Stranger and Acquaintance Dangers. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2019 alone, there were more than 1,300 attempted child abductions by strangers. Equally troubling, there were 16.9 million reports that year to the CyberTipline relating to child sexual abuse images, online enticement of kids, child sex trafficking, and child sexual molestation.
But strangers aren’t the only culprits of these crimes. Tragically, kids are at higher risk of abduction or sexual molestation by acquaintances, family, and friends. According to the FBI, only 24% of actual kidnappings are by strangers, while nearly half are by family members. The balance, 27%, is by acquaintances of the victims. These latter two statistics add to the difficulty in teaching kids how to be safe.
Teenagers are at the highest risk of being murdered by a stranger. Finkelhor and Ormrod, in their Juvenile Justice Report, point out that only 3% of murdered children under 12 are victims of strangers. In contrast, 87% of teen murder victims are killed by strangers.
Most kids who are sexually assaulted, however, are neither abducted nor murdered. In fact, one in ten kids will be sexually abused before the age of 18, according to the organization, Darkness to Light.
Stranger and acquaintance dangers come in many forms, and different concerns are more prevalent at each stage of development. So recognizing where these dangers lurk and how child predators operate is crucial to keeping kids safe. Second is making kids understand these dangers and how to protect themselves if they’re ever confronted.
Sex offenders are good con artists. They often groom kids and even the adults around children. These predators “gradually and methodically build trust,” explains childmolestationvictims.com
Shy kids are at higher risk for abduction and for sexual assault. Many predators look specifically for shy kids and those who lack self-esteem because they lack the assertiveness to speak up for themselves.
If you have a shy child or one with low self-esteem, pick up some books on helping your child to overcome shyness and improve their self-esteem.
During the infant and early years, children can be kidnapped quickly with no need for coaxing. Leaving a small child unattended in a stroller or locked car for just moments is long enough for an abduction to occur.
When shopping, keep your child in sight at all times. For challenging outings, leave your child with a sitter, or use a child safety harness with toddlers. This gadget prevents small children from wandering off and reduces potential danger should parents become distracted.
As soon as your child is old enough to understand, read stories, and discuss stranger and acquaintance dangers to reduce your child’s risk.
Whether at home or away, young children should be supervised when they play outdoors. As they grow, keep close tabs on their whereabouts. Never allow them to play unattended in parks, wooded lots, or secluded areas.
As your child grows
Pedophiles and other sexual predators come from all walks of life. Although kids of all ages are victims of child sexual abuse, most pedophiles prefer children nearing puberty. According to Child Lures, a child-abuse prevention program, pedophiles “prey on a child’s sexual ignorance and curiosity.”
Sexual abuse is most often committed by males, though not exclusively, and of all social and economic backgrounds. Pedophiles often look for access to kids by taking a job working with or near them, chaperoning or leading activities and clubs, and coaching sports programs. Predators also befriend adults to gain access to a child. While not all men who take an interest in or get involved with kids through these means are predators, parents should nonetheless remain alert to the possibility.
Teach your child what areas of the body are off-limits to others and how to say ‘no’ to someone who touches them in an uncomfortable way. Also, make sure your child understands that if something does happen, your child isn’t to blame and should tell an adult.
There are several changes in your child’s behavior that might indicate something has gone wrong, according to the North American Missing Children’s Association. These include withdrawal, unusual anger, acting out, fear of being alone or with a particular person, or decreased interest in activities, especially those in which the molester is involved. If you notice unexplained changes in your child’s behavior, talk with your child to determine the problem, or seek professional help.
Pre-teens and adolescents
It might seem stranger dangers should lessen as kids grow. Instead, it is compounded as strangers and acquaintances prey on older kids by different, more stealthy, and accessible means. Approximately one in five kids is solicited by an online predator according to the latest Youth Internet Safety Survey by the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center.
To keep your kids safe on the Internet, purchase internet filtering software. Although filters are imperfect and don’t screen every inappropriate site, they can significantly reduce access to dangerous sites. There are also many phone and computer apps to help you monitor your child’s internet activity and their physical whereabouts.
Also, insist your kids only use chat rooms designed for their age group. This reduces their risk of involvement in adult discussions. Then, know which ones their using. Many kids’ chat sites are moderated to ensure no inappropriate or potentially dangerous discussion takes place. Be aware, though, that predators often lurk even on kids’ social media platforms and through gaming sites and systems. Some child predators are known to pose as children to befriend kids. Most, however, know their adult age can be part of the attraction, particularly for teens.
So make sure your kids understand the importance of never giving out their name, address, phone number, or other personal or family information to strangers on the Internet. Teach your kids no matter how well they think they know an online acquaintance or how old the stranger claims to be, there’s no certainty the person is who he claims to be or what his intent. They should never meet someone they’ve met online without parent approval.
Finally, keep a close eye on your kids when they use the Internet. Monitor the situation if an abundance of time is being spent on the Internet or gaming systems.
stranger and acquaintance dangers. Teens’ growing independence also makes them vulnerable to rape, which is committed by adult predators and peers alike. When alcohol and drugs become part of an adolescent’s social habits, the potential increases.
Teach your teen about the risk and how to be safe. Discuss date rape drugs and the risks they pose. Always know the details of your teen’s whereabouts. Also, enroll your daughter in a self-defense workshop, so she knows how to defend herself.