Want to feel vulnerable?…..Have kids. All your life has been about protecting yourself. Making sure you yourself stayed alive. Self preservation. Avoid too many stupid things that can get you killed. And suddenly: here you have another life that is completely dependent on your vigilance. There are the obvious dangers: wall sockets to put fingers in, stairs to fall down from, little things to choke on. The usual stuff. But there are also the other dangers, lurking in the dark. Those dangers we do not really want to think or talk about. Interpersonal harm. Harm done by other human beings. These give many parents the Ultimate Fear. Let´s explore how we can keep our kids safer from this.
The Gift of Fear
You might have already heard of or even read the book ´The Gift of Fear´ by Gavin de Becker. It´s a (or even ´The´) classic self-help book about assessing potential violence and staying safe across a range of environments. After violent episodes, observers often will remark that they didn’t think the offender was capable of committing a criminal act, such as stalking, domestic abuse, or even assassination. Yet the perpetrator always sends out warning signals that precede violence, which are often noticeable in retrospect. These signals register in the moment, but often people ignore their intuition or choose to discredit it with logic. By trusting intuition and remaining aware of these predictors of violent behavior, people can take steps to limit potential threats in every context and situation. Recognizing these signals is what the book is all about. I highly recommend this eye opening book.
- Forced Teaming. This is when a person implies that they have something in common with their chosen victim, acting as if they have a shared predicament when that isn’t really true. Speaking in “we” terms is a mark of this, i.e. “We don’t need to talk outside… Let’s go in.”
- Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a chosen victim in order to manipulate him or her by disarming their mistrust.
- Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible to their chosen victim.
- Typecasting. An insult is used to get a chosen victim who would otherwise ignore one to engage in conversation to counteract the insult. For example: “Oh, I bet you’re too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me.” The tendency is for the chosen victim to want to prove the insult untrue.
- Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help to the chosen victim and anticipating they’ll feel obliged to extend some reciprocal openness in return.
- The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means the chosen victim will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt their chosen victim.
- Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept rejection.
Now that you know these ´give-aways´, you will easily recognize them in real life and in many movies you will watch. Yes, even the Disney ´The Lion King´, in which the brother of the king Scar convinces little Simba to do things he should´t do. Check it out! 🙂
Protecting The Gift
The sequel to ¨The Gift of Fear´ is ´Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)´. All parents face the same challenges when it comes to their children’s safety: whom to trust, whom to distrust, what to believe, what to doubt, what to fear, and what not to fear. In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker, offers practical new steps to enhance children’s safety at every age level, giving you the tools you need to allow your kids freedom without losing sleep yourself. He shatters the widely held myths about danger and safety and helps parents find some certainty about life’s highest-stakes questions you might be struggling with as well:
How can I know a baby-sitter won’t turn out to be someone who harms my child? (see page 103)
What should I ask child-care professionals when I interview them? (see page 137)
What’s the best way to prepare my child for walking to school alone? (see page 91)
How can my child be safer at school? (see page 175)
How can I spot sexual predators? (see page 148)
What should I do if my child is lost in public? (see page 86)
How can I teach my child about risk without causing too much fear? (see page 98)
What must my teenage daughter know in order to be safe? (see page 191)
What must my teenage son know in order to be safe? (see page 218)
And finally, in the face of all these questions, how can I reduce the worrying? (see page 56)
This is the universal fear of most parents. You are doing groceries or shopping in the mall. Or you are at a concert. And all of the sudden. ´Where is my child?!?´ Panic sets in. Frantic searching and yelling. Gone. Without a trace. Forever. Already feel your heartbeat increasing? Makes you feel uncomfortable, right? Me too!
It will take effort for a stranger to have your child wonder off with him. (I use ´him´, because over 98% of offenders are male) He will use the techniques described above to increase the distance between you and your child. He will look for a way to separate you from your child and move to place of privacy.
Remember this episode of Oprah?
It has been shown time and time again that offenders do succeed in luring kids from their parents or from areas that we consider safe havens. He will use all kinds of bait:
- Want a candy? I have more candy in my car.
- Like puppies? I have more puppies in my car, come check them out
- I know your mother and she asked me to show you the kids section
Talk with your kids about this, so they can recognize it too.
