturbating while he did it.

Parents, your children are safest when they’re with you. As tempting as it may be to leave them in a public place “just for a few minutes” so you can get some things done, it’s not worth the risk. Places that are fun and interesting for kids can also be fun and interesting for perverts and predators because of those kids. Don’t give them the chance to hurt your children.

Fight Like a Kid!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

‘Ever been to Myrtle Beach, SC? Great spot for a family get-away–golf, shows, shopping, and of course, the beach. Lots of “fun in the sun.” And a good place to kidnap a child?

Ask 4-year-old Josie. Someone tried to abduct her right off a Myrtle Beach sidewalk, on a bright, sunny afternoon, with her family just inches away from her. The kidnapper glided up quietly behind her in his car, and simply reached out the driver’s side window and scooped her up. She kicked and screamed as he pulled her inside.

Her 8-year-old brother, Nathan, saw the whole thing and ran to help her. He fought against the abductor, yelling, punching, kicking, and biting–anything he could think of to free his sister. The predator stayed inside his car, holding onto the girl’s feet. Nathan pulled back. He never thought of giving up.

“I did everything I could to get her back out of the car,” Nathan said. He even scratched the man’s arms, hoping to get bits of the Bad Guy’s skin under his fingernails. (“For DNA!” he said. Nathan learned something from watching crime shows on TV.)

Finally, the predator let go. Josie flew into her brother’s arms and they both landed on the ground. The Bad Guy sped away.

That’s how you fight evil–with everything you’ve got. Anything less would not have saved little Josie. If only every kid were prepared to defend themselves like that! Unfortunately, very few are. Most children, on finding themselves in a position of imminent danger, don’t know what to do. They become confused and terrified. And when a child is afraid, they shut down and give up. And right then, the Bad Guy has won.

We need to teach our children that, while there are some bad people in the world, no one has the right to hurt them. When they really believe this, they don’t react to endangerment with paralyzing fear, but with righteous anger: “How dare you hurt me??” They feel empowered to do whatever is necessary–kick, punch, hit, scratch, and yell for help–to defend themselves or someone they love. Josie yelled and kicked at her attacker. Nathan pulled her from his grasp. This kind of determination is what we need to instill in our kids.

We can’t be with them to protect them every second of their lives. So they must know 2 things:

1) they are worth protecting, and

2) they can defend themselves

They don’t need a parent, teacher, coach, or other grown-up to rescue them. There may be no one around to help them if a Bad Guy strikes.

Give them the information they need to be able to fight back against an attacker. If you know about kids’ self-defense techniques, great. Teach them to your kids yourself. If not, get them into a good kids’ self-defense and safety class. Then, teach them never to give up, but to keep fighting because they they’re special, they’re important, and they’re loved. As long as they keep fighting, they’ve got a fighting chance.

Movie Scene Scarily Accurate

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Talented screen actor Stanley Tucci received an Academy Award nomination for his frighteningly accurate portrayal of neighbor George Harvey in the movie The Lovely Bones, about the murder of a young girl, and its effects on her family. If you haven’t seen the film, consider watching it. It’s well-made, suspenseful, and moving. And if you do decide to rent it, pay close attention to the scene in which Harvey lures his victim to her death. It may not be what you’d expect–and it could have been transcribed from real-life.

Scene opens: Susie Salmon walks home from school by herself. Chasing a windblown slip of paper across a cornfield, she encounters a neighbor who pretends to try to catch the paper for her.

“Ohh! I hope that wasn’t your homework!”

This is a red flag–a stranger trying to help her. Called “false teaming,” it’s a common way for rapists to gain the trust of their victims. The predator spots his target, then waits for an opportunity to “help” her in some way. He might offer to carry grocery bags or heavy packages, unlock a car door, or, as in this case, try to recover something that was dropped. He knows that girls and women have been trained to be “nice,” to respond with gratitude rather than with caution.

Harvey, meeting no resistance from Susie, continues with his plan:

“Oh, hey, you’re the Salmon girl, right? Remember me? I live right down the street in the green house–Mr. Harvey.”

He’s letting her know that he’s not a “stranger,” therefore not dangerous. He doesn’t mind telling her his name and where he lives; he knows she’ll never have the chance to tell anyone what he did to her.


“How are your folks doin’? Tell ’em I said hi.”

He even knows her parents–further evidence that he’s not a stranger. And everyone knows it’s strangers you have to watch out for, not neighbors who live “right down the street.”

Susie responds politely, looking wary but offering no resistance to his somehow-inappropriate chattiness and eagerness. His excitement increases as he sees that, even though she thinks something isn’t right, she would rather be polite than trust her gut.

