Girl Missing from State Park! Mustached Man Seen! Massive Search Party! And a Stranger Danger Lesson

Folks — Here’s a story that manages to encapsulate exactly why “stranger danger” is such a stupid — no, HARMFUL —  concept to preach. On Saturday afternoon, a little girl named Jackie was reported missing in a state park in Rhode Island.  As The Westerly Sun reported:

At 3:50 p.m., Charlestown police received a report of a child missing at the 3,100-acre campground. The child, a 7-year-old girl from Connecticut named Jackie with shoulder-length blonde hair, had been last seen wearing a tie-dyed bathing suit and pink Croc clogs, riding her bicycle. The bike was found on the park’s yellow-dot trail near the 700 section of the 730-site campground, but not Jackie.

Initially, a report of a suspicious vehicle spotted earlier in the day at the Charlestown Breachway — a 1996 green Subaru station wagon with a bike rack, with Vermont license plates, driven by a man with dark hair and a mustache — was linked to the case.

Okay, so now we have a missing girl and a man with a mustache. Think the worst! The state police arrive and a massive search party is organized, including soldiers, fire fighters and a K-9 unit. They fan out, even checking car trunks.  But the police tell private citizens NOT to join in the search, for fear they’d get lost, too. (Does it sometimes seem like we bend over backwards NOT to create a cohesive, helpful society?)

Anyway, a mom named Lisa Blair and her much older daughters defy the order and go yelling the little girl’s name. And the girl yells back, “Mommy and Daddy!” Blair has the girl keep yelling, so she can locate her in the dense woods. And she does! Case solved! As it might have been much earlier, except –

Blair said that Jackie told her she had heard men yelling for her earlier, but was scared to approach them. When she heard the women calling out her name, she yelled back.

As it turns out, the girl was lost, not abducted. So…considering that child abductions by strangers are very rare. Considering that we WANT our kids to have the biggest safety net possible. And considering that most people are NOT predators, doesn’t it make sense to teach your children TO talk to strangers? After all, if your children are ever in danger you WANT them to be able to ask for help from the nearest person, and you want them to accept help! Teach them to distrust all strangers, or at least all MALE strangers, and you have cut off almost all the help they could possibly get.

Which inevitably calls to mind the Utah Boy Scout, Brennan Hawkins, who was lost in the mountains for far longer than Jackie: for four days.  People Magazine interviewed his mom after the ordeal and she said:

Brennan told us he thought that he was going to die three times, and he said a prayer asking God for directions. His biggest fear was being abducted, so when he spotted rescuers on horseback, he stayed hidden.

Can we PLEASE STOP TEACHING STRANGER DANGER? PLEASE? — L.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep/ But not everyone in there is a creep.

66 Responses

  1. So Goldilocks went wandering in the woods and got lost. This sounds like me when I was a kid (and I still have no sense of direction). But there was never a big, bad wolf in that story.
    What ever happened to the poor guy in the Subaru who was under suspicion?

  2. A man with a mustache from VT driving a 1996 Subaru with a bike rack? Doesn’t that describe half the men in VT? :)

  3. We must all fear the health nut with a sensible vehicle!

  4. When do the calls to close the camp site start coming in? Surely we now have evidence that camping and woods are dangerous threats to our children and should all be converted into indoor playgrounds.

  5. We went camping last weekend. At one point, I had to run back to our campsite to get my keys so that I could move our car (they asked that all cars be relocated to the front entrance). It was hot. HOT. 95 with a 110 degree heat index hot. After half a day of scout activities in the sun, my son was flagging. So I asked him to stay by the car, located, next to the bathhouse, while I ran to the campsite, which was just about in site of the car. It was maybe 250 feet away (although I’m bad with judging distances). It was a 4 minute walk at best.

    On my way back, I see my son walking toward me, not looking happy. About 10 feet away from him was a woman with three kids. My son ran up to me and said the woman wouldn’t let him stay by the car. Before I could react, the woman came up to me asking if he was my son. When I said he was, she VERY sternly told me “Do NOT leave your child alone. EVER.” I was totally taken aback. I’d been gone, what, 5 minutes. He was next to our car. But it was early in the scout weekend, and I was not looking to make waves, so I just said “ok” and kept walking.

