I was only nine, playing on a safe playground on my beautiful school campus while my parents played tennis nearby. A clean-cut, very polite young man, claiming to be a magazine photographer used every lure in the book to abduct me.
Fortunately, I managed to escape before his terrifying intentions were realized but the lessons learned then and from teaching abduction prevention to kids over the years are permanently seared into memory.
Sadly, the US boasts a high prevalence of sexual assaults (1 in 5 women attempted or completed rape, and 1 in 4 men sexually assaulted with fewer than 40% of these crimes reported).
The rules of abduction prevention are basic to ALL personal safety for adults and children alike.
Be aware – when walking around or in public places, stay alert, not absorbed in your phone.
Trust your instincts – when teaching abduction prevention, kids often told me about someone “weird” or who made them feel uncomfortable and many described near-miss abduction attempts averted by trusting those instincts. We are blessed with incredible radar for signaling danger if we pay attention. When getting that vibe, create distance and seek a safe haven.
Know your limits – smart people aren’t ruled by peer pressure. If something feels like a BAD idea, just say “no, thanks.” As my sister often preached, “NO is a complete sentence.”
Never get impaired – smart people never get “wasted.” Maintain control at all times. As one of my daughters in college said, “drunks think they are funny but they’re really just annoying…and dangerous.” The vast majority of serious incidents for teens and young adults involve alcohol (car accidents – the leading cause of death – trauma, drowning, and sexual assault).
Stick together – there is strength in numbers, and hopefully more common sense. Stick with friends who truly have your back and bring out the best in you.
Use common sense – avoid high risk situations, think ahead, plan what to do if you find yourself in an unsafe situation (your ride is drunk or someone is making you uncomfortable). Have an escape strategy and a “no consequences call” pass for your parents to come to your rescue.
As Jeff Cooper once said, “Safety is something that happens between your ears.”
Equally challenging for our children (and adults) is the new world of online predators. Being vigilant about your surroundings is crucial here as well.
Here are five tips from Dr. Lisa Strohman to help keep yourself and your children safe:
- Protect Personal Information: Never share personal information like your full name, address, phone number, school name, or any identifying details online. Be cautious about sharing even seemingly harmless information that can be used to track or locate you.
- Use Strong Privacy Settings: Review and adjust privacy settings on your social media profiles and other online accounts. Ensure that your posts are only visible to trusted friends and family, and be cautious about accepting friend or follow requests from strangers.
- Trust Your Instincts: If someone online makes you uncomfortable or asks for personal information, trust your instincts and disengage from the conversation immediately. Report any suspicious behavior to the platform or a trusted adult.
- Be Cautious with Location Sharing: Avoid sharing your real-time location on social media or in public forums. Turn off location sharing features in apps and only share your location with trusted individuals when necessary.
- Talk to Trusted Adults: Maintain open communication with parents, guardians, or other trusted adults about your online activities. If you encounter anything that makes you uncomfortable or suspicious online, don't hesitate to discuss it with them. They can provide guidance and support.
Remember that online safety is an ongoing process, and it's essential to stay informed about the latest online threats and best practices for protection.