important to talk to children about the dangers of abduction, but it's hard to
know how far to go. You want your kids to be safe without making them paranoid.
Kids are very innocent and trusting, so even after talking to them, it's hard
to predict how children will react when approached by a kind stranger.
Pedophiles are incredibly good with children and know how to approach them
without being threatening.
and tragedy of child abduction is an unfortunate constant in the news today.
When I was a child growing up in the 70s, our parents told us never to take
candy from strangers, or get into a car with someone we didn't know, but we were
sheltered from what could happen if we did. We rarely saw these cases on the
news, and when we did, it always seemed like a rare event. Little did we know.
following is a close call I had in my own neighborhood when I was in the 4th grade. That's the day I learned just how devious monsters can be.
After my mom
got remarried, we moved into a brand new house in an isolated subdivision in
the summer of ’73. My mom was convinced that the city would eventually make its
way out to us, and they’d be sitting on prime real estate. Whatever. I was
getting ready to start the 4th grade, and all I cared about were my
Barbies, playing outside with my friends, and riding my bike.
rules were simple:
Don’t go into anyone’s house
Come inside when the street lights came on
And if she came outside and looked down our
street, she’d better be able to see me
lights came one way before the sun went down, but I knew better than to break
the rules. I didn’t want to give her any reason to ground me, especially when
summer was coming to an end. Normally, I dreaded going back to school, but this
time, I was actually looking forward to it. We moved around a lot, so every
year, I had to say goodbye to the friends I’d made, knowing I would most likely
be going to a different school the next year. I always wondered what it would
be like to actually have the same friends every year, and go to the same
school, like they do on television.
September, I quickly settled in to my new classroom, where I met my new best
friend, Chris. She lived in the duplexes two streets over from my house. We
rode the bus to and from school, and quickly became inseparable. The only
downside to our friendship was that she didn’t live on my street. That meant
that I couldn’t play with her after school. Like my mom, her mom confined her
to their street as well.
We put our
heads together and finally decided to be brave and ask our moms to let us hang
out one Friday afternoon. We decided it might be best to have me come to her
house. She said her mom probably wouldn’t agree to her coming to my house, but
she might be okay with me coming over. I was afraid to tell her that my mom
wouldn’t likely go for any of it.
evening, I mustered all the courage I had and told my mom our grand plan. I had
been talking about Chris almost constantly, so my mom already knew we were close.
“Ok,” she said.
“Ok? Ok?” I couldn’t believe she agreed to let me go.
“Here’s the deal. I have to talk to her mom first. You can go for exactly
two hours, and then you come straight home. If you don’t follow those rules
exactly, don’t ask to go again.”
agreed. I thought two hours was a bit short, but I wasn’t going to argue, since
I didn’t think she’d let me go at all. I immediately called Chris, so our moms
could finalize the details.
We were so
excited; it’s all we could talk about on the bus the next morning. When Friday
rolled around, we could barely stay seated on the way home. We kept talking
about all the things we wanted to cram into our two hours. When she got off the
bus, I waved and told her I would see her soon. She giggled and waved back.
I ran home
and blasted through my homework. When I was finished, I told my mom I was ready
to go. I nodded politely as she again reviewed the rules and the consequences,
but my mind was already out the door. As soon as she finished, I ran down my
street to the main road. I lived at the end of the block, so it was further
than I liked to run, but I couldn’t wait to get to Chris’s house. I turned
right and passed the first street. I was smiling like crazy when I got to the
second street and turned. I could see Chris about halfway down the block,
jumping up and down and waving her hands like mad. I started running again, and
she came to meet me. We hugged and giggled, jumping and spinning together.
“C’mon!” she said, grabbing my hand.
She took me
inside and introduced me to her mother before we barricaded ourselves in her
room. We had the best time. We laughed and talked about Barbies and cute boys
at school. Before we knew it, her mom was softly knocking on the door to remind
me that my two hours were up. As much as I hated to go, we both knew that if we
followed the rules, we would probably be able to do it again. Maybe next time,
she could come to my house.
outside with me, and I walked backwards all the way to the corner of the main
street, just so we could keep talking and waving. I didn’t turn around until I
couldn’t see Chris anymore. Then I moped passed the first street. I wasn’t in
any hurry to get home. When I reached my street, I turned to make the final
trek to the end of our block.
My eyes were
fixed on the sidewalk, as I kicked at small rocks. Our block was unusually
quite. I looked up when I heard a car approaching. A large, white sedan crossed
over and pulled up next to me on the sidewalk. The driver reached across the expanse
of the bench seat to roll down the window on the passenger side. I bent at the
waist when he said “Hi”, so I could get a better look at him. He was a nice
looking, middle aged man with sandy blonde hair and a mustache.
He said “I’m
so glad I found you. Your parents have been in a car accident, and they sent me
to pick you up.” My blood ran cold. My mouth was dry, and it took a few minutes
to process what he said.
Of course my
mother had always told me never to get in a car with a stranger, but back in
the 70s, there were no secret words between parents and kids to identify a safe
person to ride with. No one ever told me that a person would lie to get you in
a car. I just thought that advice was more for hitchhiking, or when some
stranger offered you a ride home. Of course I would say no to that.
But this man
was sent by my parents, who had been in a car accident. I didn’t know how badly
they had been hurt. What if they were dead? What would I do?
Seeing the panic on my face, the man immediately set out to reassure me.
“It’s going to be ok,” he said in soothing tones. “Get in, and I’ll take
you to them.”
I wanted to
get in, but something stopped me. I stood up and took a step back. This made
the man nervous, and he said we had to hurry. I glanced down the street and
could see both of my parents’ cars parked in front of the house. They never
parked in the driveway for some reason.
looked back at the man and pointed towards my house. “I don’t understand. I can
see my parents’ cars from here. How did they get in an accident?”
much as another glance in my direction, the man stepped on the gas and took
off, narrowly missing another car as he turned onto the main road without
stopping. As I stood there, watching him leave, it finally dawned on me what
had just happened. Terror overwhelmed me, and I started running for my house
before I even realized what I was doing.
What if he
came back? What if I couldn’t make it home in time? What if he caught me? If I
could spare a breath, would anyone even hear me scream? My muscles and lungs
were burning, but I didn’t stop until I was safely inside my house. I slammed
the door behind me and locked it before collapsing on the cold tile. I curled
up in a ball, shaking and crying uncontrollably, unable to catch my breath. My
mom came running over to yell at me for slamming the door until she saw me. She
crouched down beside me and waited for me to calm down, patiently listening
while I told her the whole story in ragged pieces. She just held me there for a
long time, crying with me. That night, as I hid under my covers, I thanked God
that I had been able to get away from that monster. I also said a prayer for
the next girl, who might not be so lucky.
information and guidelines on how to talk to your children about abduction,
please see the following articles.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Stay safe.