While it may be impossible to prevent every single child abduction, there are things that we as parents can do to help keep our children safer.
20-year-old, Thomas Anthony Dewald was arrested in southern Pennsylvania on Monday after he had abducted a four-year old girl from her home early Thursday morning. Luckily, in this case, the girl managed to escape and was later found wandering the streets.
Dewald had entered the young girls home through an unlocked door before snatching her from her bed. He then bound and locked her in a wooden trunk at his grandparents’ house. He confessed to bringing the girl back to his grandmother’s home, where he said he laid in his bed with her fully clothed and then masturbated near her.
We don’t know exactly what happened when he got the girl back to his grandmother’s home or how the girl was able to free herself. What matters now is that she is alive and back with her family. It could have ended much worse.
This fact is, predators are out there and we need to do everything that we can to prevent more children from becoming victims.
- 1 Trust Your Instincts
- 2 Understand that it’s not Always Strangers
- 3 Watch Out for “Special Relationships” Between an Adult and a Child
- 4 Avoid Certain Situations
- 5 Stop Telling Your Children to Hug or Kiss Relatives or Friends
- 6 Teach Your Children “Good Touch, Bad Touch”
- 7 Teach Your Children “No – Go – Tell”
- 8 Don’t be Too Harsh Over Small Mistakes
- 9 Understand the Warning Signs of Possible Sexual Abuse
- 10 Signs of a Child Predator
Trust Your Instincts
This is the most important piece of advice that any parent can be given. If someone makes you uncomfortable, keep your child away from them. It is not about judging others but it is about keeping our children safe and our instincts are often right.
If your kid tells you that they’re uncomfortable, that in and of itself is important. They don’t have to have a reason, just know that they are and take them away from the situation.
Understand that it’s not Always Strangers
It is important that children understand the dangers of strangers but it is also important that they understand the risks that may come from those that they know. It is estimated that around 90 percent of people who are abused, knew the predator in some way. It could be a family member, a teacher, a coach or even a trusted family friend. It’s important that you never let your guard down just because someone “seems nice and friendly.”
Watch Out for “Special Relationships” Between an Adult and a Child
You need to be suspicious of any adult that tries to spend time alone with your child. Even if they are in the kitchen but as you go in, they leave the kitchen to be with your child in the next room. This should be a red flag. Obviously not everyone that leaves a room when you enter is a predator but be aware of those that make an effort to be alone with your child, who shower them with gifts or who speak of having a “special relationship” with your child.
Avoid Certain Situations
If your child wants to go to a friend’s house, only let them go if you know the parents. If you don’t know them, don’t let them go. If they are going on an extended school trip, ask the teacher all the questions that you need such as sleeping arrangements and who has access to who. The main thing is that you avoid any situations where your child could potentially be molested.
Stop Telling Your Children to Hug or Kiss Relatives or Friends
I remember when I was a little kid growing up and if we had family friends or relatives come over who we hadn’t seen for a while, my parents would always say something like, “go and give them a hug“. I know many families that do that same thing but it has to stop. It isn’t because those people are a threat but because your children should only hug who they want to hug.
Teach Your Children “Good Touch, Bad Touch”
You need to teach your children that only they have control over their own bodies and they always have the right to say “no” to any type of touch that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Help them to identify private parts by naming each part.
- Talk with them about good and bad touches. Let them tell you what touches feel good, such as hugs from loved ones or a high-five. Then explain examples of bad touches, such as hitting, kicking and, sometimes, touching private parts.
- Don’t force your child to hug or kiss anyone that they don’t want to.
- Make sure your child understands that they can always come and talk to you if they feel that they have had a bad touch, no matter who has touched them.
Teach Your Children “No – Go – Tell”
Make sure that your child knows what to do if someone tries to molest them. Teach them “No, go, tell.”
- No – say no to any sexual advances.
- Go – get as quickly as possible
- Tell – tell someone immediately about what’s happening.
Don’t be Too Harsh Over Small Mistakes
Parenting can be stressful but there is no need to take that stress out on your children. Don’t start screaming and yelling at them over every little mistake that they make. If you shout at them over something small such as spilling their drink, they will soon start to think that they can’t come and talk to you about something on their mind through fear that you will get angry with them. They need to feel safe and know that it is safe to talk with you about anything.
Understand the Warning Signs of Possible Sexual Abuse
One sign alone, doesn’t mean that a child has been sexually abused, but if there are several signs present it should make you start asking questions. Some signs of possible sexual abuse include:
- Has nightmares without explanation
- Seems distracted or distant
- Has a sudden change in eating habits
- Sudden mood swings
- Writes, draws, plays or dreams of sexual or frightening images
- Develops new or unusual fears of certain people or places
- Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
- Talks about a new older friend
- Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason
For more warning signs, check out Stop It Now.
For more tips, check out Parents.
Signs of a Child Predator
Child predators look just like anyone else which makes them so hard to spot. Below, you will find some of the more common signs of a child predator.
- They spend excessive time at your home and with you and your family. This includes close family and friends or any adult that has taken a special interest in one particular child.
- They do everything they can to get time alone with your child. They may make it seem like they are helping you out.
- A predator may shower your child with gifts. If someone is gifting items to your child that you see as being excessive, this should be a major warning sign.
- A predator will prep your child – they’ll test the waters to make sure your child can keep secrets
- They repeatedly ignore social, emotional and/or physical boundaries and limits. This could include hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling or holding a child even when the child resists physical contact or attention
- They often share inappropriate, adult-geared personal or private information with a child
- They may point out sexual images or tell inappropriate stories in front of children
- They seem to be too good to be true. They may always offer to babysit or take your child on outings or for a night out to “give you time to yourself“
- Frequently walks in on children when they are using the bathroom