There have been five child abduction attempts in Missouri in the Saint Louis area in the past two weeks. Parents in Missouri are already feeling edgy after the abduction and murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens of Springfield Missouri on February 18. There appears to be no correlation to the various child-kidnapping attempts according to authorities.
Three of those attempts occurred in Saint Charles County, including Lake Saint Louis, O’Fallon, and Troy. Then another abduction attempt in West Alton Illinois and in St. Ann Missouri. All children responded appropriately and ran to safety, reporting what happened to adults who notified police.
In addition, this past week on Wednesday 18-year-old Bahia Bisharat was reported missing after she did not come home. She was last known to be on the Saint Charles Community College satellite campus in Dardenne Prairie. Anyone with information about the missing teen should call 911 or 314-326-6393. Police do not suspect foul play at this time.
Due to the recent child abduction attempts in the surrounding Saint Louis area now is a good time for parents to review safety instructions regarding strangers, both good and bad, and what to do if approached by someone they do not know.
Talk with children and openly discuss what children should do in certain situations. Be sure to keep the information age appropriate for the child. The goal is to empower a child who faced with a dangerous situation by helping them think and role-play what they can do in specific situations.
Here are five very important lessons to teach children regardless of age.
One, the best skill you can provide a child with is how to be observant of his or her surrounding environment whether at home, school, work, or play. Teach children to watch who is around them, is there a car driving up and down the street repeatedly, and what to do if he or she sees something out of place or that raises a red flag of warning.
Two, teach children to trust their own judgment and to act instead of react. This means when they feel the hair on their neck raise up and something is telling them to get out now they need to listen to that voice. They need to trust their inner feelings that danger is near. Children need to learn how to act when they sense danger instead of reacting.
The difference between reacting and acting is simple. When something happens, unexpectedly most people are uncertain as to what they should do. They are essentially not prepared for the situation. They become anxious and uncertain as to what to do next, the indecisiveness wastes valuable time and can place the child in grave danger. Children need to role-play and discuss what to do if...
Three, adults should NEVER ask children for directions or help. Adults need to get another adult if they need help. Asking for directions and offering a child candy are still the primary lures child predators use to try to draw a child close to their car. Tell children that if approached by an adult who asks their help to YELL “NO” as soon an adult starts to ask a question and to run in the opposite direction of the adult or the car.
Four, parents constantly encourage children to be responsible and careful with their belongings and that there are consequences if they break or lose things. This includes schoolbooks, library books, backpack, lunch box, cell phones, money and other essential school and personal items. Parents talk with your children and teach them that when they are running from someone who wants to hurt them that they are to drop everything heavy or anything that might slow them down.
Tell them to run as fast as the wind. Teach them to yell FIRE or STRANGER, and not HELP as many people will ignore or do not hear the word HELP easily. However, when someone is yelling the words FIRE or STRANGER people pay attention.
Finally, teach your children who is a safe stranger if they become lost or are in fear of their life. I always told my children to look for a grandmother or mother or a father with his children. Run up to the person and tell them this is an emergency and they need help. If the person who is after them approaches tell them, hug the parent around the waist, and tell them that is a stranger. Tell them that is not my father or mother. Ask them to call 911.
The world is becoming an increasingly frightening place. Every day on the news, there are more and more stories of children sexually exploited, or forced into child sex trafficking by the people who should be protecting them. Teachers, youth ministers, scout leaders, doctors, dentists, priests, daycare workers, mom’s boyfriend, stepfathers, coaches, and others entrusted with their care. It is imperative that parents remind children how to handle frightening situations so they can have a safety plan on how to act if confronted with one of these situations.
Role playing gives children a chance to learn how to act rather than react when danger is near. Think about why schools are practicing fire drills, tornado drills, and active shooter scenarios. By knowing what to do if separated from mom or dad in public, children become empowered by the knowledge of how to handle situations they may face in their lifetime.
As a community if you see a suspicious vehicle or person, try to get a picture and call 911. It is better to make a report of something that turns out to be nothing, than to not make a report and learn a child was hurt or killed. It is up to all of us to watch out for children, to look out for danger, and to contact authorities when needed. Thank you for watching out for America’s most precious resource, our children.