“You’re the perfect person for me to run into!”

Moving ahead with his lure, he implies that he needs her help–she’s just the right person he needs! When she gives a half-hearted excuse for not wanting to go with him, he feigns disappointment:

“I just worked so hard on it… and I just got excited for someone to see it….”

He knows that her need to be polite and not hurt anyone’s feelings will work for him. Against her better judgment, she follows him. He coaxes her down the ladder and into his secret chamber.


Notice, parents and guardians of children:

  • He was someone she knew. He was not a “stranger.”
  • He never touched her to get her there. He didn’t jump out of the bushes and grab her, or tackle her from behind a parked car. He never even got close to her.
  • He was not dressed in a scary costume, complete with a dark mask and black clothes that signal “Bad Guy here!”
  • He did not speak roughly or meanly to her. He called her by name in a friendly manner, and asked about her family.
  • He asked for her help, making her feel important. Adults in need of assistance of any kind should seek help from other adults, never from children.
  • He played on her emotions, making her believe she hurt his feelings, and knowing she would try to “make it up to him.”

Yes, there are child abductions/murders perpetrated by strangers. But more often, they involve someone the child has seen before–a neighbor, a friend of mom’s or dad’s, the guy who works at the store you frequent. And the reason they happen is because these people aren’t strangers. Children tend to trust adults they’ve seen before because they don’t fit their idea of a scary, black-cloaked “stranger.” When an adult has a child’s trust, luring them is easy.





New App is False Security

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Have you seen the commercial Verizon is currently running? It’s for a new app they’re selling, called Family Locator. Verizon claims it’s “peace of mind at your fingertips.”

The ad shows a mom at the mall with her teen daughter. The mom appears concerned for the young girl’s safety as she turns, armed with her cell phone, and heads down the escalator with her friends. But, not to worry! Mom has peace of mind at her fingertips with the new Family Locator app. Just by touching a few buttons, GPS technology lets her dial into the precise location of the cell phone in her daughter’s hand. Mom can pinpoint the locations of other family members as well–and if any of them should need help, she can instantly call up driving directions to the exact spot highlighted on their phone.

Of course, issues can arise that won’t be serious enough to require the Family Locator: “Hello, Mom? Jenny isn’t feeling well. Can you come and get us?” Still, it can give you turn-by-turn directions to the food court if you really want them.

What’s deceptive about this ad–and this app–is that it’s not a family locator; it’s a phone locator. For an actual emergency of the kind the ad hints at, the odds of the daughter keeping her phone in her possession are low. In an abduction or assault, one of the first things her attacker will do is cut off her ability to call for help. He’s going to get rid of that phone quickly, whether it’s in her hand, her purse, or hanging from her belt. He’ll likely break it, or just throw it into a garbage can or across the parking lot. So, Mom is pinging her cell and thinking things are fine: “Ah, she’s still in the department store.” She doesn’t realize her daughter is in danger, because the cell phone is reporting its location, not the girl’s. Meanwhile, the daughter is trapped with a predator, and valuable search time is being lost.

Now, I’m not trying to “rat out” Verizon. I think they’re excellent cell phone providers. But my first concern is for keeping kids safe. And this app, while it has definite uses, cannot keep kids safe. That’s fine, except that it’s being advertised as if it can.

If you want greater peace of mind when your kids are out on their own, my best suggestion is to sign them up for a self-defense class that will teach them

  1. how to recognize tricks that predators use to lure kids every day
  2. how to get help quickly in a public place and
  3. how to physically defend themselves if they need to

This knowledge will serve them much better than a cell phone app.

Unprotected Through a Mine Field

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Last fall, on her short walk home from school, Somer Thompson was abducted by a child molester. Police found her body 2 days later, tossed into a garbage heap. Parents, friends, and neighbors were shocked that such violence could happen where they lived. They had chosen a safe place, a “good place” to raise their children. There were lots of families. Adults drove slowly because kids were always running around and playing outside. People knew their neighbors or, at least, recognized their faces. There was a feeling of trust. So, what makes a seemingly good, safe neighborhood dangerous?

Let’s take a closer look. Near Somer’s house, in between the mowed lawns and flower beds, stood an empty house that the kids walked past on their way to and from school. It was being renovated and prepped for sale. Are their any empty buildings in your neighborhood? As mobile a society as we’ve become, it’s easy to find vacant houses in just about any neighborhood. People need to move for their jobs, and sometimes, their house stays on the market longer than they expect. It’s simply a fact of life today. Even with a realtor’s lock on the front door, their are ways to get inside. Just ask any kid looking for adventure–or ask a bad guy. A building that stands empty for any length of time is an open invitation to criminals: “Here’s a hiding place. Just be quick about it; no one will see what goes on in here.” It’s a crime scene waiting to happen.

