The message that 9 year-old Carol brought home from school was depressingly predictable. Two younger girls had narrowly escaped abduction the day before, so could parents please take extra precautions getting children to school and bringing them home.
Although every successful abduction is one abduction too many, there are some very large numbers published that probably need to be clarified a little. There is statistical information from the UK that shows around one tenth of all reported abductions were successful and that a quarter are what they call parental abductions which could be classified more as custody cases than kidnapping. Although every parental abduction is a painful event for the family involved, it shouldn’t add to stranger danger in the community.
Discounting other types of abduction where there is an established relationship between the victim and the offender leaves around half of all reported abductions that can be classified as sexually motivated child abductions. The target victim is, on average, 10 years old, male or female with fair skin. That specification is a pretty close match for Carol and also Chris, who is two years older than his sister but equally blond and blue-eyed.
So, for what seems the tenth time this year we sit them down for a refresher discussion about strangers, reminding them to trust their instincts. “If something feels wrong inside, it probably is wrong.”
We confirm that it’s OK to say “No” to an adult, to find a grown-up they know and trust and to tell all.
We encourage Chris to use his Taekwondo training and to kick out if he feels he is in danger and tell Carol to kick, bite and generally make a noise if she feels someone is trying to get her to do something she does not want to.
Finally we remind them that we do not have secrets in our family and if anyone tries to convince them otherwise, they are wrong.
The note from school has also reminded me to update the information cards I carry with me at all times. Basically, for each child I have an up-to-date photograph in my wallet with the following details printed on the back:
- Name and nicknames
- Eye, hair and skin color
- Height and weight
- Identifying features (birthmarks, scars, physical characteristics)
Most abducted children are recovered or killed in the first 3 hours, so the first 15 to 30 minutes after a successful abduction are critical. If you can hand the police a photograph with all of this data immediately, they have clear information on which to make an identification. Such clarity can be vital as parents of abductees are also very stressed at this time and are likely to be vague and disorientated, themselves.
It would be so easy to carry on believing that it will never happen to us but with the odds being about 1 in 7,000 there is more chance that my child will be abducted than me winning the national Lottery.