Child predators are all around us. Many have not been caught and can seem like the kindest people who will befriend you for a couple years to gain your trust before caring for your child when a babysitter is needed; abusing them without your notice. Some have families of their own. Others might have just met you for the first time.
A woman named Amanda Florczykowski from Texas had made a Facebook status just over a year ago about her own encounter with possible traffickers. She was in a grocery store’s check-out line when a couple approached her, commenting on her cute daughter. When her daughter reached out to the woman, the woman grabbed the child and began to back away while trying to get the child to say goodbye to her mom. Amanda grabbed her child back forcefully.
After the couple left she noticed there was a man standing without groceries watching her carefully. She realized that these people were all working together to target and take children. What the children would be used for, she wasn’t sure, but it scared her to think that her daughter could have been taken from her in daylight and from her very presence.
Missy Kalidy from Oklahoma had a similar Facebook status about her experience in a Target where a nine year old girl kept trying to get Missy’s four year old daughter to go get gum with her. She noticed a man was across the way trying to direct the nine year old of what to do. The girl and the man left after a manager was contacted.
In 1991, sex trafficking victim Jaycee Dugard was taken while on her way to her school bus stop. You can watch the footage he and his wife had taken from when they would go to playgrounds to scope out the kids that seemed interesting to him to want to abuse (by this time Jaycee was older and had already given birth to two daughters).
Many current and past survivor stories that stem back to the seventies, have talked about being taken from malls. Many others will say that friendships formed between kids. While having sleep overs, it would draw them to being abused and forced into a life of sexual exploitation and prostitution.
How can we better protect our children from predators, molesters, and possible traffickers?
1. If you feel uneasy about someone being around your child, no matter how much they try to coax you into seeing their ways, resist. Sometimes your conscience truly can be right in its warnings! Some major suspicious signs is when a person is constantly trying to give your child gifts, offers to take them to the bathroom, tries to get alone with a child, spends more time with children then with adults, and tries to take them on trips/outings that the family perhaps can’t afford themselves.
2. Keep your eye on your children. If someone approaches them, go up to see what their interest is in your child. You don’t want to live in fear about others, but it is important to be mindful and cautious, rather than trying to trust your own child’s judgement. They are young and vulnerable.
3. If you notice a child that is unable to speak for themselves, looking at another for the answer, this could be a sign that they are being abused and are fearful of the person they are around. The child might cower and be afraid of talking to you.
4. Prior to leaving your child alone with a babysitter, let your child know of dangerous situations that could occur. Tell them that if they are told to keep a secret with someone it is because that person knows it is wrong and that they can get in trouble with the law and the parents. Tell them that no one should be touching them anywhere and that even if they try to make a game out of it, it is wrong. They need to trust you over another person.
5. When you do have your child watched by another person, ask questions to your child to see if the person was truly worth trusting. If they watch your child another time, continue to find out. Some perpetrators may wait a bit before going into an abusive situation.
6. Be around your child when they are on the internet. Make sure the computer is in an area where you can see the screen. This could mean that you block their internet access completely. Do not allow them access to many social media websites or apps that are questionable until they are an adult. If they get upset about it, don’t keep them in the dark. Show them news links and educate them about your reasoning. Let them know that it is for their benefit. Maybe when they turn a certain age after understanding your reasoning well enough, they will be cautious while online and know to let you know when someone tries to talk to them.
7. Get to know their friends and those they are interested in being in a relationship with. Ask them questions. Get to know the parents of their friends. You don’t want to be over protective, but you also don’t want to see them dealing with physical and emotional pain that can make you regret not asking questions you should have.
8. Encourage your child. Don’t keep them in the dark. Let them know how valuable and wonderful they are to you. Many children with a low-self image are the most vulnerable towards abuse. They will look for love in others when they don’t receive it in their own household. Being involved in your child’s life is extremely important.
9. If they have a phone, block app access and know who they are texting or talking to. If they are trying to hide it from you, there may be suspicious activity going on. Take their phone away or cancel their account if it persists. They need to know that you make the rules and that you have their best interest out for them. Be sure to explain reasons rather than just telling them that you are doing it as a parent. Education will help them and even friends that they know who could become victimized.
10. If you see a drastic change in your child’s demeanor, ask questions. If you find out they have been abused, call authorities and get help for your child as soon as you can. Holding off could build up a lot of damage and you want healing to happen as soon as possible. Know that they might reflect on the hurt forever, but can help others one day because of their experiences (obviously you wouldn’t want to tell them that until you see improvements). There is room for growth and they can overcome anything with your support. Don’t blame them for anything that ever happens to them against their will.
Need help? Want more warning signs? Need healing from your own abuse? Go to Stop It Now!