Friday, August 28, 2009

Back to School: Child Safety

Jaycee Dugard, Elizabeth Smart, Colleen Stan. Just three names that come to mind as I read the headlines yesterday. As most readers already know, Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in 1991 at 11 years old, and was just this week found alive after 18 years of captivity by a convicted sexual predator. I'm sure most readers remember Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped from her own bedroom and miraculously found alive nine months later. As for Colleen Stan, she was kidnapped in 1977 at the age of 20 and forced to live part of her life in a box, and as a sex slave for 7 years. It's absolutely unthinkable, and yet it happens.

When I read the headlines about Jaycee Dugard, so many thoughts went through my mind. Will she ever be psychologically healthy? How can a crime like this even be possible? Did anyone ever see her with this man and his wife, and just assume she was their daughter? What went through her mother's mind when authorities contacted her with the news?

Another thought that came to mind that I honestly don't even like to think about at all: how many other kidnapped boys and girls are currently living this same nightmare? According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children the US Dept. of Justice reports 797,500 American children are kidnapped every year, with 58,200 of those children taken by a non-family member, and 115 of them that fit the stereotypical kidnapping: "These crimes involve someone the child does not know or a slight acquaintance who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently." (source). No one really knows what happens to these kids that are never found. I can't even really give that too much thought without wanting to go hug my own kids and thank God that they are safe.

With the recent kidnapping and murder of little Tori Stafford in my own town, this kind of crime that strikes the worst fear into the heart of any mother, has hit far too close to home. My future son in law's youngest brother was in Tori's class, and just two weeks ago at Vacation Bible School, the girls met another girl that was a friend of Tori's and still wishes she would have said more than "okay, see you later" that day after school.

With summer coming to a close and kids taking busses to school and back, and walking to school as well, it's a really good time to have a frank and serious talk with them about personal safety. Even if you've had this talk before, it's never a bad idea to refresh their memories about what to do to avoid danger, and what to do if they are in danger. The material here was put together just for this reason, and I would encourage you to read all the resources there and refresh yourself and your kids about safety.


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