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Child Safety Tips

August 1, 2007

One in 42 children will become lost, missing, kidnapped or run away this year. While stranger abduction is relatively rare, it still happens. Most abductions are perpetrated by someone the child knows. Child abduction is a tragedy. It devastates the parents, families, and touches all of us. Please read the following carefully about ways to keep your children safe. If you have questions, please contact the SBPD.

Things You Should Do

  • Pay attention to where your children are at all times; don't lose sight of your child in public places.
  • Never leave children alone in cars.
  • Establish strict procedures for picking your children up at school, at a friend's, a movie, etc. Tell your children not to accept rides from people with whom you have not made previous arrangements – even if they say they are a police officer, teacher, or friend of the family.
  • Establish a family code word. Tell your children never to go with someone who does not know the code word.
  • Teach your children their full names, your full name, address, and telephone number. Teach them how to reach either you or a trusted adult, and how to call for police assistance.
  • Make sure they know how to make local and long distance telephone calls. Even a small child can be taught to dial 911 or 0 for Operator for help.
  • Tell your children about the abduction problem in a calm and simple way as if you were teaching any other important coping skill.
  • Listen attentively if your children talk about anyone they encounter in your absence.
  • Have photographs of your children taken four times a year (especially for pre-schoolers). Make a note of birthmarks and other distinguishing features.
  • Have fingerprints taken of your children.
  • Remember that child predators look like regular folks.
  • Keep an open dialog about safety; give situational quizzes about all safety issues.

Teach Your Children

  • Never to leave the yard without permission. Very small children should play only in the backyard or in a supervised play area.
  • Not to wander off, to avoid lonely places, and not to take shortcuts through alleys or deserted areas.
  • They are safer walking or playing with friends.
  • Always to come straight home from school unless you have made other arrangements.
  • Never to enter anyone's home without your prior approval.
  • To scream, run away, and tell you or a trusted adult if anyone attempts to touch or grab them.
  • Not to give out any information on the telephone, particularly their name and address, or that they are alone.
  • Never to go anywhere with anyone who does not know the family code word.
  • To keep all doors locked and only admit authorized people into the house. No one else should be permitted to enter.
  • To memorize their full names and address, including city and state.
  • To memorize their telephone number, including zip code.
  • How to use the telephone to make emergency, local, and long distance calls.
  • Never to go into your home if a door is open or a window is broken.
  • How to work door and window locks.
  • How to answer the doorbell and telephone when they are home alone.
  • To run to the nearest public place, neighbor, or safe house if they feel they are being followed.
  • To tell you if someone asks them to keep a secret, offers them gifts or money, or asks to take their picture.
  • To always tell you if something happened while they were away from you that made them feel uncomfortable.

Top 10 Lures Used by Child Predators

Knowing the top 10 lure techniques (as identified by the FBI) that are used by child predators will better prepare you to talk openly to your children and teach them what key phrases to look for and how to stay safe.

The Helpless Lure: This is a person who needs help carrying boxes to his car, or to find a lost dog, or lost child.

Prevention: Tell children that adults don't ask kids for help in any way. Adults should ask Adults for help or directions or whatever they want.

The Promise Lure: This is when the predator promises to take the child to Mommy and Daddy. Or perhaps promises a surprise or candy in the car.

Prevention: Tell children that they are NEVER to go with anyone unless Mom or Dad has instructed them to.

The Gift Giving Lure: This is the predator who gives the child candy, toys, money, or other gifts.

Prevention: Tell children NEVER to accept gifts from anyone unless they received permission from Mom and Dad. This includes money from other family members (especially when the child is told to keep a secret). Tell children that we don't keep secrets in our family.

The Messenger: This is the predator who tells the child that 'Mommy was in a car accident' and the child is to go with them. Or 'Your Mom called and asked me to pick you up today'

Prevention: Tell children the names of people you have entrusted as emergency back ups. Remind them NEVER to go with anyone unless Mom or Dad instructs them to.

The Leader (Authority Figure): This is the fireman, policeman, priest, teacher or other authority figure who uses their position and suggested authority to win the child's trust.

Prevention: Tell children not to go with anyone no matter what they are wearing or who they are, even if it means that they might get into trouble. (Many authority figures tell kids they will be in trouble, or threaten to hurt Mom and Dad if the child doesn't cooperate).

Friendly Lure:
This is the nice friendly predator who engages the child in conversation.

Prevention: Teach children not to talk to any adults they don't know unless their parent is with them.

