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Do not talk to strangers: a national tragedy
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
“Don’t talk to strangers!” This is a message millions and millions of us grew up hearing...
over the last quarter century. A message that is, without a doubt, the absolute worst program ever created to help protect our children! That’s right! Stranger Danger might have a memorable ring to it, but the whole idea of “Let’s protect our children by making them scared to death of anyone they don’t know!” is nothing short of a national tragedy.
I’m not here to blame. I’m here to inform and to raise awareness so we can eliminate the concept. A concept that not only is an extremely flawed program to protect children, but one that creates ongoing social issues that can last a lifetime!
So if you are one of the millions of parents scaring your child with the don’t-talk-to strangers-message — Stop it immediately! The fact is, most people are good, they would never harm a child, and would do anything they could to help a child in need. Indeed, someday your child may need a stranger's help to get out of real danger. We must change the message!
The reality is pretty easy to understand. According to the Justice Department, over one-third of all the rape victims in the United States are under 12-years-old! Allow me to repeat, 34 percent of all the rape victims in the United States are children under 12 years of age! If you are human, you are probably disgustingly shocked by this information. You should be. I share that fact to tell you this: 90 percent of those children are victimized by someone they know. The overwhelming majority of children sexually abused are done so by monsters with whom they are familiar. Many times it is even family, extended family, or friends of the family. Often, it is someone implicitly trusted by the community. With a quick Internet search you can come up with story after story of well-respected individuals who have a very dark side that causes them to do despicable acts with horrific consequences for their victims. Scars from such abuse can last a lifetime, dramatically affecting relationships and self-esteem, not to mention trust.
Children should be able to “be children” and experience all the wonder and joy that entails. We shouldn’t be teaching them to be scared of the world around them. Instead, we should be empowering our by teaching them how to recognize potentially dangerous situations, to avoid them when possible, and then how to react should the need arise. The old adage, “Knowledge is Power,” may be overused, but for good reason; it is in fact true. And the good news is that we can do a much better job of empowering our children with the knowledge to help them make better decisions. Decisions that can save their lives!
We all have that “gut” instinct and we should teach our children to use this gift as well. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably is a good idea to get out of that situation. We should also make it easier for our to make better decisions by teaching them the warning signs that indicate they should be on alert. We must help create confident children who understand boundaries and will challenge someone who crosses those boundaries. Most child molesters want a timid child they can control. A child with a confident attitude is often too much risk for the predator.
For instance, picture yourself at your favorite mall. As you walk along you suddenly realize your child is no longer with you. (My bet is that if you are a parent you have felt the panic this scenario can generate.) Your child has also realized she doesn't see you. This is, without a doubt, a potentially dangerous situation. However, instead of instilling a fear of all the strangers around her, she knows exactly what to do. You've practiced it already. If you get separated, your child simply stays put and waits for you to come back to find her. No wandering around looking for you. She doesn't have to be scared. If she wants, she can ask someone to help by simply saying, “I am supposed to wait here until my mom comes back, would you wait with me?” She knows to never to go anywhere with anyone in this situation and if someone tries to force her to go, she should yell. And not just yell, but scream, “This is not my daddy (or mommy), help!” I guarantee the reaction from the “strangers” in the vicinity will be very swift in coming to your child's rescue.
It is impossible to watch your child every moment of every day. The solution, as it is with so many issues, is education. And that is incredibly exciting! Education is absolutely something we can do! We can teach our how to recognize potentially dangerous situations and how to react when necessary. We can educate parents on the best ways to keep open lines of communication with their and teach boundaries. We can educate communities to better protect our children; and we can educate our government leaders to encourage them to take the steps necessary to begin truly solving the issues. All it takes is people getting involved.
You can find more helpful information at www.ChildRescueNetwork.org. You’ll find safety tips you can download and review with your children. You can also get involved as a volunteer or possibly by helping schedule a safety seminar for your PTA, church, home owners association or parenting group. As a parent, you must be the catalyst to change the way we protect our .
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