The news in Tennessee over the last 5 weeks has been rife with the abduction of a 15 year-old high-school student by her 50 year-old forensics teacher. The whole country got the AMBER alert and this week the breaking news was that they were found in a remote north Californian location where there was no cell phone service to tip off their whereabouts. The now ex-teacher has been taken into custody and the girl is on her way back to Tennessee as we speak. This is a huge relief to all concerned.
While listening to the follow up news, there were some interesting pointers that came to light that I thought would be useful to share.
WHO DO PREDATORS PRAY ON?
Predators tend to look for a vulnerable child, one who is often shy and quiet and finds it hard to
keep friends, one who is a loner. They befriend that child and, to gain their confidence, give them
'time and understanding' (something troubled kids in particular cry out for). They encourage the
child to talk about their worries and their home life, all the while gaining more and more
of a bond so they become more dependent on their 'new friend' than their parents.
The child becomes desensitized by hugs and hand-holding by the predator. Alarm bells fail to go
off immediately as they would if the predator touched them inappropriately.
WHAT ARE THE TELL-TALE SIGNS OF A CHILD BEING GROOMED?
1. They become secretive - won't say where they are going or where they have been. Won't
tell who their new friend is. They won't say where they get new clothes or new social media
from. They might sneak out at night, or say they want to 'sleep over with a friend', but won't say
who that is.
2. They may have long, late evening phone calls or computer communications in their bedroom.
3. They may become tearful, but won't say why. Perhaps it is because the predator is a family
HOW DO WE PROTECT OUR KIDS FROM PREDATORS?
1. All kids need to feel they are loved and belong in a caring family relationship.
2. Parents should be interested in everything their kids are doing, and be totally involved in
3. We need to talk to our kids about their private parts and they should know what inappropriate
touching means.They should be told that nobody should touch them in any place that a bathing
costume would cover.
4. We need to take every opportunity to educate our kids about the dangers of unhealthy friendships
and explain in detail what a healthy relationship looks like.
a) Close friendships should be with kids of similar age.
b) Friends enjoy healthy fun activities like outdoor sports, becoming proficient in activities like
music, golf, fishing etc. They do not huddle in dark corners watching violent or pornographic
videos, drinking alcohol or experimenting with drugs and/or sex.
5. Kids should not be allowed the privilege of privacy. Parents should constantly be watching
for anything suspicious. They should encourage siblings to tell parents if they are worried about
their brother or sister.
6. They should hand over cell phones and laptops prior to going to their rooms to
7. We need to make it our business to know all our child's friends and authority figures. We need to
visit the school or clubs our kids attend often and unannounced.
Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families.