Who travels through the neighborhood every day? There are probably some at-home moms and maybe a few at-home dads, part-time and shift workers. There are the package delivery trucks driving in and out all day… letter carriers…. What about construction crews? A social worker friend shared this bit of info with me: the easiest way for a predator to move through an area unquestioned is simply to put on a hard hat. That’s it–a hard hat (easily purchased at home improvement stores or online), topping off a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, allows practically anyone to enter a neighborhood and look like he has a good reason for being there. Have you seen any new construction in your area lately? Have your kids?

Do you know your neighbors? Of course you do. But to find out some facts that may not come up at a block party or over coffee with a moms’ group, check out www.familywatchdog.us This site discloses the locations of registered sex offenders throughout the United States. It can be a real eye-opener.

I typed my address in and clicked Search. It showed me, on a map, the locations of the homes of 38 registered sex offenders in my area. When Somer Thompson’s neighbors did the same, the search brought up the names and locations of 162 registered offenders. 162 within a 5-mile-radius of her home. What they thought was a friendly, safe community turned out to be a veritable mine field, where innocent children walked daily among dangerous predators.

The point of all this is not to scare parents, not to declare that “no place is safe!” It’s to advise you to be aware. Dangers exist everywhere. You don’t have to raise your kids in a bubble; you can let them out of your sight for periods of time. Just teach them how to navigate safely through the world. The outdated warning, “Don’t talk to strangers” not only scares kids needlessly; it can prevent them from asking for help when they’re in danger. Instead, walk their route to school with them and point out places along the way that they can go to for help if they need it: “There’s Mrs. Green’s house; pound on her door if someone is following you,” or “Run into that coffee shop and tell the cashier if anyone makes you uncomfortable.”

Teach them about grown-ups who ask them for help: “Can you help me find my puppy?” and “Can you tell me how to get to the park,” for example. This is a common trick used by predators to get kids to go somewhere with them. Make sure your children understand that it is not their job to help a grown-up; that’s for other grown-ups to do.

Another way molesters lure children is by offering the chance to watch tv and videos, or play with toys and electronic games. Again, let your kids know that if anyone tells them this, it’s a trick. They need to run for help to one of the safe places you’ve pointed out to them.

Don’t let your kids walk unprotected through a mine field. If something happens, it can destroy their life and yours. Empower them with the knowledge that they’re important and that nobody is allowed to hurt them. They’ll wear this knowledge like armor, and it will help keep them safe.

How the Predator “Grooms” a Child via Computer

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

We know it happens; we hear about it in the news way too often. But what exactly does it mean that a sexual predator “groomed” a child over a period of months? How do they do that? What about the kid–were they just naive? Gullible? Stupid?? Can’t they tell when someone’s trying to pull one over on them? What are the child’s parents doing all this time? Aren’t they paying attention? Maybe they’re too busy. You want to protect your kids and need to know the scoop. So, let’s get real here, okay? Okay, this is real:

Sara, now 17, opened up an account on a popular social networking site when she was 12. All the kids in middle school had one, but even so, her mom was taking no chances. She made sure Sara used the computer in the family room, rather than have a laptop in her bedroom. She installed filtering systems and used the parental controls to block access to “unsavory” websites. She employed a tracking program so she would know every step Sara took online. And she warned Sara not to trust anyone she didn’t know personally, because there were dangerous people on the internet who preyed on the innocent. She did everything right to protect her child.

Sara recalls, “For the first few months, I only talked to my friends online because Mom had asked me to stay safe,’ she says. ‘But then, I accepted the request from a guy I didn’t know to become his ‘friend’ online because I could see we had mutual friends on the website.” (What she didn’t realize was that none of her friends knew him either. They just “friended” him because he asked.)

She continues: “They hadn’t mentioned anything bad about him, so I thought it would be all right to talk to him, and we started chatting online every evening. Whenever I was on the internet he would be there, asking about my day and what I’d done at school.”

Right there. That’s how it happened. Sexual predators are some of the sneakiest, cleverest, most manipulative criminals out there. And this one smoothly convinced a 12-year-old girl to let him into her home and into her life. Sara explains, “I really believed that he was my friend and that I could trust him – he made me feel so secure.”

After a few months of benignly chatting about school, he began to ask her more personal questions–sexual questions. Then, questions turned to requests for her to perform sex acts in front of her webcam technology. She says,”He started pressuring me. I was so naive that I felt I had to do these things for him because he’d been such a support to me. I didn’t want to, but whenever I said no, he’d say: ‘Nobody has to know.'”

