Protecting Our Children

Posted: March 7, 2007 by April Watkins in Child Safety, Current Events, Issues, Small Towns
Tags: , , , , ,

The other day, I turned on the news and saw the face of the animal, John Couey, who is currently on trial for the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Lunsford. This followed recent news reports of the kidnapping and subsequent recovery of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby in Missouri.  As I watched, my mind recalled the recent reports of local child abuse and molestation in my own small town area.  I took a minute to compose myself and thought…dear God…it could happen to anyone, anywhere.   

Lately, America has been witness to a rash of child abductions.  Luckily, a few have resulted in happy endings with the children being located and returned to their families, such as Elizabeth Smart.  However, for every successful recovery, there are many, many more situations with terribly sad endings. 

I don’t know if there has been a substantial increase in child abductions in our times, or if we are simply more aware of them due to the advancements in mass communication.  Americans now are alerted to abductions from coast to coast thanks to the media, and to progressive programs such as the AMBER Alert.  According to Regina B. Schofield, National AMBER Alert Coordinator, the alert system has helped to recover more than 300 children since its inception in 1996. 

In the aftermath of the tragedies, there are some positive results.  Our country, our states, and even some large cities have taken the initiative to stop child predation.  Along with 41 other states, Tennessee has recently passed legislation referred to as Jessica’s Law, which imposes a mandatory sentence of a minimum of 25 years in prison and lifetime electronic monitoring of the predator. 

Additional laws that have helped carve the foundation for protecting our children include:  Megan’s Law – which established public access to the location and names of sexual predators; and The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act Of 2006, a federal act which expanded the National Sex Offender Registry, strengthened federal penalties for crimes against children, authorized regional Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforces, and created a National Child Abuse Registry.   

We all think it wouldn’t happen to our children.  So did the family of little Jessica Lunsford, Polly Klaas, Carlie Brucia and others.  But it does happen and you should know the keys to protecting your children.   Below are ten tips for children and parents as outlined on the Oprah show by former FBI Agent Clint Van Zant.  Together we can make a difference for our children, and that is Why It Matters. 

TEN SAFETY TIPS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW 

[Source:  Oprah.com – From the show Exclusive: Miracle in
Missouri—Shawn Hornbeck’s Family’s First Interview
]
 

Would your child know how to escape a dangerous situation? Former FBI agent Clint Van Zandt recommends 10 very important strategies any child can use. 

 

  1. Do not get into any car unless your parents personally tell you to. Also, stay away from anyone who follows you on foot or in a car. You do not need to—and should not—go near a car to talk to the people inside.
  2. Grown-ups and other people who need help should not be asking children for help—they should be asking older people. Adults should not be asking you for directions or to look for a “lost puppy,” or telling you that your mother or father is in trouble and that they will take you to them.
  3. Quickly get away from anyone who tries to take you somewhere. Yell or scream, “This person is not my father (or mother).”
  4. You should use the “buddy system” and never go places alone. Always ask your parents’ permission to leave the yard or play area—especially if you’re going into someone’s home.
  5. Never, never hitchhike! Do not try to get a ride with people unless your parents have told you it is okay to do so.
  6. People should not ask you to keep a special secret. If they do, tell your parents or teacher. Also, tell anyone who wants to take your picture, “No,” and quickly tell your parents or teacher.
  7. No one should touch you on the parts of the body covered by your bathing suit, nor should you touch anyone else in those areas. Your body is special and private.
  8. You can be assertive, and you have the right to say “No” to someone, including adults and even relatives or friends who try to take you somewhere against your will, touch you or who make you feel uncomfortable in any way.
  9. Many parents use a special code word that only the child knows to convey a message, should someone other than a parent ask a child to accompany them anywhere.
  10. Practice a special yell. It is low, loud and long. It tells the person trying to hurt the child, “I know what to do! I’m not an easy victim!” It tells everyone within the sound of the child’s voice, “I need help!” It gets the child going, it breaks the “spell.” A child should not panic and freeze, thereby becoming immobile in an emergency. When you yell, you take a deep breath, thereby getting oxygen and energy to your brain and muscles. Your own yell can give you courage and get your feet moving when you need to run away!
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