Remember being in school and learning about “stranger danger?” Me too. But that’s something that only happens to other kids, right? Kids that live in crappy areas. Kids whose parents don’t pay enough attention to them. Kids who aren’t smart. That is 100% completely untrue. How do I know? Because it happened to our family last week.
My 14 year old niece was on her way home from school, when an unknown 24 year old male approached her and tried to lure her into his car “just for a few minutes.” She told him that she was only 14, and he said he didn’t care. He asked for her phone number. Offered her a trip to a local amusement park. Offered her money…MONEY…to get into his car.
We live in a low-crime city. Nothing major happens here very often. Sure there are thefts and fights, but rarely murders, rapes, kidnappings, or abductions.
My niece is a smart kid. She doesn’t run around with the “wrong” crowd or drink or do drugs. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, and a family that makes sure that she stays on the straight and narrow path. She knows that bad things happen to good people.
She’s not sheltered or a wild child. She’s smarter than her years, and knows better than to talk to a stranger. She’s smart enough to know that when a strange man approaches her (stranger danger!) and won’t leave her alone, she needs to say and do whatever she needs to do to survive the situation.
I’m not kidding when I say she’s smart. She took video, without him knowing, of the conversation they had. She got his license plate number. She gave him her (totally fake and not even close to her real) phone number when he asked…anything to make him go away. But he didn’t. She walked off, and he got in his car and followed her. Fortunately, someone upstairs was watching over her and sent a Good Samaritan to her rescue. A random woman noticed something was not right and stopped to make sure my niece was okay. That scared the guy away.
What I’m trying to say is that stranger danger is REAL. It happens. It happens to good kids in good towns. It happens to smart kids. It frickin’ happens.
The suspect was arrested a few days later thanks to my niece keeping her wits about her and being smart enough to get as many details as she could. And because of a Good Samaritan. Because who knows what would’ve happened if that woman didn’t stop to help.
And you know what? People didn’t believe the story. After we shared it on social media, people said it wasn’t true because there was no proof. People thought we exaggerated the situation, or tried to make it sound worse than it really was. People thought that since he didn’t touch her that a charge of Annoying or Molesting a Child Under the Age of 18 was harsh. Jail time even if he didn’t actually do anything? Here’s how I will address that one: What does a 24 year old man want from a 14 year old girl whom he doesn’t even know that would make him offer her money to get in his car “just for a few minutes?” It wasn’t good conversation about current events, we all know that. He wanted something sinister. He came from another county, cities away, to find a young girl. For conversation or friendship? I don’t think so, and I bet you don’t either.
Stranger danger, in any way, shape, or form, should be a felony. I’m sorry, but just because “nothing happened” because he didn’t get the chance to make it happen doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be held accountable. I don’t feel bad for him. I don’t care about his excuses. I want other parents to know that stranger danger happens, every day, every where, to every kind of kid.
So what do you need to know so that you can make sure your children are prepared if something similar happens to them? Thankfully, our police department shared some tips that can be used by kids anywhere and everywhere if they are ever in a stranger danger situation.
Stranger Danger: What You And Your Kids Need To Know
Thank you to Corona Police Department for sharing these tips that can be used by all parents to educate their kids about Stranger Danger and what to do in these situations:
- Never talk to strangers
- Never take items from strangers, such as money or candy
- Never go anywhere with someone you don’t know
- If approached by a stranger, stay more than an arms reach away from them
- If approached by a stranger, seek help immediately
- Trust instincts, if something feels wrong seek help and call police immediately
- Use the buddy system whenever possible, avoid walking to or from school alone
- Know your home address and phone number in case school officials or police need your information
I’d also like to add that if kids are walking home or anywhere and they are alone, they should also stay off of their cell phones and pay attention to their surroundings! Just like when adults are driving, being on a phone while walking alone can be dangerous.
Another tip we’ve implemented with our kids is that if they are approached by anybody (whether they know the person or not) who tells them that mom and/or dad wanted them to go with him (or her), they should know the password. A secret word the kids can remember but that nobody would ever guess. All 3 of my kids know the word. And you’d never guess it!
And always tell your children that if someone is trying to grab them or makes them uncomfotable in any way, to kick, scream, yell, bite…do WHATEVER they need to do to get away or to get other people’s attention.
Luckily for my niece and for all of us, she trusted her gut, stayed away from him, and said what she needed to say to try to get away from him. We are SO PROUD of her and her bravery. While she is doing okay after the incident, she’s feeling a lot of victim feelings and trying to digest what happened. Please send her some positive thoughts and good wishes; she deserves them!
And please, PLEASE share this information with your family and friends. Because it really can happen to anybody.