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Tween Girls Most Vulnerable to Kidnapping

By carolyncastiglia |

A new study has shown that girls ages 10 to 14, walking alone to or from school, are the most likely targets of child abductors.  However, they are also the group most able to “escape harm through their own fast thinking or fierce resistance,” according to The Washington Post.

To be sure, kidnapping ranks high on the list of parental worries, but the crime is “infrequent,” the Post says.  Ernie Allen, president of the missing children’s center, says, “The goal here is not to frighten, but to encourage parents to sit down with their kids, talk to them about their safety, and practice these things.”  These things being the ability to recognize a bad situation and knowing how to respond.  So what should you teach your kids about “stranger danger?”

Successful responses to stranger abduction include kicking and screaming, running or otherwise fleeing the scene.  It’s important to tell your children not to wait for another adult to intervene should they be approached by a stranger trying to lure them into a car.  Allen says, “The child should do whatever is necessary to stay out of the car, because once the child is in that car, it dramatically reduces the chances of escape.”  Teaching your kids not to talk to any stranger is a bad idea, because in fact most people are helpful.  It’s important to tell your children to trust their gut when examining people they don’t know for strange behavior.  If a situation feels bad, it probably is.

In fact, “Federal research shows successful abductions by strangers are relatively rare.”  But about 36,700 abduction cases per year “involve a caretaker, neighbor or someone a child knows at least casually.”  And there are an estimated 204,000 incidents of family abduction annually, most of them presumably surrounding child custody disputes.  If you’re concerned that an ex-partner is likely to kidnap your child, read these tips on the Early Identification of Risk Factors for Parental Abduction, provided by the Department of Justice.

Photo: nannetteturner via Flickr

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About carolyncastiglia



Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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36 thoughts on “Tween Girls Most Vulnerable to Kidnapping

  1. Sarah says:

    The sad thing is it that it’s not usually a stranger. It’s usually someone the child knows, even if just a little.

  2. Emmanuel Lazaridis says:

    Below you will find a selection of comments to the original article in The Washington Post. These and other commentators are right to question whether any conclusions at all can be drawn from this “unscientific” study. (“Because of the limitations, the analysis is unscientific…”) It may well be that the results are entirely the result of self-selection bias.

    Emmanuel Lazaridis, PhD (Statistics)

    jimmy89 wrote:
    This appears to be a fluff piece geared toward gaining support for more money for the center that is quickly running out of cash. With Ernie Allens 7 figure salary/benefits and the center cutting tuition assistance and other benefits, you have to wonder what is going on in this quasi government office.
    The Government is pouring more money into their operations yet they can’t even provide real data. Even the data used to support this article is not scientfic. Trying asking for the data, bet they say NO as they do with all FOIA requests.
    If the WP wants to do a real story, look into the data and find out what the numbers really represent. How much are they spending to get the perceived results they report. I bet it is much more than if we sent that money to the local jurisdictions.

    kcx7 wrote:
    Thanks for mentioning the word “infrequent” within the first two paragraphs of the story.
    But “infrequent” doesn’t begin to characterize how so extremely rare stranger abductions of children are: about 100-130 kids are victims of stranger abduction annually in the USA.
    A child is many times more likely to drown than to be kidnapped. And a child is literally a thousand times more likely to be injured in a car crash than abducted.
    The Post does the public a disservice when it fails to put the extreme rarity of the “child abduction” problem into full context.
    The media whipped up anxiety about this problem by parading every cute blue-eyed abducted kid on the front pages for days. It’s the now media’s responsibility to tamp down the hysteria it created, but I’m not holding my breath.

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