There is a family in Adelaide who are I imagine reeling with “what-ifs”.
What-if their daughter had not been so quick thinking.
What-if the predator had not been so easily deterred.
What-if this man strikes again.
A family that fills many of us with admiration for the quick-wittedness of their year six daughter.
And a family that reminds us all to put safety measures in place to try to keep your children safe from abduction.
Because not all of them are as clever as this little girl…
The young girl, a year six student at Reynella East College, has fended off a would-be predator with her incredible presence of mind. Police have told how the girl was walking near the fence of her school about 8:30am Tuesday on her way to school when she was approached by a tattooed man in a dark green Ford sedan.
The man reportedly told the girl: “Your mum told me to pick you up at 1:30.”
The year six student, with a deftness that I am not sure I could produce, replied, “My parents are dead.”
The man then got back in his car and drove away.
The girl’s mother, Emily Mirano, quite alive and very relieved, said the whole encounter had been “frightening.”
The school principal, Caroline Green, praised the girl for her actions.
“To be able to think on her feet and to get herself out of harm’s way immediately is something to be congratulated for,” Ms Green said.
But would most of our children be able to recognise ill intent when presented with it?
Would your child have come out of the situation unscathed?
It makes you think.
In Australia, abduction rates have fallen in recent years. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there was a 5.8 per cent decrease in the number of kidnapping/abduction victims from 638 in 2012 to a four-year low of 601 in 2013.
But while these figures seem low, it’s scary to think that nearly one in three victims of kidnapping/abduction was aged 14 years or under.
As a parent, it’s a fear that’s hard to reason away. A roll call of names highlights the reasons why.
Daniel Morecombe, William Tyrell, Madeleine McCann, Jaycee Lee Dugard.
The very thought of children like 13-year-old Daniel Morecombe makes your grip on your kids just a little tighter doesn’t it?
Watch the Daniel Morecombe Foundation’s advice on safe words..
But there are ways to help keep your kids safe.
One method that is actively encouraged by the Daniel Morecombe Foundation is to establish a “safe word” between you and your child and any carers who may pick them up from school.
The Morecombe Foundation advises that you should teach your child only to go with someone who uses the safe word and make sure they never tell it to other people.
When a new face appears to pick them up from school or after soccer, they can ask if the person knows the word, and if they don’t they can alert authority figure in the vicinity to the encounter.
It’s a method I am currently starting to impose. We live two blocks from my son’s primary school. Two blocks with two quiet suburban streets to negotiate.
My oldest — who turns nine later this year — is keen to begin to negotiate those streets without me. I can see his point. He is turning nine, the streets are safe, he knows neighbours in houses right along the way. He is sensible and alert and deserves some responsibility.
But he is also my baby.
My tiny, innocent, helpless boy who has no idea what could happen. The very thought of it makes me breathless and yet I know its probably time.
I know there are ways I could make him safer. That there are apps and tracking devices and ways a “security guard” could discretely follow his every move, but I don’t want him to have a phone just yet and I know he’d recognise our car trailing him so I’m going to have to employ a variety of other tactics – including the safety word idea — and trust the world a little in order to let my little boy grow up.
Oh, and I also told him this morning about that little girl in Adelaide who said her parents were dead and he thought that was pretty cool too.
Wish me luck.
The following are some tips The Morcombe Foundation advises to keep your child safe from abduction:
1. When you can, stay with a friend. Even if you have a fight with your mate, don’t go off alone.
2. Be observant. Notice who’s around you and what they’re doing.
3. Have a family password. Something like your favourite food – lasagne, for example. If a person says they are meant to pick you up, test them on the password.
4. With your parents, make a list of five adults you trust. If you ever feel uneasy about anybody or anything, tell one of these people and know you won’t get into trouble. If you feel you’re not being listened to, try someone else.
5. Don’t share information about yourself, like your hobbies or the name of your school with people you don’t know, online or in real life.