‘Stranger danger': Preventing abductions

Abductions like the Amanda Berry case can be a parent's worst nightmare; no matter how safe your community is, the threat is always real.

Officials told News 5 parents need to start talking to children about strangers as early as possible in life to give them a lifelong set of skills to put to action if danger approaches.

Erika King is always concerned about her seven-year-old son's safety. "People are able to get close to Oren. He's really friendly," said King.

It's one of the reasons she enrolled him in karate.

At the Mountain Empire Kempo Karate studio, abduction prevention is part of the curriculum. Owner Chris Massie first teaches kids to avoid going anywhere with strangers and to establish a secret password with parents. "They don't give it to anybody else, and they won't leave with anybody that doesn't know that password," Massie explained.

But if someone tries to take a child, Massie said either run away in a zigzag pattern to make a chase more difficult, or drop down and lock onto their abductor's leg yelling, "This is not my mom/dad!"

"If they say, 'this is not my mom, this is not my dad, this is not my parent,' that gets the attention of some people," Massie said.

But what about young adults like the girls abducted in Ohio?

Tips we learned from authorities include: Don't distract yourself on a phone or with music, and always be aware of your surroundings.

If you can, carry pepper spray in plain sight, and never accept rides from anyone you don't know.  

As for the little ones, we're told as children grow and gain more independence officers encourage parents to still keep a watchful eye and keep communication constant. "It may be a gradual thing where they meet somebody, and they don't tell their parent about it, and then they end up going to the mall, dropping them off, and then leaving and something [could] happen while they're gone, or somebody taking them from there," said Lt. Bobby Russell with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department.

It boils down to giving children the mental tools they need to stay safe for a lifetime, and that's a conversation parents like King will keep on having with their children. "[It] really makes me feel better that he would know what to do if a stranger did try to abduct him," said King.

Here's a fact you can use to teach your kids these skills: Mountain Empire Kempo Karate is offering a free 'stranger danger' class to the public this Saturday, May 11 at their studio on Euclid Avenue in Bristol, Virginia. The class runs from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. To reserve a space for your child, call (276) 644-9990.

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