    My son was SO upset. He said he told her his mom said he should stay by the car, but she insisted that he come with her. (For the record, I kind of wish he had stood his ground and stayed.) We talked about how some grownups don’t believe kids can be independent, and how he has the ability to be by himself and do things for himself. He agreed and was pretty indignant. Every time we saw her after that, he would point her out and cling to me, fearful she would lash out at us again. I tried to tell him that she was just a busy body.

    Interestingly, I never saw the 3 kids with her anywhere without her. I don’t know when or how she went to the bathroom. Of course, she probably had other people from her pack with her – I did not. I just don’t get the reality some people live in. I mean, really, NEVER leave your child alone. So, should I have brought my 10-year old with me into the women’s (primitive) bathrooms all weekend. What about the bathhouse. There’s a boys section…should I have gone in there with him.

    Sometimes, Lenore, I think you are making a huge impact. Other times, I think we have a LONG way to go.

  6. Love the Robert Frost reference, more appropriate perhaps than you realize. I check out an old collection of his poetry from the library. The intro mostly spoke about how unusually good he was with children, and how he preferred the company of children. In today’s world… well, his poetry may not have been as joyful.

  7. Love the profiling here — male + mustache + older vehicle + 0 evidence = suspect.

    ARGH!!!!

    “The woods are lovely, dark and deep/ But not everyone in there is a creep.” LOL!

  8. Argh, this is why I preach against stranger danger!!! Not long ago, my daughter’s Monday after school babysitter (dd is six) forgot it was Monday, so my girl got off the bus to an empty house. She decided she’d walk home – only about half a mile (and no houses between, since I live in the country). Good plan, except she went the wrong way. A neighbor stopped, figured out who she was, and called my sister (they are teachers together). As soon as my daughter figured out the adult in question knew grownups she trusted, she hopped in the car with her, and stayed with her until I picked her up. When I found out about this I never once feared that she’d been kidnapped. I knew the people in my neighborhood were good people, and would look out for any kids. I knew my daughter wouldn’t panic. Preacher stranger danger to her would have made what was a fun little adventure into a hair-raising terrifying ordeal.

    I’m spending a bit more time quizzing my daughter on which way to turn when we go home now. :)

  9. @dmd My son is 3 and has a balance bike (no pedals, and no training wheels). He loves to go across the car park between our house and his childminder’s house on his bike. He is pretty good at watching for cars, so I usually let him: I see it as training for being on a real road when he gets his proper bike.

    A few months ago, a woman pulls out of her parking space as we are going across the car park. We stop well back, trying to work out where she is going. She stays still. Eventually, I persuade E that it should be ok to cycle past her, giving her lots of space.

    When we get alongside her, she starts berating me for endangering E by letting him be in the car park. This is a car park so quiet that she is almost the only person we’ve seen actually moving in a car, and I’m walking alongside him. The next day, she does the same to my husband.

    E still notices if that woman’s orange car is in the car park and worries about her.

    If he’d been using a pedal bike, she’d be the first to complain if he was on the pavement, too. But where is a kid supposed to learn road sense? We live in London, it’s not exactly land of quiet roads.

    H

  10. When we went camping in a huge National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains, two little girls went missing. There were helicopters hovering around all night and people feared the worst – that they had been abducted. Turned out they got lost while playing near their campsite and wandered in to the woods. They spent the night in the forest and were found a day later. I always think of this when a child goes missing in a park. Most likely, they wandered off and got lost. Very frightening for all involved, but abductions by strangers are much rarer than lost kids.

    By the way, the description of the suspicious person doesn’t sound too suspicious! Sounds like a Vermont bike-riding hippie. It wasn’t like someone was driving around in a van with no windows offering free candy and trying to get kids to come inside to see some kittens or puppies.

  11. Wow. This really got me worked up. Not one, but TWO children chose to stay lost rather than talk to a stranger. I hope this story gets LOTS of recognition, because we really, REALLY need a change here.

