Remember when, as kids, we were told never to talk to strangers? "Stranger Danger" was a rather failed campaign, IMHO. Having worked in the criminal system briefly, dealing predominantly with sexual offenders, I can say definitively that 95% of the cases I came across involved victims who were assaulted by someone that they knew. These weren't boogeymen lurking in bushes wearing dark clothes. These were coaches, relatives, friends and "trusted" adults. Oh, and 99% of the offenders were male.
So imagine my delight to have come across this info: Safely Ever After, an innovative safety program for kids. You can find a good summary of it on Checklist Mommy's blog. The SEA site also has tons of great tips and information for you to read.
Essentially, kids need to learn that sometimes they do need to talk to strangers. They need to know that the safest adults that they could probably approach if they needed help would be a mommy with several kids (think about it - if you were out with your babies and some poor child looked scared and alone and needed help, wouldn't you totally do everything in your power to assist and protect?! Exactly. Us mommas are safe and fierce protectors, and we need to stick together to keep all youngsters safe!). Kids need to understand that the people they should be most wary of are tricky adults, grown-ups that ask them to keep secrets or disobey their parents or help them with tasks that they should be asking other grown-ups to assist with (e.g. finding a lost dog). Heck, teach kids to be wary of all adults. Trust is not a right, it's a privilege.
Parents also need to trust their intuition and get educated on how predators work (usually by grooming their victims for long periods of time, gaining parents' trust, finding ways to isolate or prey on the vulnerabilities of kids). Since most offenders are not strangers, parents must exercise the utmost caution when entrusting their children into the care of another adult. They have to also pay attention to their kids, and look out for "red flags" that suggest that something is "off." As a mommy of a daughter, I am uber-cautious, to the point of paranoid (at least, according to Hubbs). In my defense, it is best to err on the side of caution because the consequences are far too severe, should I be mistaken. Suffice it to say, I have a very short list of people who I trust. Shorter than you might even think.
So please please please get informed about this, and teach your children to be discerning and active thinkers! The plight of abused children is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, and because I've read enough victim impact statements to know for certain that the damage caused by predators is irreversible and far-reaching, my hope and prayer is that you and your kids will be safe from harm, and that nobody "tricky" will have the opportunity to infiltrate your lives. Keep those lines of communication open with your children, and stay involved! Their safety depends on you!