“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

April 2018, North Myrtle Beach: Two children escaped an attempted abduction by an unknown man in a black van. Police later captured footage of the van and the man attempting to grab one of the children as they ran away. After getting separated, one of the children ran into a hotel lobby for help – quick thinking that alerted police and ensured safety for both children.

Child abductions can happen anywhere. The account above is only one recent attempted abduction that was thwarted because the kid or kids involved knew how to react and how to get to safety. We’re also heading into the season where many travelers will be going through our area. There’s no better time than right now to talk to your kids about avoiding abductors and keeping themselves safe. Here are our top tips:

1. Trust no one. Teach your children not to trust any stranger of any age, even other children. Also, teach your children not to trust any family acquaintance unless you have expressly told them this person would be there to pick them up or take them to a place. Many abductions are committed by people known to the child. Also, teach them that adults should never ask children for help – this is a common ruse abductors use to lure children to a more remote area before kidnapping them.

2. Run away. If the stranger is in a car, run in the opposite direction than the car is moving in. Run toward people, the more people, the better. Good places to run for safety include stores, restaurants, hotel lobbies and other businesses where people are present. If in a residential neighborhood, look for a family on a walk with children and walk with that family. Explain to them what has happened and if they have a cell phone with them, to please call the police immediately.

3. Fight back. Too often, we teach children to be polite to adults but if they are dealing with an adult they don’t know or don’t trust, we don’t tell them they don’t have to be polite in that situation. Kids need to know they should scream, kick, bite, scratch, stomp toes and fight back in any way needed to avoid being pulled into someone’s vehicle. Teach kids to fight back until they can get loose and run away, then run and scream their way to safety.

4. Refuse to go with them. This point is critical to share with your children. Once any person, child or adult, is moved to a secondary location by an abductor, the chances of being found alive and unharmed drop significantly. Teach your children to never, never, never go with anyone you have not discussed with them as a safe person beforehand, and absolutely never any stranger.

Some parents might be concerned that teaching children what to do in a possible abduction attempt will scare them. In truth, learning ways to deal with strange adults and possible abductors will empower them to do what is needed to protect themselves. Make sure to teach kids to trust their gut. Let them know that if something feels suspicious, off, wrong or uncomfortable to trust that and act as needed to get to safety.