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Teach you, your child to prevent child abductions

Written by Sara Bruestle   

Wednesday, 17 June 2009 


Every year, more than 797,500 children under the age of 18 are reported missing, according to a 2002 study conducted by the United States Justice Department.  Of that total, almost 204,000 were family abductions.  An estimated 58,200 were abducted by somebody other than family.  Of those, 115 were taken by strangers.  

But don’t talk child abduction statistics with Jim Curtis, executive director of the North American Self-Defense Association. He’s been teaching abduction prevention training against strangers since 1990 for NASDA, an organization that provides and promotes self-defense training in the United States, and he doesn’t want anybody to pay attention to the percentages.  

“Not as many kids are abducted by strangers as they are by family members, but if you happen to be that one kid that is abducted, statistics don’t mean anything,” Curtis said.  “After a kid’s been abducted, even if he or she isn’t molested or murdered by whoever abducts them, there’s still a trauma that occurs that’s going to stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

 “So giving the kids a tool to help them avoid that abduction makes a lot of sense to me,” he added.  “Prevention’s a pound of cure, is what the saying is.”

This past weekend, Curtis conducted free abduction prevention training clinics at the HOPE Fitness Center in Mukilteo for children from 5 years to 12 years old and their parents.

“Preparing our children to be safe and to protect themselves is of the utmost importance,” said Kathy Hope, owner of HOPE Fitness Center, Inc. “As we attend more outdoor events and travel to new places this summer, our children are exposed to strangers, large crowds, and uncertain situations.  It is important to equip our children with the knowledge of what to do if they are put in a situation where they are uncomfortable or frightened or even become separated from their families.”

Jim Curtis, executive director of the North American Self-Defense Association, teaches kids and parents about abduction prevention this weekend at Hope Fitness Center in Mukilteo. Both kids and their parents learned how to lesson kids’ chances of being abducted, along with some take home lessons so families can practice their new techniques. The clinics are designed to teach kids about stranger danger and how to use some simple but effective safety techniques if and when a stranger attempts to grab them or lure them away.  Parents help perform several safety drills during the clinics, so they’ll be able to rehearse and reinforce the training at home.

“A lot of kids express relief after going through the abduction prevention training,” Curtis said.

“They kind of feel empowered to have something that they can do if someone does approach them.  Kids need to feel empowered.  They need to feel like they can take action on themselves.”

At the clinics, Curtis teaches four basic techniques a child can use when they think they’re in danger.  Those techniques are as follows:

1)    Yell and scream to draw attention to yourself and the situation.  

“The number one technique is just making a lot of noise,” Curtis said.  “They can say ‘Leave me alone, you’re not my dad’  or things like that, just so other people can become aware that there’s something taking place that’s not normal, that’s not a kosher deal that’s going on there.”

If the child is grabbed, he or she can use any of the last three techniques to get away.

2)    Kick the person in the leg.

Make sure the children know to aim their kicks below the knee so it’s harder for somebody to grab their feet, Curtis said.

3)    Stomp on the person’s feet.

4)    Bite the person.

“If somebody is holding on to your arm, you can bite their thumb or whatever to get them to release you,” Curtis said.  

Then, once they get released, the children need to run like the wind, Curtis said.  Run to a designated safe house in the neighborhood, where somebody will most likely be home if the child knocks on the door.  Run to a worker, if they’re in a mall or a grocery store.  Just run and find somebody who can help.

Of course, the best thing to do is to avoid those dangerous situations, Curtis said.

“If you don’t talk to strangers, then they don’t get a chance to trick you into doing something that you wouldn’t do,” he said.  “Talk to your kids about how sometimes it’s OK to talk to a stranger, but only when Mom or Dad is there.  And it’s OK to tell a stranger ‘no’ or to leave you alone if there’s no one else around.”

Anytime they step out their front door, children need to be wary of strangers – especially at playgrounds, parks, beaches, swimming pools and airports, Curtis said.  Those are areas of great concern, because people who prey on kids understand that’s where the kids are going to be and where parents tend to drop their guard.

“My wife works in an airport, and she’s always telling me it’s amazing how many people will go down to pick up their baggage and they’ll forget all about their kid,” Curtis said.  “They’ll leave their kid 20 or 30 feet behind them.  Well, how hard would it be for someone to snatch a kid in that situation?  Not very hard.”

Parents should do follow-up coaching on these and other abduction prevention techniques with their children every few weeks at first and then every few months, Curtis said.  That way, it will stay fresh in the kids’ minds.

“With kids, if you’re going to teach them something you can’t just do it once and then forget about it,” he said. “You’ve got to reinforce it.  Kids and teenagers, they need reminders.  A lot of times they think they’re invincible, and that’s certainly not the case.”

To request another abduction prevention training clinic, call the Hope Fitness Center at 425-348-5304 or e-mail Kathy Hope at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

For more information on abduction prevention training for children or assault resistance training for teens and adults, visit the North American Self Defense Association’s Web site at

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