Playing Games: This is the predator that plays touching games and makes the child promise not to tell. Or other 'games' that the child feels uncomfortable with.

Prevention: Teach children to listen to their instincts. If something makes them feel funny in their stomachs, they are to stop, run and tell.

Too Cool: This is the person who the child looks up to as "cool". Perhaps a friend's older sibling, or a relative or a neighbor who has the latest video games.

Prevention: Teach children to listen to their instincts. If someone asks them to do something they know is wrong or feels funny, teach them to stop, run and tell.

The Magician Lure: This is the predator who seemingly magically knows the child's name or other information about the child.

Prevention: Don't put nametags on the outside of your children's clothing, books, book bags, etc.

The Power Predator: This is the scary predator that just grabs the child off his/her bike and throws them into the car.

Prevention: This is the time when a child should fight, scream, kick, bite. Tell children that if they are on their bikes and someone tries to take them off, they should hold the bike as hard as they can while screaming, "You're not my Mom/Dad!"


What Can You Do To Protect Your Children From Child Predators?

  1. Parents can help protect their children by teaching them awareness of dangerous people and the lures used to entice children. Children should be AWARE not AFRAID of the dangers! Through education, perhaps we can prevent a child's disappearance.

  2. Set aside time to talk to your children about dangerous people and strangers. Gear the talk to your children's level of understanding. Be straightforward, without frightening a sensitive child.

  3. Keep current files on your children. Include a recent photo (update it at least four times a year for children under two, at least twice a year otherwise.), physical description, extra activities, and friend's names, addresses and phone numbers. Obtain a set of foot print or finger prints through local law enforcement or qualified professionals. Maintain dental or medical records.

  4. Abductors usually select a child they think will be an easy target. They look for children who walk to school alone, take shortcuts, or seem to be alienated from other children. Quite often they watch playgrounds and observe children's play habits.

  5. Be cautious when you select someone to care for your children. Meet them and check their references. If your children must be left alone, explain the proper way to answer the telephone and the door.

  6. Teach your children their full name and yours, phone number with area code, and address with zip code. They should know how to make local and long distance calls; use a pay phone; call home and law enforcement departments; and dial "0" for the operator or 911 in an emergency.

  7. Mentally note the clothes your children wear EVERYDAY! Avoid putting names visibly on clothing or belongings. Know where your children are at all times. Never leave them unattended in a public place, car or store. Children should play in supervised areas only.

  8. Be sure your children know what to do if you are separated while shopping. They should not look for you; they should go to the nearest clerk and ask for help!

  9. Explain who a stranger is. Children should never enter a stranger's home, get into their car, or take gifts from them. Explain when the child has the right to say NO to an adult. Be aware of anyone who pays an unusual amount of attention to your children. Listen to your children if they don't want to be left alone with someone. Ask them to tell you about anyone who asks them to keep a secret or any new adults they meet.

  10. As a family, choose a family code word. Instruct your children to never go with anyone who does not know the code word. Stress that the word is not to be given to anyone. Change it frequently. Ask the school or day care center to notify you immediately if your children are absent. Inform them of people authorized to pick up your children. Have the same person every day if possible.

  11. Encourage your children to use the buddy system. Advise them what to do if a stranger follows or approaches them. Get to know your neighbors and establish "safe homes" where children can go for help.

Child Predators on the Internet

While the computer age has opened a whole new world for our children to explore and learn from, the "information superhighway" also has a dark side we all need to be aware of. Just as they prey on land, Pedophiles lurk on the Internet waiting to lure innocent children into their web of deviance, looking for their next victim.

These deviates meet others who claim children for their victims, share stories, pictures and encourage each other along the way.

The tricks they use on the Internet are a little different. They can hide behind the screen. No one can tell if they are 12, 20, 40, or any age. They know how to relate to children and find it easy to communicate on that level. They present themselves in areas children frequent and pose as children. They get to know the child they are communicating with and pass themselves off as a friend. Often, they will use smoking cigarettes, using drugs, talking about sex, or some activity they should not be involved with as an incitement to lure the child to meet them without anyone knowing.

The trap is then laid. An adult will lure the child out to meet with them. Thinking it's another child, they set off to meet their friend. What happens next depends on the plan of the predator. For some, this would be enough. The fact that they won their trust enough to get them to meet them may be all the ground rules they need to molest the child. Some may attempt a closer relationship by playing the con a little longer.