  12. We have become a fear all society :(

  13. On-topic joke:
    There’s a flood. Guy is on his front porch, looking at the water. Rowboat comes by, says get in, we’ll save you. Guy says no, God will save me.

    Water is higher, guy is looking out the 2nd floor window. Power boat comes by, get in, we’ll save you. No, God will save me.

    Water continues to rise. He’s now sitting on top of the chimney, toes dangling in the flood. Helicopter comes by, throws down a rope ladder. Climb up, we’ll save you. No, God will save me.

    The flood continues. The man drowns. In heaven, he asks God, why didn’t you save me?

    God says, I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more do you want?

    Same situation here. People are looking for the lost child, to help / save her. She runs and hides, because… well… her parents were stupid and told her Bad People Would Snatch Her? Idiotic.

  14. This post made my blood run cold. As a person that enjoys the outdoors and has young kids, having them run off and get lost in the woods is something I really do worry about. And it is difficult to counteract the “stranger danger” outlook that they get in school entirely – it is difficult when the message isn’t consistent.

  15. Such a legitimate point! But at the same time, probably because I was raised this way, I distrust strangers. I can see how it would be scary for a child in the woods to hear a bunch of men calling his or her name or see men riding by on horseback. Especially given what parents see on the news each night

  16. Lenore said:

    “Does it sometimes seem like we bend over backwards NOT to create a cohesive, helpful society?”

    I agree whole-heartedly!

    That is the “Monsterous Negative Side Effect” that results when fewer people trust strangers. And I have seen this in people who literally “can’t afford to be suspicious of everyone,” –and I DO mean can’t afford, as in: they don’t have enough MONEY to have the luxury of being suspicious of every single stranger.

    I

  17. We need to evaluate the real risks our children face. Stranger abduction is rarer than a lightning strike. Why organize children’s entire psychology and way of relating to the world around it?

  18. @Carrie…
    I find the statement “people feared the worst – that they had been abducted” in reference to kinds missing in a national forest, quite insane. I’ve lived not terribly far from a national forest, and have an adult relative who got in trouble while hiking alone. When it comes to wilderness areas, abduction is so far down the list of concerns as to be one I wouldn’t entertain for fear of diverting a single resource from finding a person before nature tortures them to death.
    When an adult goes missing, people worry about them being lost and suffering from exposure, dehydration, being injured by a fall, having a run in with a dangerous animal, or having drown.
    With a kid I would worry about the exact same things, plus them feeling too hungry and eating something poisonous.

    Note to self, when we do nature visits with my daughter, I’ll be specifically instructing her that if she gets lost she needs to stay in view on the trails. To find someone/anyone as quickly as possible, and have them take her straight to a park ranger.

  19. Before Brennan Hawkins was Garrett Bardsley. Utah Boy Scout, 11 years old, lost in the woods, NEVER CAME HOME. I think it’s for the same reason Brennan was almost not found – he didn’t come out when people were yelling his name. In fact, Brennan’s experience gave a lot of insight into why Garrett was never found.

    I teach my kids that when someone is calling their name, odds are pretty good that I sent them to look for them. Especially if we’re in the backcountry!

    @dmd – I would have made huge waves. But then I’m a mother of five, oldest is 25 this year, and a grandma of 2, oldest of 8. (I’m also a Cub Scout den leader – I know how those Scout camps can be!) I would have told that busy body woman off. Really, how dare she? Her poor kids. And Scouts. What a miserable experience her den must have.

  20. I guess this means if I ever decide to go camping, I should shave my mustache off. Perhaps I should also notify all the adults there that I am not a predator. Should I wear a sign?

  21. I joined Boy Scouts late, so I was 13 the first times ever went camping, but the first things I was told were: 1. Don’t go anywhere alone, 2. Don’t leave the trail, 3. If you still manage to get lost STAY STILL and we will find you. Are they not teaching this anymore or did I just have an awesome troop?

  22. We need to create some pro freeRange propaganda pieces. From something as small as a business card all the way to a book. Even an easy URL for a beginners website would be good. I think a basic set of poll questions for successful people might be good to show how early self sufficiency was important in their development.