When Sara realized that something wasn’t right about her “friend,” she attempted to escape the relationship. “I tried to avoid talking to him but… he followed me to other websites. Whenever I set up a profile on a different social network, he’d find me there. He was really persistent.” Worse, now that she’d angered him, she feared for her own safety. In their early days of getting to know one another, she’d told him where she lived–in spite of her mother’s warnings not to reveal any personal information on the internet. She worried that he would find her and harm her.

Sara’s mother watched as her child deteriorated. She couldn’t sleep and refused to eat; she became irritable and withdrawn.  Finally, in despair, she revealed to her mom what had been happening, and they immediately went to the police. The predator was arrested, tried, and imprisoned. But Sara still suffers the consequences of his actions. Due to falling victim to a sexual abuser, she has a strong distrust of strangers, she is unable to make eye contact when speaking, and most of all, experiences a pervasive fear and sense of loss of control. And this is a girl whose mom did everything right.

So what can you do? Ban your kids from using a computer? That’s going to be tough, since schools have students doing internet research for homework as early as 1st grade, and even preschools are bringing computers into their classrooms for 3-year-olds to become familiar with. Just keep checking in with your kids, standing over their shoulder when they’re at the keyboard (they love that!) and asking, “Who’s that? How do you know him/her?” Find out who they’re talking to. Go over everyone on their “friends” list; if there’s someone who you think doesn’t belong there, delete them–and check to make sure they don’t come back. If someone is communicating with your child and you think they shouldn’t be, or that the communication is inappropriate, don’t take chances with your child’s well-being. Contact the police. Nothing matters more than keeping your child safe from some of the sneakiest, cleverest, most manipulative criminals out there.

 

 

For more on this story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1257088/As-Facebook-stalker-Peter-Chapman-jailed-truly-chilling-story-.html

 

 

 

How the Child Molester Chooses His Victim

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

He looks in their eyes. He looks for shyness, a lack of confidence. Sadness, loneliness. Anger at mom and dad. Needs unfulfilled. When he sees any of this, he knows his chances are good. When he sees trust, he knows he’s hit the jackpot.

Trust is the key. It allows a predator to establish (and continue) his relationship with a child. Whatever a little girl or boy is not getting at home–attention, kindness, validation, love–that’s what the sexual abuser will give them. The problem is that this “gift” comes at tremendous cost to the child, who can spend the rest of their life paying for it.

Who is this guy?? As I’ve alluded, the child sex offender is most often male. He can be virtually any age, from 7 to 75 and beyond. Look around; you and he probably know each other. I’m not implying that you hang around with criminals and low-lifes. I’m saying that he’s someone you might not expect: a married neighbor… a co-worker… your friend who comes over on weekends to help with a project… the guy at church who’s a “grandpa” to all the kids… maybe Uncle Joe who’s not really an uncle but a close family friend.

One thing I’ve found in the years I’ve been teaching Child Safety and Self-Defense is that the catchy phrase, “Stranger Danger” frustrates the heck out of me. It’s cute because it rhymes, and lets parents believe they’re protecting their children by steering them away from people they don’t know. But it’s dangerous because it’s misleading. Certainly, there are still cases of children being abused by the stereotypical stranger hiding in the bushes, waiting to grab them. But in over 90% of cases, day-to-day child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child already knows. Over 90% by someone the child knows.

How does he seduce a child? With the things that children love. “Mommy’s too busy to play with you? You can come to my house and we’ll play; I have lots of toys!”

“You’re not allowed to watch that show at home? Well, you just come over here, and we’ll watch it together!”

Maybe he has a scooter in front of his house, or a child’s bike. Or maybe there’s a bench or a picnic table because he enjoys chatting with the kids–it “keeps him young,” he says. In the parlance of criminal psychology, these items and their placement by the predator are anything but innocent. They’re called set-ups. He uses them to lure children into his lair.

If you’re in a social setting–maybe at a party, or at a park–with children and adults, is there an adult who seems to prefer being with the kids? Someone who spends more time playing with them than seeking adult company? This is a red flag. Teachers, pediatricians, childcare workers, etc. love children, which is why they choose the careers they do. But, put them in a gathering with families and, after smiling and encouraging the kids, they’ll turn their attention to the adults for stimulating conversation. The predator finds stimulation among the children.

I offer these danger signs to be aware of, so you can continue to protect your children as much as possible. None of us likes the idea of living near a possible sex offender. And certainly, nobody wants to march down the street and start hurling accusations at a neighbor. Even if you did, a predator will lie to protect himself. But, like my grandmother used to say, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…” that may be one bird you want to keep a close watch on.