By: Tim McDonald
Edited by: Kent Sipes
Child abduction occurs more than think but maybe not always the movies and tv shows. As scary as a topic such as this is, child abduction can be prevented or stopped dead in its tracks. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), “83% of children who escaped their would-be abductors did something proactive.” So, how do you as a parent prepare yourself and your child to be proactive?
Understanding child abductions and how they manifest in society is a great start. Out of 27,000 cases of missing kids 91% were runaways and the remaining 9% were actual abductions. It is estimated 2,160 of those child abductions cases the child knew their abductor and approximately 270 did not know their abductor. An analysis of these abductions revealed several insights a parent could use to prepare their child. For example, the abductors tend to be male and in a vehicle most of the time and the abductions occurred between the hours of 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The analysis also shows most abductions took place while the child was heading to or from school and were girls and children between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. These simple statistics tell several things parents and children should know.
What do these statistics mean?
One thing is child abductions are real and occur right there in your community. The staff at NCMEC did not sit around a conference table and make up these statistics but compiled data from actual child abduction cases right here in the United States of America. Parents must come to grips with the fact their child could become a victim just like the kids seen on the news.
These statistics also tell parents who is more likely to make an attempt to take their child. Statistically it is more probable for the abductor to be male and someone within their family. The person could simply be someone the child knows and is not a “stranger”.
Child abductors take or attempt to take children when it is easier for them to blend in. It is not out of the ordinary for cars to be seen driving near schools around pick-up time. Schools tend to make this process go extremely fast to help move the students off the campus. The next time you are in line to pick up your children from school, look around and see how many other cars are right there waiting just off campus. Can you determine if everyone you see has a legitimate reason to be there? That’s impossible. In the last few years schools have implemented procedures to reduce the risk of a child being taken, but the possibility still exists. The risk only increases the later a child is picked up from school. By the time football practice lets out or band rehearsal is over there are fewer teachers and other grownups there watching out for the students making it easier for abductors.
Girls are more commonly the target of child abductors for a number of reasons. However, boys can still be abducted so do not believe for a second they are immune from being taken. An important thing to remember is most child abductors are male and victims are female which is a statistic that is very similar to those of sex trafficking. Traffickers utilize child abduction in some cases to get girls to be used in their sex trafficking operation. According to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, female victims outnumber the males in all age categories.
Building a Profile
Taking into consideration the statistics provided by credible sources regarding child abductors, it is fair to conclude that most child abductors are males looking to take mostly girls 10-14 years old in the mid afternoon. But remember, females are not excluded as abductors, males are not excluded as victims, and children of all ages can still be abducted.
Another thing to consider is what a child abductor looks like. Are they “creepy-looking” or dirty people driving beat up old plumbing vans? Probably not. Child abductors try to fit in and not draw attention to themselves. Being creepy-looking, dirty and driving a beat up vehicle may draw to much unwanted attention. Remember, the child abductor is most likely a family member or someone known to the child, so they fit in and appear all the more normal.
In a nutshell, this is a general profile built on probabilities and is not to be taken as a perfect description. It is merely what the data says is the case most of the time.
So when and where are women most likely to be child abductors? According to NCMEC, females are more likely to abduct infants that are a few days old to approximately one year old. There have been only 327 cases from 1964 through October of 2019. These women tend to establish a relationship with the mother pretending to be medical personnel or just work to get close in order to take the child more easily. These women tend to abduct these babies due to mental trauma from losing a child or not being able to produce their own child. In approximately 7% of these cases, infants are taken out of revenge or to punish the mother. Because of these types of cases, hospitals put tracking monitors on the infants that will also lock the doors to the that area of the hospital preventing them from being taken.
What Children Should Know
How do you tell a child abduction is a real thing without scaring the life out of them? How do you instill into the the ability to recognize the potential dangers of being taken? In all honesty, every child and family is different creating different solutions for each. However, there are some things across the board that are relevant to everyone.
Child abductors rely on certain things to make abductions possible and use certain techniques to get there. This list of techniques are not the only ones used by abductors but tend to be used more than others and were compiled by Kid Smartz, a great resource for parents. Click here to go to the Kid Smatz page with these tricks.
1. The Offer Trick- A child is offered something desirable — like candy, money, toys, or a ride.
Children should not accept gifts without your permission. Use teachable moments, like when a friend or relative offers a gift, to practice this concept with your child.
2. The Animal Trick- A cute or interesting animal is used to get the child to follow or enter a vehicle or home. Teach your children to never enter anyone’s vehicle or home without your permission.
