According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), 33% of AMBER Alerts issued in the U.S. between 2011 and 2016 involved children abducted by non-family members. Over the same span, over 94% of all abductions (not just AMBER Alerts) were by family, friends, or other known acquaintances. 1/3 of sexual offenses against children are committed by other minors.
Media news outlets sometimes portray that abductors primarily consist of strangers or registered sex offenders (RSO), which has proven invalid. When a child is reported missing, members of the media advise parents to check sex offender registries to prevent their child from possible abduction or sexual victimization. However, FBI reporting indicates that RSOs are a minimal part of the problem.
When we teach about stranger awareness in the Academy, the overwhelming definition we get is “a stranger is someone you don’t know.” Although parents teach their children to stay away from strangers, most neglect to teach them not to allow anyone, even someone they know, to take them without parental consent. Additionally, children frequently are instructed to obey elders without question, adding to their vulnerability to offenders known to the child victim. We want our students, and all children, to realize that there are people in their lives that they see everyday and even trust (teachers, coaches, clergy, etc), that they still shouldn’t go with alone.
You should always teach your child to be aware and listen to their gut. It is always OK to say no if they feel something isn’t right. It could be a hug from an uncle, going in a private room alone at church, going into an office with the doors closed at school. If they don’t feel comfortable, they have the right to say no. Although we don’t want children to be afraid of everyone, they should be aware. Learning social skills and talking with new people is important but only under safe circumstances.