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Empower your kids against potential predators

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Recent studies by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children show that pre-teens are the most targeted individuals for abduction. Girls ages 10 to 14 are at the highest risk of becoming victims of sexual predators.

Lieutenant Alan Hamilton of the Los Angeles Police Department says most of these abductions start with an enticing lure.

"Quite often, there's going to be a psychological assault prior to the actual physical grabbing," he explains. "Someone may approach and befriend them, ask for help doing something. Some may approach with a pet. All that time, they're positioning them for the physical abduction."

Erin Runnion knows all too well the devastating reality of child abduction. Ten years ago, her daughter Samantha was abducted and murdered by a sexual predator.

"I had talked to her about good, bad and uncomfortable touching. But abduction was something I couldn't even fathom," says Runnion. "The more I learned about the crimes against children, the more I felt compelled to do something."

In memory of her daughter, Erin started The Joyful Child Foundation, an education program dedicated to preventing child abuse and abduction.

"What parents want is something to teach their children, and yet they don't want to hear about the reality themselves," notes Runnion.

Hamilton says the best protection for your child is to teach them to recognize potentially dangerous situations, such as:

  • Someone pulling up in a car and starting a random conversation or saying they're friends of the family
  • Strangers asking for help, like looking for a lost pet, needing directions or loading or unloading their car
  • Strangers taking photos or videotaping

"If something seems strange, please tell an adult right away," says Hamilton. "If there are no other adults around and you've become isolated, get away from that isolation as fast as you can."

Runnion strongly encourages parents to teach their children basic self-defense techniques to escape a physical abduction. Examples include:

  • Yelling and screaming to attract attention
  • Poking in the eyes
  • A fist to the nose
  • A knee to the groin
  • Kicking the shin
  • Using an elbow to stun and distract

"Nobody wants to anticipate a situation of fear, but there is a great value in empowering children to be safer," says Runnion.

Experts agree that the best strategy is to teach your kids to be aware of their surroundings and identify potential dangers. And prepare them to respond physically to escape from an attempted abduction.

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