  23. I lost my 3-year-old in the children’s museum today. He had run away and taken the elevator down a level. I found him holding hands with a male employee. I had taught him if he got lost, look for someone with an orange shirt and a nametag.

  24. I encourage my preschoolers to talk to strangers. They know not to take off with a stranger, and to approach rangers/police/firemen/other ‘officials’ for help and directions. When we go anywhere where they may get separated from me, I write my cell number on their arm and have taught them to 1. stop and yell for me, 2. if that fails (hasn’t yet), show someone the number, explain they’re lost, and ask them to call me.

  25. My 4 year old is a wanderer. I’ve taught him what the employees wear in each of our local stores. More than once I’ve found him with an employee explaining, “I’m lost, can you help me find my Mommy?” I think it’s a great skill he’s learning his community will help him.

  26. dmd – I think the response to anyone who tells you ‘Do not do this EVER’ to something you have made a call on is, ‘Do not jump to conclusions ever.’

  27. This is a well-known issue in the Search and Rescue community. (I wrote a novel about a search for a lost girl about 10 years ago, Place Last Seen). SAR teams who teach the hug-a-tree program stress that it’s important to answer when the SAR teams come looking for you, and that they might be on horses, or have dogs, but they’re there to help. Sigh. The SAR literature is rife with examples of kids who hide from rescuers …

  28. My oldest two went off “exploring” the woods with two other boys of similar age. They were WAY off further than I ever would have allowed. When the other mom and I realized that we hadn’t seen them in quite some time I was elected to go hunting. Another dad in our picnic party went as well. I went up and down for 45 minutes hunting for the boys. The dad found them first. None of the boys knew the dad. My oldest grilled him on “what’s your name, how do you know us, what’s our pastor’s name” before coming back to the picnic site with him. :) Well, he didn’t know the guy and we always told him not to go off with strangers.

  29. @dmd: Do 10 year old kids really take a parent with them when they go on a scout camp? Aren’t there camp leaders for that? Don’t kids walk to school on their own from age 6? Travel alone by train when they’re 12?

    I think it’s incredibly irresponsible to teach a child to be so completely dependent on the presence of a parent.

  30. Tara, that is funny – in part because I am sure the boys did not consider themselves lost yet! Good for them for questioning, but also going along.

    When my kids were younger and we lived in Montana near Yellowstone, I gave my kids whistles when we went hiking. Little kids crying or yelling can sound a lot like prey to a meat eating animal. They were supposed to stay in sight, and then stop and use the whistle if they couldn’t see us.

    I have never really done the stranger thing, other than not getting into cars or leaving a building or such. In stores, museums and such, I tell them that I would NEVER meet them outside, and they should not go into any areas not the main part of the store, but it is fine to ask people for help if they need it.

    Since the youngest is now about the same age as the youngest in this story, before we go out in the nature again I will have a talk about if someone is calling your name that I know them. I think they would already know this, but….oldest did do kinder with a teacher who was alarmist, and I wouldn’t be surprised had she said to never talk to strangers and my daughter took it as gospel. The others have been homeschooled, but do take some classes, including karate which has some talk about how to break releases if someone tries to grab you. (They are pretty effective too!)

  31. I have to say I spend time countering the stranger danger lessons my kids learn from other people. It takes a lot of explining why other adults tell them strangers are terible and “kids get taken ALL the time.”

    While chaperoning a 2nd grade field trip to the Natural History Museum, I had a child RUN to be yelling “Josh (my son) is talking to a stranger!” I could see him speaking to a woman with a child in a stroller. I said, ” well what did he say?” -Confused, the other boy said, “he said, ‘that squid is cool’ but it was a STRANGER.” I explained, Josh can talk to strangers, he just can’t GO with strangers.

    Josh is the same kid who at 5 sought out a mom at a beach to call me when he lost my hudband, and at 6 found the concierge at a large hotel when he got separated from us. He is confident. I asked him recently, what would he do if someone came saying they lost their puppy and had an empty leash. He said, ” I’d say, you know, my mom is really good in emergencies, I’m going to get her so we can look together.” … Best response ever!

