It is every parent's worst nightmare. A stranger or even somebody your child knows abducts or hurts them. We try not to think about it but it is always nagging away in the back of heads.
I am sure all of us have gone over the rules with our precious cargo. Never talk to strangers, if a stranger approaches, walk away, or call for help. Be aware of your surroundings; always stay with a sibling or a group of friends. The list goes on and we are always reminding them, yet if they were actually put in a dangerous situation would they really know how to react - and would they?
Children are children, and no matter how hard we try sometimes predators can be so entertaining, so typical looking, that our children may sense no danger at all and walk right into their trap. Thankfully this was not the case for my eight year old daughter the other day.
Arielle (8) and Ryley (5) went with a close friend of mine to run some errands which they have done numerous times. As they entered the grocery store, they noticed a man standing in the front looking around but thought nothing of it. When they were done buying the groceries my friend needed, they exited the store. The same man was still in front but why would anyone worry? He didn't look dirty, out of place or anything. My friend told them they could start walking down to the dollar store while she just went across the parking lot to the car to put the groceries in. The dollar store is just a few steps down the sidewalk, not far at all.
Well as soon as she crossed over the parking lot, that same man approached my children. Paying barely any attention to my son, he said hello to Arielle and then asked her name. She told him. Then she grabbed her little brothers hand and started to run off calling for my friend. My friend immediately came over to them. Arielle told her what happened but when they went to look for him he was gone. He took off.
Given the fact that he had only asked her name I was a bit hesitant to go to the police as I honestly felt that they wouldn't take it very seriously. However, after seeing the tears in my child's eyes and her telling me how he wasn't very nice and "creepy" I knew we had to.
Arielle likes everybody and doesn't call people creepy unless they are. Besides, what innocent middle aged man, hangs out in front of a store and asks children their name? His taking off as soon as my daughter called out to my friend doesn't appear very innocent either. Besides there have been a few children approached by strangers over the past few weeks so who knew? Maybe it had been him.
I was wrong - the police took it VERY seriously. After our initial report at the station they had another officer come to the house, and they then went back to check if it was recorded on any video's around the group of stores there. I was impressed and very relieved to know that these things are not taken lightly. The officers were very nice and praised Arielle for doing the right thing. She ran off, called for an adult, and protected her little brother.
Later when I asked her why she had even told the man her name, she told me she knew she shouldn't have but that she had been scared and didn't know what to do. I seriously can't blame her, and assured her it was okay, because she did everything else right and kept herself and brother safe.
Has your child ever been approached by a stranger? Did they know what to do? Do you think they would react quickly or freeze up?
Until next time,