Safety Tips to Avoid Kidnapping
How Parents Can Protect Their Kids From Kidnapping
Let’s talk address a parent’s worst nightmare, one of their children being abducted. It’s a terrifying scenario that triggers anxiety and sleepless nights. The good news is that parents can take control of this fear and educate themselves and their children to minimize the chance that it can happen to them. Let’s first look at who might take your child.
Who Would Take Your Child?
Many parents think that their child can be taken at any time, anywhere. Random, violent kidnappings do happen, but they are rare. That’s why they make the national news because they are so infrequent. And I do recognize that if it does happen to your child, then the stats don’t matter.
The person most likely to abduct your child is known to them but may not be known to you. This could be a family member, a person they met online, or an adult friend in their life.
Generally speaking, child abductions follow a pattern which are these three steps: target selection, grooming or enticing, and physically taking them.
Targeting Your Children
So we’ll break this down and how to stop this attack cycle at every phase. The first part of the process begins with someone who has the intent on taking a child. The intent could be to reunite them with their estranged family, it could be for sexual exploitation or acts of brutality.
There could be a hundred reasons why a person wants to kidnap a child. Regardless of the intent and the deeper motive we have to make our kids hard targets.
So how do we do that? We educate them. Teaching our children that not everyone we meet online is to be trusted is a start.
I just had Alissa Gbiorczyk who fights human trafficking across the globe on the show and she told us that traffickers use the internet because it’s cheap and easy to find kids. Chris Hadnagy of Innocent Lives Foundation has been on the show and told us that on every platform where kids like to go, predators are already there. Protecting our kids from a physical abduction can start online.
A big thing to understand is that just because a game calls contacts “friends” does not mean that they really are friends and should have personal access to them. Setting the boundary that online contacts are not real friends is key because, at the end of the day, we don’t know who these people are.
Also, teach them not to overshare online through social media and YouTube. The more information our kids put out into the digital world, the better a profile a predator can make to entice them. So talk about what information is not to be shared including photos of them in bathing suites or less clothing.
Once the target is selected the predator moves to grooming or enticing stage. In episode 205 of this podcast, I do an entire show on the six stages of the grooming process.
I highly recommend you listen to that episode because it follows how groomers work and the red flags you need to look for. What this stage of the kidnapping process boils down to is that it is an easier opportunity for abductors to entice a child to come with them than to outright steal them off the street.
Kidnapping: The Meet-Up
So the last stage in this simplified kidnapping process is physically taking the child. This can happen in a myriad of different ways but we’ll focus on one, the meet-up.
The kidnapper will ask the child to meet them somewhere where the abduction can take place. Again, this may not be violent, it may only look like two people walking down the street. So the meet-up may be at a park, a store, or the bus stop.
The reason for meeting in person could be something simple or it could be a plan between the two to run away and live life happily ever after. So the kidnapper isn’t going to be blunt about these plans, the child will be tricked into what’s really going on.
It’s important to establish that you as the parent have the ultimate authority when it comes to where our kids go and with whom they spend their time. I know this is the age-old struggle that all parents have, and we had it too as kids. This is where being honest about the dangers kids face is crucial.
If you think your child is mature enough, show them new stories of kids that were enticed into leaving with someone they thought they knew. Educating our kids will help them to make more informed decisions and be a harder target for a predator.
Kidnapping Involving Parents
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2020 63% of all AMBER alerts were for family abduction cases. That means a family member took a child, most likely a parent who didn’t have custody and didn’t want to comply with a court order. This does not mean that the abduction was nonlife-threatening either.
In most cases we see divorced parents fighting over custody. This is an enormous and complex issue that is unique to every family and each state’s laws. But a simplified version is that one parent is to have sole custody of their child and the other parent is prevented by the court from having custody and contact. If you are the parent who has custody in a case like this, you need to do some very important things.
First, you need to explain to your children that they are not to go with that parent under any circumstances. If the other parent makes contact, then they need to tell you immediately.
Second, you need to alert your children’s school, daycare, church, and any other place where your child frequents that the other parent is not to have access to them. It may be emotional or embarrassing to disclose that information, but you need to do that for the safety of your child if you feel that there is a chance of an abduction.
Third, you need to establish a relationship with a law enforcement officer who is familiar with your case. Chances are if you are at this point, the police have been involved already. Get that officer’s business card so that if something happens you can reach out directly to an officer who knows you, your kids, and the other parent who can make informed decisions faster.
Fourth, if it’s legal for you to do so, I want you to hire a private investigator on your own to do a workup on the other parent. Have them find out where they’re living, the car they drive, their license plate, where they work, and if they’ve changed jobs, cars, and residences.
This will help you stay informed of this threat to your family and if something looks off, you can be proactive. If the worst happens and the other parent takes your child, you now have the vital information you can give to that officer who knows your case.
I hope you never have to worry about child abduction and if you follow these steps you can reduce the chance that this may happen to someone you love.