  32. I take my nephews to airshows. The first thing that I do is to take them to the biggest plane there (usually a C-5) and tell them that if we get seperated go to the big plane. I will be there waiting for you. We’ve never had a problem. Several years ago we were at the Wings Over Pittsburgh show. It was a hot day and we went into a hangar to get out of the sun. The boys were acting up so I told them to settle down and stay near me. I voice behind me said “just let them go wear themselves out”, when I turned around it was the Commanding Officer of the squadron who’s hangar we were in. He said “I have people in place to make sure that they can’t get into trouble, just let them go and have a good time.”. When I found them a bit later, they were sitting in a raft in a big water tank, wearing pilot’s helmets and having the time of their life at the Survival Equipment shop. The oldest went in the Navy and is now a helicopter pilot.

  33. @Jen: I backpack a lot with my kids. Teach them survival skills. Real survival skills, not the adrenaline nonsense on TV. How to build a shelter. How to survive the night in wet clothing. How to signal for help. How to make sure the searchers find you .

    Most survival for kids should be predicated on the almost certain knowledge that a lot of people will be looking for you. They need to stay warm, conscious, and be seen. That means building markers that can be seen from air, horseback, etc.

  34. Wow, can’t believe stranger danger would even be an issue if you were a kid lost in the bush. That’s insane….Maybe we are luckier here because the main danger (and it is a big one) is hypothermia, and the fact that the bush is so dense in many places that you can get lost 10 feet off the path. Nobody is known to have been abducted after being lost in the bush, so that is kind of a non-event. There was a tragic case of a six year old hiding from rescuers and dying, but that was because he was with his grandfather, who sadly was suffering a post-traumatic episode (a returned servcieman), so obviously not the same thing. I think my own kids would just be grateful anyone was out there with them (your imagination goes wild, when you’re out alone at night and there really should be nothing with you – no big animals – nothing to make lots of noise, and noises are heard anyway, LOL!) A ‘stranger’ in those situations would be welcome – at least you know it’s a living breathing human, and not a ‘child of the mist’!

    Anyway, has any child in the US/Canada who got lost ever been assumed to have been taken by strangers? And I might be being a little unsympathetic, but personally I would have been quite embarassed if I had been Brennan Hawkin’s parents. The boy effectively put other people at risk through his foolish behaviour, as I can imagine that the forests of the US have real dangers, particularly in winter. He doesn’t appear to have exercised much common sense, though obviously it’s great that he was found. Same with this little girl, though she was younger…..Hope the parents sit her down and explain what she should do next time if a similar situation arises.

  35. Just read your comment Yan, so true! That’s why our kids, at minimum, always have something flourescent in their backpacks – the bush is so many shades of green that you need somethng bright to be seen. Also lightweight thermals even on hot days – the weather can change so fast.

    Great that people can use horses – that must make getting into places faster….

  36. Reblogged this on And that makes two and commented:
    No comment from me. Not one.

    Snigger.

  37. Please let me raise a child who is smart enough to come out when people are trying to rescue her when she is lost in the woods, regardless of her rescuers gender.

  38. I realize that I am in the minority here, but I think there’s a fine line to be found between Fear-All parenting and Free-Range parenting, and good parenting exists there. I’m nanny to three 2 year old girls in rural VT. We live in a town where everybody knows everyone. I let the girls run free at the playground and in the yard, while making sure they keep away from dangers (the road, the open edge of the playground platform near the fireman’s pole, the garbage can, etc.) I also make sure that they recognize police officers, fire fighters and EMTs based on uniform and vehicle and that they know if they ever can’t find one of their 3 primary caregivers they can ALWAYS turn to one of these men or women for help.

    That said, I would never leave one of the girls unattended for more than a few minutes. I tell them to always call out for me or their parents if a stranger tries to take them somewhere. I let them know it’s not OK to get into a car with someone they don’t know. At the same time, I let them know that if they’re lost and scared and hear people calling for them that they should answer right away. I know there are all sorts of statistics that say the chances of bad things happening to kids aren’t as great as one might imagine, but as one of the few people who experienced first hand just what a stranger is capable of, I can tell you I will do anything in my power to stop another child from ever having to know just what kind of bad people exist in this world (no matter how slim the chances, statistically, that they run into one.)

