On Protecting Our Youth:

Is Stranger Danger Still Relevant?

Stranger Danger.
Chances are, you’ve been hearing that phrase since you first traded that baby bottle in for a sippy cup.
After becoming parents and grandparents, I’m sure most--if not all--of us have recited the same old rhyme as a warning to our own precious wee-ones. And we haven’t been wrong to do so.
With the internet, “Stranger Danger” is just as relevant as ever. Chat rooms on the dark-web allow pedophilic users to discuss both child grooming and luring techniques that keep the FBI working tirelessly to get these creeps out of the streets and inside jail cells.
But minus the dark web, is “Stanger Danger”, as we’ve always known it, still as relevant in our non-virtual lives?
Well, the answer to this question isn’t so black and white.
A mere seven percent of perpetrators of child sexual assault crimes are actual strangers of their young victims, according to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.
By contrast, statistics show a shocking 93 percent of child victims and their parents actually know the abuser.
A whopping 59 percent of these same children are preyed upon by someone they or their parents are acquainted with, while the other 34 percent of are sexually assaulted by a family member.
So much for all that Stranger Danger our parents warned us about.
In cases where an acquaintance, family member, friend, or neighbor is involved in a case of child sexual abuse, the “Stranger Danger” just doesn’t cut it. 
For one, it can deter small children from seeking out help from “good strangers” such as police officers, store clerks and other parents with children in an emergency.
If they are lost or in danger, having a child who has memorized their address, landmarks near home and/or a contact number to reach Mom and Dad can be paramount in helping officers and other Good Samaritans help them. 
Often, when younger kids think of “Stranger Danger” they picture some menacing, monstrous troll-like character; Something akin to Gollum, from The Lord of The Rings, if you will. However, these monsters aren’t hiding in caves. 
They’re hiding in plain sight and are most likely known to the child.
Their hideous affliction is not of the body, but of the mind and they are often very capable of blending into our society.
This is why many organizations and child advocacy groups propose we alter our language in order to communicate better with our children about potential threats.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children suggests that we focus less on warning our children about certain types of people and instead teach them how to identify and respond to threatening situations. 
In an effort to re-think “Stranger Danger”, NCMEC proposes the following language when talking safety with our children: 
Don’t say: Never talk to strangers.
Do Say: You should not approach just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, a store clerk with a nametag, or a parent with children.
Don’t say: Stay away from people you don’t know.
Do Say: It’s important for you to get my permission before going anywhere with anyone.
Don’t say: You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them.
Do Say: Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable, or tries to get you to go with them.
To help practice prevention and emergency skills with your child, role-playing scenarios and up-to-date tips are offered on NCMEC website, kidsmartz.org/StrangerDanger.
Child molesters are likely in attendance at community social events, like festivals, parades and High School sporting events. 
Sometimes they work in our schools and daycares; Sometimes they pose as politicians or community leaders; effectively putting themselves in positions of power and respect.
Sadly, many pedophiles have infiltrated churches in all religions and denominations.
A potential abuser can even be a relative staying at a child relative’s home for the weekend.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t put any trust in the many wonderful teachers, preachers’ coaches, and community leaders that love our children and want what’s best for them. 
I am merely asking that we become more educated when looking for potential risks to our children’s safety by reviewing up-to-date research on pedophiles and the techniques they use to lure our children. 
I am asking that we evolve the language we use to better communicate these dangers with our children.
For a more modern, in-depth profile of child molesters, please visit: childluresprevention.com/resources/molester-profile/. 
Written by National Child Safety Experts Jennifer Mitchell and Rosemary Web, the online Molester Profile uses at least 30 years’ worth of data, research and hundreds of interviews with convicted pedophiles who shared their techniques for luring children. 
Mitchell and Webb--like many other child safety experts--state in their profile that Stranger Danger is not typically relevant in most child sex abuse cases.
Only 7 percent of child molestation cases involve a perpetrator who is an actual stranger, as shown in the aforementioned NCMEC statistics.
Pedophile offenders come in every gender, shape, size, race, and economic background. You cannot spot a child molester based on any outward appearance or social skills.
The one thing these predators have in common is that they can and will hurt our children if given half the circumstance or opportunity.  And in Ninety-three percent of cases, the predator is no stranger.

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