The key to all of this is that child predators are cons. Their goals are as varied as their egos. The limits for one may just be the beginning point for another. There is no way to predict how any given predator will react. Their personalities differ. Their needs are not the same in many ways. There is only one thing they have completely in common. That is the fact that they find their thrill in luring a child into their well concocted plan.

If you own a home computer please advise children of any age of the following rules, which may reduce your child's risk of exploitation:

  1. NEVER give out any personal information such as your last name, address, telephone number, your parents' first or last names, their work phone numbers, name of their employer's or business names, the name or location of your school. Make them understand they must always ask you and get your permission first!

  2. NEVER to send anyone your photograph or any other items via the Internet without obtaining your parent's permission even if someone insists you will not get into trouble. If someone repeatedly asks for your photo please be sure to alert your parents immediately.

  3. NEVER respond to any messages that make you feel uncomfortable! Don't allow someone to say mean or naughty things to you; they have no right to do so! If you do come across someone doing this please get your parents right away so that they can get the person's user ID and possibly their IP address so that they may contact the on-line service.

  4. NEVER agree to get together or meet with anyone you meet on-line. If someone asks you to meet with them first discuss it with your parents. If your parents agree to the meeting, be sure they come along and that you meet in a very public place such as a mall.

The more you know, the more you can teach your children to be aware of the world around them. There is so much good in it. They should be able to enjoy it, safely.


Signs of Physical Abuse

These are signs and indicators that should alert parents, doctors, nurses, dentist, school teachers, daycare workers, babysitters, or law enforcement to sexual or physical abuse:

  • PHYSICAL SIGNS: bruises, cuts, limping, multiple injuries, pain, bleeding, itching, fluid or rawness in private areas of the body.
  • ABRUPT BEHAVIOR CHANGES: withdrawal, fearfulness, isolation, excessive mood swings, nightmares, starts bed-wetting, stops potty-training, aggressive or rebellious behavior, school problems, clinging, excessive crying, or regression to infantile behavior. Sudden interest in sexual habits not suited for their age group.
  • EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS: depression, anxiety, panicky, guiltiness, rejection, acting out their feelings, aggressiveness, intentionally afflicts pain to them, becomes fearful of certain people, places, or activities.



If you notice any of these signs or indicators, you should ask questions. Ask the child about whatever has alarmed you. Please pay very close attention to their reaction, as well as their answers to your questions. Children may try to make excuses or cover it up out of shame or fear of the predator.

When you question a child under these circumstances, you must stay com and collective. Keep your composure and assure the child they are not to blame for whatever is happening to them. Point out to them that the abuser is solely to blame and must be punished for their actions. This can be tough if the abuser is someone close to them, like a relative.

NEVER show disbelief in what the child tells you! You must gain the child's trust and they must feel security in your presence or they will claim up and withdrawal. It is very rare for a child to lie about something of this nature.

Explain to the child the procedures that must be taken. Reinforce the trust and feel of security that they have placed in you! Promise to stay by their side and do so! The child has given you their confidence, don't blow it!

Call the police or local law enforcement and report the crime. It might be easier for the victim if you request an officer of the same sex as the child to do the questioning. Ask the child if he or she would feel more comfortable with a male or female officer. Most law enforcement agencies have male and female officers trained to handle these cases.

The child will need to go to a hospital to be checked out. The doctor will do a complete examination and take specimens, samples, and pictures needed for prosecutors to prosecute the case. Please stay by the child's side as you promised, unless the child asks you not to! This will be a very trying time for the child, but it is of utmost importance to prove the guilt of the predator or abuser. You must give the child your full support!


What can the concerned parent/guardian look for to I.D. a potential offender?