3. The Emergency Trick- Someone fakes an emergency and offers to take the child to another location. Instruct your child to never go anywhere with anyone without asking the permission of the adult in charge. Have your child practice saying, “I can’t go with you until I check with my mom/dad/teacher” in a firm voice and walking away.
4. The Help Trick- The child is asked to help with something such as directions, looking for a lost pet, or carrying something. Adults should ask other adults for help, not children. Have your child practice saying “I can’t help you” in in a firm voice. Teach children to stand at least one to two arms’ lengths away while interacting with unknown adults.
5. The friend trick- A person tells the child he or she has been sent by the child’s parent. Sometimes the person actually does know the parent. Talk to your child’s school about obtaining permission from you before releasing your child to anyone.
6. The “bad” child trick- Someone accuses the child of doing something wrong and says the child must go with him or her. Teach your child to always check with you or the adult in charge before going anywhere with anyone. Instruct children to immediately tell you if someone approaches them or tries to take them away.
7. The flattery/model trick- Someone compliments the child and asks to take his or her picture. The person may promise the child fame or fortune. Instruct your child not to accompany anyone anywhere without your permission. Teach older children that a legitimate photographer or casting agency will try to talk to a parent or guardian, not a child.
8. The open-the-door trick- Someone tries to get the child to answer the door when the parents aren’t home. Remind your children they shouldn’t open the door for anyone when you aren’t home. Let them know legitimate service people will return.
If a child knows how to recognize the techniques used by abductors they will have a greater chance of getting away from the situation before it is too late.
What Should a Child Do?
If a child does not pick up on someone attempting to abduct them and allows them to get close, their response should be loud, clear and abrupt. Teach them to use their voice by yelling in short bursts “Stop!” or “Leave Me Alone!” This does just opposite of what child abductors want and that is anonymity. A child yelling “Stop” or Leave Me Alone!” does not fit in with their agenda to stay under the radar so to speak.
A common problem with children is they are told their entire life to be quiet and respectful in public places. If a child is never told this only applies to normal circumstances they may subconsciously remain quiet and submissive in an attempt to be respectful to an adult. Parents, be sure to clearly explain to your children the difference in an abduction scenario.
When a child abductor is able to physical grab hold of a child, their voice may not be enough to stop the abduction. Child abductions can occur in a remote location where no one can hear the child scream. Just like yelling, children may struggle with attacking someone with physical violence even though they are being abducted due to that being drilled into them since they were a child not to push, shove, hit, kick, bite, punch, stab and whatever. Unfortunately, these are these may be the very things that save your child’s life if someone attempts to take them.
I encourage parents to clearly explain the difference between just assaulting someone and using physical violence to prevent being abducted. There is a fine line, but may prevent the abduction altogether.
What if your child is taken? What will your child do? How will they react? An important thing to take into consideration is how the human body reacts when under the stress of traumatic events. When the human body is introduced to stress, the limbic system subconsciously kicks in to what is commonly known as “fight or
flight”. When this occurs, blood flow is redirected to the lower extremities, eyes and the brain in order to give the body a chance to escape whatever is causing the stress. However, in some instances people may freeze when fight or flight occurs. If “freeze” occurs an abductor can easily take advantage of and make the abduction easier than a child that is vocal and physically resistant. With proper training, freeze can many times be overcome and fight or flight can then engage. Military personnel in combat, law enforcement officers executing a high-risk search warrant and emergency medical service personnel receive rigorous training to do this. They conduct their jobs in high risk environments on a regular basis requiring them to be able to overcome the freeze reaction.
How would you train your child to overcome the freeze reaction? The answer is finding a way to allow your child to experience similar stresses that occur during an abduction. Enrolling your child in martial arts classes is a great way to instill confidence and responsibility, but in a way that will also challenge them physically. Sparring, fighting or grappling emulates a an actual physical altercation where the risk of feeling pain is present. This generates the stress similar to that generated by an abduction. Now, it is not necessarily at as much, but your child would have to learn to overcome the fear of being struck and protect themselves.
Most martial arts organizations do not advocate violence, but to do everything possible to avoid violence. This requires great discipline, courage and responsibility and students are held to this standard. Only as a last resort should violence be used. Preventing an abduction is an example of when physical violence will very likely be necessary. Parents, reach out to your local martial arts dojo and ask about the programs they offer. It may very well save your child’s life.
These statistics and resources are designed to prepare parents and children for preventing or stopping an abduction. Knowing abductions are real, how abductors function and what can be done about it is a great step toward making your children safer. Parents, stay vigilant and do not give up. Lean on resources like NCMEC and this article to help guide you.
Disclaimer: There is no guarantee that any action taken will prevent a traumatic event from happening. This article is designed to inform parents about child abduction to help them reduce the likelihood of it happening to their child.