  39. @ravingrambler – they do still teach that, but it’s so diluted with the “don’t trust strangers ever” crap that the kids default to stranger danger and don’t respond.

  40. I have gone as far as keeping my children home from preschool on days when there are “stranger danger” talks.
    Remember..EVERYONE is a stranger until you meet them!

  41. I have a friend who has a son with high functioning autism who is 12. He wants to play online games. His speech therapist said he should use a microphone, instead of typing. His mom did not want that. The excuse she gave? She didn’t want him talking to strangers. (But she was fine with him typing.)

    I asked her if she ever talked to strangers. “No, never!” BS I told her! She is a real talker and she talks to cashiers, postal workers, people who stop to help her get her car running when she was stranded, me when we first met at the park….all sorts of people. How was her son ever going to learn to do these things? By her example, of course.

    What it really boiled down to, when I talked with her further and she realized what she said was silly, was that she actually needed her son to type. He has had a really hard time writing anything, and with the games, he was giving instructions to other players, telling them the rules, and of all things, chatting about politics in Greece. I told her to tell the speech therapist that the OT really wanted him to do the typing. But don’t give BS answers. We all talk to strangers, all the time.

    We owe it to our kids to not do double talk when it comes to this. Had this little girl been in Yellowstone instead, she could have easily ended up as bear food because she was too scared to answer anyone.

  42. Poor kids who were already alone and scared and then had the society added terminal fear o strangers on top of it all.

    as for the scout mom, I would have looked the busybody square in the eye and said, “I should report you for not following the 2 on 2 rule for scouting. YOU did not have a second adult with you and YOU dragged my son, without my permission, away from a place he was supposed to be.

    I always try to throw the “stranger taking my child without permission” right back at someone with you are a stranger and you took my child without my permission.”

  43. “I’m nanny to three 2 year old girls in rural VT. …That said, I would never leave one of the girls unattended for more than a few minutes.”

    Well of course not. THEY’RE 2!! 2 year olds shouldn’t be left unattended for more than a few minutes.

    However, I leave my 6 year old unattended for brief periods of time. I expect these periods to become longer as she ages until at 18 she is ready to be unattended 24/7. The world simply doesn’t work that you can never leave your children unattended for any period of time throughout childhood and then cut them loose at 18 and expect good results.

  44. @cait: I think you are in the majority here. This is not abandoning your kids and hoping some stranger somewhere will help them out; this is about trusting your kid(s) to make the right decisions. The key is “make decisions” – a 2 year old can hardly be trusted to make reasonable decisions.

    I would have never left my kids outside when they were 2. Today, at 12, my son left at 11 and came home at 5. No problems, he had a grand time, and all is well.

  45. There”s the story of a small boy who became separated from his parents in a large railway station. They looked all over and finally found him with a group of nuns. The very relieved mother says to one of the nuns, “I’m so glad we found him! I hope he wasn’t bothering you, Sister. And the nun smiled and said, “Not at all. We’ve been having a good time here–he thinks we’re penguins.”

  46. gearspring, a good idea. if you’re a blogger or writer, perhaps you should!

  47. We are friends with a few of the firefighters in our town and they said they had to redo some of the fire safety week training to include “don’t be afraid of firefighters” because kids would still hide when they were trying to rescue them.
    One of the firefighters dresses in his full gear (which CAN look scary) and puts on his oxygen mask too. He makes all the kids touch his arm and repeat “firefighters are our friends, they are here to help us” to take some of the fear away.
    Sadly, some kids are so conditioned to only do what their mom and dad tell them to do because they are ever-present.

  48. I think free-range parents need some kind of response prepared ahead of time for when busybody parents question their decisions. It seems many people get caught in the headlights when this happens and just stand there and take the tongue-lashing, which is is a normal response, but it still makes me angry when good parents take this crap from people.

  49. @ElizabethKay That’s the part that baffles me as well. A ‘stranger’ takes it upon themselves to say “you must come with me or a stranger might take you away with them”. I’m sure in their inner narrative that’s all very well because they know they’re not ‘one of those people’, but it just goes to show you how much of their own little world they live in. Perhaps they should talk to more people they don’t know ;)

    Save us all from meddlesome people and their good intentions.

