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|Protecting Children from Violence|
|Talk to strangers--just don't go anywhere with one.|
If You Talk to Strangers, Your Kids Will Too
We've been telling kids for decades, "Don't talk to strangers." However, as Gavin de Becker notes, we adults talk to strangers all the time. We engage in polite conversation with the checkout lady in the supermarket, or the neighbor down the street that we only know by first name, or the handyman repairing a wall in our house. Yet we really don't know who these strangers are. Our kids will follow our example, de Becker says.
But that's ok, in a rather counter-intuitive way. If a child needs help, and her parents aren't around, she will need to not only talk but also enlist the aid of a stranger. Having the ability to talk to strangers, and more importantly, to identify the right type of strangers to approach for help, is most important, writes de Becker.
Don't Talk to Strange People
The key, states de Becker, is not "don't talk to strangers," but rather, "don't talk to strange people." De Becker spends a lot of time explaining how we intuitively know a person is dangerous or threatening--his first book, "The Gift of Fear," is devoted almost entirely to intuitive prediction of violence. Train kids to identify and avoid strange people, de Becker recommends.
Don't Go with a Stranger--Or Even Someone You Know
Even more important is teaching the child to not go anywhere with a stranger--or even someone the child or her parents know--without the parents' knowledge and authorization. When a predator tries to take a victim somewhere, says de Becker, he is effectively saying that the crime he is going to commit can't take place where he's at, because he'll get caught. Whether it's sexual assault or murder, he needs to take his victim away first.
De Becker explains that this rule cannot be limited to just strangers. Many molestation cases involve a family acquaintance--in the Danielle van Dam case, David Westerfield, the accused murderer, was a neighbor who lived two doors down from van Dam family.
Family Code Words
This is one situation where family code words are essential. With your kids, decide on a family code word that just the members of the family would know. In an emergency, you can give a trusted adult friend the code word and your kids will know it's safe--and important--to go somewhere with that adult.
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