BUT……What maniac would do such a thing? Take your child from you? Strangers……right? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but the statistics show us otherwise. Although child abduction really does happen, these instances are actually pretty rare. And in most cases they are done by people who the family actually knows and trust, like close family.
But what do we teach our kids? That strangers are the big threat. ´Don´t talk to strangers!´. But what example do we ourselves give? We talk to strangers. We even tell our kids to talk to strangers: ´Say ´Hi´ to this nice Mister´. What are kids supposed to think? And when they get lost, it might be better to ask a stranger for help. Teach your kids to ask female strangers. It will call on their mother instinct.
When a child is taken violently, teach them to yell, scream and kick immediately. This is the best time and chance for escape. Don´t be polite. Rage. Yell: ´This is not my father! Help!´ You want to teach them what to do when violence is the only answer.
Nobody wants to think about this
Child abduction does happen. But it happens less frequently than you think. In the United States a child is 250 times more likely to get shot. Not to downgrade the horrors of abduction. Just to share the statistics with you.
Your child is much more likely to be sexually molested. ´What maniac does such a thing?´you ask? ´Strangers again?´ Nope. Statistics show that in over 90% of cases of sexual child abuse is done by people we know. Feeling uncomfortable again?
Denial is our greatest enemy. As always…..Be Aware!
Gavin de Becker talks about an example of a conversation with the kind of person who likes to deny things
“You’re so right,” the denier says, “sexual abuse is an enormous problem, particularly for young teens. Thank God mine aren’t there yet.”
No, sorry, says reality, the most common age at which sexual abuse begins is three (3!)
“Well, sure, if you have homosexuals around small children, there’s a risk.”
No, sorry, says reality, nearly 100 percent of sexual abuse is committed by heterosexual males.
“Yeah, but that kind of pervert isn’t living in our neighborhood.”
Sorry, says reality, but that kind of pervert is living in your neighborhood. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that on average, there is one child molester per square mile.
“Well, at least the police know who those people are.”
Not likely, says reality, since the average child molester victimizes between thirty and sixty children (!) before he is ever arrested.
Feeling sick to your stomach?
A way to stay sane: The Test of Twelve
If you are like me, you are very shocked by these statistics. You might want to lock up your kid until he or she is about 25 years old. But that is obviously not the solution. Gavin de Becker made a checklist to keep parents sane.
The Test of Twelve
- Does your child know how to honor his feelings? If someone makes him uncomfortable, that’s an important signal.
- Are you as the parent strong enough to hear about any experience your child has had, no matter how unpleasant?
- Does your child know it’s okay to rebuff and defy adults?
- Does your child know it’s okay to be assertive? That a ´No´ holds weight over any previous ´Yes´?
- Does your child know how to ask for assistance or help?
- Does your child know how to choose who to ask? For example, he should look for a woman to help him.
- Does your child know how to describe his peril?
- Does your child know it’s okay to strike, even to injure, someone if he believes he is in danger, and that you’ll support any action he takes as a result of feeling uncomfortable or afraid?
- Does your child know it’s okay to make noise, to scream, to yell, to run?
- Does your child know that if someone ever tries to force him to go somewhere, what he screams should include, ”This is not my father”? Onlookers seeing a child scream or even struggle are likely to assume the adult is a parent.
- Does your child know that if someone says, ”Don’t yell,” the thing to do is yell? The corollary is if someone says, ”Don’t tell,” the thing to do is tell.
- Does your child know to fully resist ever going anywhere out of public view with someone he doesn’t know, and particularly to resist going anywhere with someone who tries to persuade him?
I realize I have just scraped the surface with this article. There are more things you can do to keep your kids safer. Still I hope you appreciate these tips.
We are Warriors. We protect the innocent that need protection. Your kids safety is your Priority.
- Be Aware and don´t deny
- Now that you have read this and know this, you have a responsibility to do something with it. If something happens that you could have prevented, by teaching your kids and your immediate surroundings what you have read here………., right?
- Read (or listen to) Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker for more actionable information.
- Share your new information with anyone that might benefit!
Wishing you and your kids safe! Always be ready.
Ways to stay ´on the Tip of the Spear´?
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Written and copied by Robin C, Former Dutch SF officer, Operator, 13 years into adapting to civilian life