  50. So because of the “stranger danger” mentality that paranoid parents instill in their children, this could have easily had a bad ending. All because the girl was afraid to let her location be known to male rescue workers. I hope this serves as a hard lesson to all the fearful parents out there. What you teach your kids, and how you teach them will greatly affect their lives as children and adults. Teach them fear, and that is what they will know as normal the rest of their lives. Teach them not to fear strangers, but to know how to look out for danger, you empower them with confidence and independence. Unless of course, you are one of those parents who refuse to let their children grow up in their eyes, and constantly babies, coddles, and over protects them even well into their teen and young adult years. It’s not about you, stop being so selfish.

  51. About six years ago, my 5 year old was riding the yellow school bus home from her first day of Kindergarten. Long story short, no one told the bus driver that there was a Kindergarten kid or that she needed to start making a drop-off at a previously empty stop. The bus flew right by our house (I didn’t know it was our bus as several from different schools use that route,) and kept going. My girl realized that she was getting too far from home and got off about a kilometre from our house, oriented herself, and began to walk home. When she got close to the busy street we lived on, she asked a mom walking with a stroller to help her cross the street. But our biggest surprise wasn’t to see our little girl walking home from the wrong direction. It was when an elderly lady that we knew from church strolled up. Turns out, she was walking her dog in the neighbourhood and saw our daughter – who she didn’t recognize – looking kind of lost as she made her way home, and decided to follow at a discrete distance to make sure she was okay. So, in one 10 minute period, two “strangers” took time out of their lives to help out a child that they didn’t know, because it was the right thing to do. This is “normal”, not all this “ohmygosh what could have gone wrong?” we are obsessed with.

  52. [...] not confuse the issues with a bunch of facts; free ebooks; the very idea of stranger danger is dangerous; turns out drivers have to pay attention when driving a stick shift; I’d like to see this [...]

  53. @Havva: Yes! We have wildlife that eats people. Worry about the pumas and black bears before you worry that the next hiker your lost child meets will be a sexual predator with a thing for children.* We have plants that can make you ill just from touching them: worry about devil’s club stings. Even kids with survival training could eat the wrong berry: worry about baneberry poisoning. And everybody is vulnerable to heatstroke, hypothermia, and dehydration. Teach the kid to look for grown-ups and ask for help!

    *There is something seriously wrong with a society that teaches children to treat all adults like man-eating animals.

  54. stranger danger is such an old fashioned concept, I think it went out about 20 years ago here. You should be teaching kids “child protection’ to” no go tell” and about “good and bad feeling” – I am sure you get the gist. BTW have you ever asked your kids “what does a stranger look like?” we did at school with our Year 1 class. According to Year 1 a stranger is a monster, who wears dark clothes. So don’t assume your kids even understand what a stranger is.

    It is a huge concern that kids are getting lost in the bush/woods and are too afraid to respond to rescue crews because they are strangers and men – that really is crazy.

    Remember most abused kids are abused by people they know – sad but true.

  55. @dmd and others… This is exactly why our local rec centre had to spend tons of money upgrading their pool facilities. They had to make separate changerooms for men, women, boys, girls and family. Of course everyone except the single men use the family changeroom so most of the space goes to waste.
    Not trying to be pervy, but same sex changerooms are a subtle way for kids to learn that our bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

  56. [...] taking interest in a child is seen a potential (even likely) pedophile.  Don’t believe me?  Example #1–A girl lost in the woods hears men (part of the rescue team) calling her name and stays [...]

  57. Well said Lenore, well said.

  58. This is a dangerous situation as a large portion of our police, fire fighters and rescue personnel are male.

  59. This is one of the scariest reasons not to teach stranger danger. If the kids are too afraid of the people who would offer help, how can they be helped? The boy has been helped by many a kind stranger. Once a stranger who thought he knew better than me as the boy’s parent, tricked the boy and called the police. The boy was very distressed and learned that even well meaning strangers can be dangerous, not because they want to abduct him but because they have bought into the fear. It was a hard lesson for both of us.