  1. An unusual and pervasive interest in a particular child – especially, but not limited to, female children.
  2. Providing more favors or privileges to one child over another.
  3. Socializing more with children than with adults.
  4. Not wanting to have adult friends over to the house, or to participate in adult activities.
  5. Wanting to stay home most of the time.
  6. Wanting one child to stay home while the others go somewhere.
  7. Insistence on child having friends over to spend the night instead of vice versa.
  8. Efforts to isolate with a child, i.e., encouraging mother to go shopping, on separate vacations, separate working schedules, etc.
  9. Repeated offers to baby-sit with the children while the mother or parents go out and relax, etc.
  10. Intimate roughhousing with children on a regular basis.
  11. Disregarding the normal rules of modesty and encouraging a lack of modesty around the home.
  12. Encouraging a lack of modesty on the part of the children.
  13. Being inappropriately dressed around children.
  14. Barging into the bathroom or bedroom when children are bathing or dressing.
  15. Discussing age inappropriate topics with a child.
  16. A child who is directly or indirectly trying not to be isolated with a suspect. (For purposes of brevity, the word 'suspect' is used to include any person from the 'suspected categories' above).
  17. Diminished interest in normal marriage sexual relations. Very few sex offenders have regular and loving sexual relations with their spouse.
  18. Obsessive and/or frequent masturbation.
  19. Overreaction to media hype about sex offender arrests. This is where the sex offender uses the media hype to frighten his victim and also to cover up his own crimes.
  20. Treating a particular child like they were an adult and including them in adult conversations about adult matters. Especially talking about sexual things around children or telling off color jokes to children. Most child molesters are interested in children who demonstrate an interest in sex. Telling off color stories and noting the reaction is a method used to test this interest.
  21. Seen or observed to stare at one or more of the children while the child is engaged in normal activities.
  22. Unusual interest in young girls/boys at the mall or other public places.
  23. Voyeurising on children in the home. For example, excessive interest in watching the children play after they are in their night clothes.

It should be noted that almost everyone does some (or a lot) of these things at least some of the time. This does not mean that they are sex offenders, or even potential sex offenders. The key to discovery is that both the potential and acting-out offender does a high percentage of these things quite regularly. The problem is that unless you are looking for the right thing and the right combination of things, you will think what you see is normal – because in the great majority of instances it is normal non-offender behavior.

All the more why the media-view of the sex offender allows the majority of the offenders a safe place to hide their destructive behaviors. That's also the reason the child molester is so hard to spot. Primarily, he/she is a very normal person.


More on Sexual Offenders

Sex offenders, for the most part, are hard working, tax paying citizens who support their family and who go to church with moderate regularity
. That is to say, except for their 'sexual aberration' they are basically non-criminal, non-violent, and in their daily activities you can see, they are very ordinary people. But the media and the legislature paint the sex offender as an ugly monster who is frothing at the mouth and prowling around playgrounds stalking little children. If this had any reasonable truth, the sex offender would be easy to spot and even easier to catch.

While it is true that there are some of these rabid, frothing at the mouth people out there and in prison – statistically they are far more rare than lightning strikes on airplanes. Nevertheless, in complete disregard of reality, this monster-profile has become the public and official mind set – quite simply because it is easier to hate and a lot more interesting than the truth.

That the victim is perceived as a willing participant is a key element of most sex offender's deviant fantasy pattern. The continued failure of the "powers that be" to admit or accept that a large majority of children have an early interest in and/or curiosity about sex is one of the sex offender's primary tools. Many sex offenders take advantage of this natural curiosity to encourage his victim to participate and not complain. The overwhelming majority of sex offenders would probably never offend against a victim that resisted them in any manner or by any means.

Unfortunately, this is not true with the power rapist, some child molesters and the sadistic molester/rapist. These categories present their own special problems of treatment; however, with the exception of the power rapist, the above outlined identification profile has meaningful application.

The South Bend Police Department strongly recommends that you talk to your children; to be candid with them. Unfortunately this is a reality in our society and children should be informed that this could occur. The topic should be brought up in a calm, helpful way that diffuses fear and offers practical and realistic tips.

Online Safety
As the Internet becomes more and more popular, it also becomes more and more dangerous to your kids. Parents should take an active role in teaching their children how to use the Internet properly and how to avoid all of the dangers that are out there. They need to monitor their children's Internet usage and make sure their children know and follow the rules for being online.

To help parents, the South Bend Police Department has assembled these resources to get "up to speed" on how their kids use the Internet and to know how to help and monitor their children's online activities to keep them safe.

  • Child Safety on the Information Highway Booklet
    Provides information on what the web is, how it is used and how to protect kids. It includes a Pledge which parents can have their kids sign and post by the computer to remind them of the rules for Internet use.
  • Teen Safety on the Information Highway Booklet
    Provides information about how to use the web and what dangers are out there, from online predators to privacy risks. Warns parents about chat rooms, email, forums and more.
  • Netsmartz
    Provides interactive and educational workshops on Internet safety and usage. Provides real-life scenarios to teens and kids about the dangers of meeting people online and other situations kids face on the Internet.
  • Help Delete Online Predators
    A campaign from the Ad Council to help parents know how to recognize and deal with online predators. Includes how to talk with your kids, how to understand the online lingo, true stories and other resources to help parents protect their kids online.
  • Cyber Tipline
    Report incidences of child sexual exploitation online.
  
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