This morning, I was alarmed to read that an 8-year-old girl was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a man who succeeded in luring her to his truck. A nearby adult who saw this shouted out to them and the man grabbed the girl and sped off with her. Thankfully, she was rescued by someone who recognized the abductor's vehicle from an Amber Alert, but not before a horrible thing had been done to her. Sexual assault can mean many things -- exhibitionism, fondling, sexual harassment and exposing a child to pornography, among them -- but the fact remains that this man put this child into a situation that was considered to be "sexual assault" and whatever it is that happened to her is something she will have to live with. It's so horrible the perverse things that monsters do to children in this world.
I keep thinking about how he managed to lure this child to his truck. I've gone over the "stranger danger" conversation with Jennifer many times. I have explained to her some of the tricks strangers use to lure children away from a safe area. One of them, such as asking a child to help them look for a dog, is one that actually happened (and which I saw for myself) but thankfully Jennifer was smart enough to tell him no. But even after that, I still had this conversation with her again later on.
Even so, she has sometimes forgotten safety rules and did things she was not allowed to do. One thing, for example, was reaching into a truck to pet a man's dog. The man was sitting there without a shirt on, for crying out loud! He could've grabbed her arm and pulled her inside. (She is lightweight so it could happen.) Afterwards, I lectured her AGAIN about tricks strangers use to get to kids but I don't think I'll ever need to ease up on that. As it is, I give her the "don't talk to strangers" warning every single time she goes out to ride her bike. I have also told her if a stranger tries to get to her, scream and run away. I told her if she screamed, it would attract attention.
But another warning about strangers I have given her is that she should never, EVER be nice to a stranger. Of course she knows she must be polite and respectful around grown-ups, but I have told her that when it comes to a stranger, don't be polite or respectful.
In fact, be rude.
Don't talk to strangers. Don't sit next to a stranger who asks her to sit with them. Don't help a stranger.
I know that this makes it seem like I am telling Jennifer to be selfish or disrespectful, but actually I'm trying to teach her yet another way to stay safe. We live in a world much, much too dangerous for children to be nice to everybody. Being nice to strangers, helping them find or move something and showing them where something is (such as her home) are all ways she could get kidnapped.
I remember a story my grandmother told me long ago. Once, as a young woman, when her husband was away for the night, she was awakened by a phone call by a man who asked her how to get into her house. "You don't," she answered, then hung up the phone and unplugged it. That story reminds me of how we DO need to be rude to strangers. I mean, why be nice to somebody who is planning to hurt us or do something terrible to us? I am the same way myself. I have taken many walks alone and men who try to talk to me are ignored or I just steer clear of them. I don't trust people I don't know well enough to trust -- and that right there is another important safety lesson a child should be taught.