  60. I just came across a book review and had to share: this individual is reviewing a Madeline L’Engle book (author of great novels such as A Wrinkle in Time, where a family tesseracts and time travels). This reviewer found one of L’Engle’s books unrealistic: “as I’ve gotten older there are some plot points I find a bit unrealistic (like parents allowing a 16 year old to go off on a month long trip with a older male chaperone), but that doesn’t affect me enough to challenge my love for the book.”

    http://bibliothec.wordpress.com/tag/author-madeline-lengle/

    What is wrong with the world ???

    (I just needed to rant!)

  61. There is a rather large car auction locally every year nearby. My sons LOVE cars. One year, on our way, we went over safety tips. “what’s mummy’s name?” (I have an unusual name, if they can spit it out and somebody call for me, I know it’s me.) My sons were about 4 and 2 at the time. I said “who do you look for if you lose mommy?” and my four year old replied “somebody with a gun! He will help me find you!”

    And, honestly, I saw no need to discourage this thought. Police have guns. If somebody is open carrying in an auction filled with 100k+ people, odds are good, they’ve already had a background check, etc. so, I agreed, and then pointed out the workers uniforms as well. So, not only have I neglected to teach them about stranger danger, I allowed them to think it was ok to approach men with guns. So far, so good.

  62. Reblogged this on singlemomontherun and commented:
    What do you think? Stranger Danger: Yay or Nay?

  63. I think moderation in all things is the way to go. Teach common sense caution, but also don’t instill unwarranted fear. Sure, she should be taught to answer a group of rescuers who know her name, male or not, but she also very well could have hidden from a pervert. A lot of it depends on where you live. If your kid, esp. your girl, got lost in rural Idaho (and many other places) and approached a strange man, she’d be gone…at least when I was growing up there. People just need to teach detailed situations and keep a better eye on their small children so that it doesn’t become an issue…you can let them wander and adventure while simultaneously keeping an eye on them (without them even knowing)…or you can wander and adventure WITH them! Stranger danger, I have to say, saved my life and the lives of other young girls I knew, more than once. I have been grabbed and attacked by strangers many times. I knew a girl in Idaho who fought off and outran kidnappers while walking home from school three times.

  64. The reason most kids who get kidnapped know their kidnappers is because of custody battles, and because it is easier to abduct a kid when you know them (think about it). That doesn’t mean there isn’t a child abduction/pornography/rape/violence epidemic. There is also such a thing as human trafficking. And sorry, but statistics show (and observation/experience shows) that most child molesters/rapists/etc. are men. Don’t like it? Work to educate and end sexual abuse/assault and the machismo Patriarchal culture that promotes it.

  65. A strange man kidnapped, raped, and killed my daughter and son seven years ago. I wish I had taught them not to trust and obey all adults. The kids who only run into helpful strangers are the kids of lucky parents. Don’t take this luck for granted.

  66. @Brenda D. – I’m very sorry for your loss. I agree with you wholeheartedly – not all strangers are helpful and this is why my children WILL NOT EVER go with a stranger. We’ve done play acting reinforcing that they should not trust people they do not know even if the people tell them “it’s OK – Mom sent me” etc.

    I’m not a hovering parent, I’m a realistic one. There are dangers in today’s world and I think it is important to teach my children to be aware and smart when they are without me or their Dad. If they are out riding their bikes or walking to the town pool/park, they must have a buddy or they do not go. They are taught to be looking around for things that don’t seem right and to find a trusted adult (as in a staff member of the pool or a worker in a store) and ask to call home. I don’t allow them in places without trusted adults around. If they are going somewhere with nobody around, then I’m around.

    And on the topic of safety, what’s wrong with being aware of your surroundings to help ensure safety? I do this – I don’t go into dark alleys or desolate parking areas. WHY? because I know that bad things happen. Vermont is a pretty easy going state in terms of safety but we’ve got predators too… a couple from my city was just abducted from their home and killed – their bodies left in an abandoned house and thought to be in a landfill now that the house was torn down and dumped. Do I lock doors behind me when I come in the house or go in the car? Heck yeah. I don’t consider it being overprotective, it’s called smart.

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