Educating Your Children About Strangers
The Exploiter or Abductor: Not a Stranger

"Stay away from strangers!" is a popular warning to children to prevent abduction or exploitation. Unfortunately, however, many children are abducted or exploited by people who have some type of familiarity with the children but who may or may not be known to the parents.

The term stranger suggests a concept that children do not understand and is one that ignores what we do know about the people who commit crimes against children. It misleads children into believing that they should be wary only of individuals who have an unusual or slovenly appearance. Instead, it is more appropriate to teach our children to be on the lookout for certain kinds of situations or actions rather than certain kinds of individuals.

Children can be raised to be polite and friendly, but it is okay for them to be suspicious of any adult asking for assistance. Children help other children, but there is no need for them to be assisting adults. Children should not be asked to keep special secrets from their parents and, of course, children should not be asked to touch anyone in the bathing suit areas of their body or allow anyone to touch them in those areas.

Often exploiters or abductors initiate a seemingly innocent contact with the victim. They may try to get to know the children and befriend them. They use subtle approaches that both parents and children should be aware of. Children should learn to stay away from individuals in cars or vans; and they should know that it is okay to say no - even to an adult.

Remember, a clear, calm and reasonable message about situations and actions to look out for is easier for a child to understand than a particular profile or image of a stranger.