February 9, 2004
The videotape of an eleven-year-old
being led away in Florida has recently made national news, as has
the tragic end to her story.
fill parents' [and kids'] minds with worry, but the reality is that
75% of all child abductions are perpetrated by a family member or
acquaintance. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that half of
all abducted children are taken by a family member, 25% are taken
by an acquaintance...and 25% are abducted by strangers."
What are "family abductions"?
What does that mean?
Family abductions are those
"in which a family member was trying to deprive a caretaker
of custodial rights.
-- 98% of these children were located or returned home.
-- None of these children were killed."
When broken down into more
detail, of all the children involved in non-family abductions, less
than half were taken by strangers.
"Stranger - 45%
Acquaintance - 21%
Friend - 17%
Authority Person - 6%
Neighbor - 5%
Caretaker or Babysitter - 4%
Someone Else - 3%"
Being aware of "stranger
danger" is important, but so is just being aware.
"There were approximately
58,200 'non-family abductions' in 1999. Abductions in this category
involved forcibly moving or detaining the child for a relatively
short period of time, usually in connection with another crime.
-- 99% of these children returned home.
-- Only 115 of these were the most serious and dangerous types of
abductions ˜ those perpetrated by strangers where the child was
kept overnight, held for ransom, or killed.
-- Almost 60% of these children were returned safely."
The statistics are in your
favor. It is important to be aware, but not necessary to be paranoid.
Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the situation. Is something
about it not right? If you are not comfortable going with a person
(even one you know), if they ask you not to tell your parents (or
say that your parents already know), then talk to your parents (or
another trusted adult like a teacher or principal). Share your concerns.
Don't be afraid of hurting someone's feelings; you want to make
sure that you are safe. Anyone asking you to go with them for a
legitimate reason will understand the need to check things out at
home first. And if the situation has you feeling uneasy, you are
never too old to talk to your parents (or other trusted adult) about
something that gives you the creeps.
Many people think of elementary
school kids when they think of child abductions. Truth is:
"Teenage girls are
the group at greatest risk for non-family abduction. Two-thirds
or more of abduction victims were female, and a majority were
adolescents, ages 12 through 17...."
That doesn't mean that
this is just for older kids, or just for girls (if two-thirds of
the victims are female, there are still one-third that are male);
and there is still some risk for younger children, but those risks
increase, rather than decrease, as you enter your teen years.
Children ages 0-5 made up 7% of non-family child abductions.
Children ages 6-11 made up 12% of non-family child abductions.
Teens and preteens ages 12-14
made up 22% of non-family child abductions.
Teens ages 15-17 made up 59% of non-family child abductions.
You've heard about "stranger
danger" your entire life. For as long as you can remember,
parents and teachers have told you not to talk to strangers, and
what you should do if a stranger talks to you.
Questions of the Week:
Now that you're older, what can you do differently to keep yourself
safe? What practices that you learned as a kid are still appropriate
and wise to continue? What other things can you do to possibly avoid
getting into bad situations? Since not everything is 100% avoidable,
what can you do if a stranger--or someone you know--puts you in
an uncomfortable or inappropriate situation? How can you continue
(or begin) being careful and aware without becoming paranoid?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum