A mother and her two children were shopping at a Dollar Tree in Austin, Texas, last week when a terrifying incident took place.
It was Tuesday evening when the family was at the store. As they shopped, the woman, her son and her 6-year-old daughter browsed separate aisles for a short time, according to an affidavit from the Austin Police Department obtained by KXAN-TV.
While the 6-year-old was on the hunt for candy and separated from her family, an adult male approached her and touched her hair.
According to KXAN, the affidavit said the girl tried to resist but the attacker started choking her and dragging her to the back of the store. Thankfully, the brother noticed and started to scream.
The mother and other people in the store heard the boy screaming, and the man released his grip on the girl and took off.
A suspect was arrested a short time later after police say they found him at a bus stop close by. The 32-year-old, identified as Michael Smith, was charged with aggravated kidnapping and taken to Travis County Jail, where he is being held on a $250,000 bond.
It’s a timely reminder that it’s important to keep a close eye on your kids, especially during the busy holiday season.
Make sure your children know how to respond if they encounter a similar situation. If this brother hadn’t been aware of what was going on and able to react in the way he did, his sister very well might have been kidnapped, or worse.
Skill #26: Trust that ‘Uh-Oh’ Feeling.
You can help kids be safe and strong by teaching them to notice, trust, and act on their Uh-Oh Feeling – and to leave and get help when they feel it.
— Kidpower® (@Kidpower_Intl) April 26, 2019
Irene van der Zande is the founder and executive director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, a nonprofit focused on safety education.
The organization’s website says that it provides “effective and empowering solutions to bullying, abuse, sexual assault, and other harmful behavior through online and live workshops as well as through print publications and digital resources,” and van der Zande has several straightforward tips for preparing children for the worst.
“The first skill we teach is awareness,” she told KGO-TV in 2019. “We teach people to be aware out on the street, to notice trouble whether it is a car or a person and to move away from trouble.”
Van der Zande added that if a child is ever separated from his or her family, he or she should look for a woman with children, as they are generally the safest people to approach and “a woman is most likely to help.”
She also teaches young people to run if they feel threatened, but if they can’t get away, they should yell, “Stop Leave Help” — and they should practice the saying so they can have it memorized if it’s ever needed.
“We practice and we practice, so that they don’t have to think, they just know what to do,” van der Zande said. “So when you’re yelling, ‘Stop Leave Help,’ you’re taking away that privacy and control, and you’re getting the attention of other people and you’re creating uncertainty in the mind of the attacker.”
She also advocates for children to learn self-defense and practice responses they should use in emergency situations and asking for help, and for parents to help their children identify safe areas along common routes.
It’s never too early to start teaching your children how to be safe, and it might just save their life or the life of another child.
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