These Safety Tips Will Make a Difference
By Grace Cangemi
I have watched with interest the debate about Kyleigh’s Law. As a state certified Rape Care Advocate who once taught classes on reducing the risk of sexual assault, I’m greatly concerned that well-meaning folks are going after the low-hanging fruit without actually making kids safer.
Do stickers identify young drivers? Yes they do. But for years, without stickers, youthful drivers have been giving away clues that lead predators to them. These new stickers may assist some predators in finding victims. They will assist law enforcement in identifying young drivers. But, just as most cops can sniff out a kid behind the wheel, so can a practiced predator.
Instead of (or at least as well as) clamoring for a repeal to this law, parents need to take a good look at what their kids have been taught about reducing risk. A sticker that says “My Kid is an Honor Student at XYZ High School” tells any practiced bad guy that this honor student might well be driving the car. Same with “XYZ High School Soccer” or “Cheerleading.”
We can’t eliminate predators, but we can reduce the risk to our kids by teaching them a few simple rules – letting them know what predators have told us they look for when seeking a victim in a car.
1. NO JUNK ON THE PASSENGER SEAT. A pile of stuff (and especially text books) on your passenger seat says “There’s no one with me.” And girls, please don’t leave clues that you’re girls – no fashion magazines on the seat, shopping bags, and fru fru stuff hanging from the rear view.
2. If you feel that you are being followed, don’t go home unless it’s your only choice. Use your cell phone, if you have one, to call for help, then find a place with plenty of activity and pull in blaring your horn. If you know where the police station is, head for it. If you’re in an unfamiliar place, look for signs for hospitals. Emergency Rooms are open 24 hours a day and there is usually more signage to direct you to a hospital than to a police station.
3. Park in well-lit locations and try to have someone walk you to your car. If you work in a mall, make friends with a security person or buddy up with a friend so that you’re not alone in a dark parking lot.
4. Headphones block out sound. Don’t use them while walking to your car or in any unsafe or unfamiliar environments.
5. If anyone approaches you as you attempt to get into your car, throw the keys as far from the vehicle as you can. No predator is going to crawl around in a parking lot looking for your keys and risk getting caught. Predators look for easy marks. He will move on.
6. Trust your instincts. If you think someone is following you, act as if you are in immediate danger. In any situation, if someone feels threatening to you, trust the voice inside your head and act to get away. If you are near people or in a situation where yelling will draw attention, yell “Fire!” Kids call for help all the time when they’re joking around. “Fire!” catches people’s attention.
Kids were victimized long before Kyleigh’s Law was passed. As the debate continues, please educate your kids on more ways that they can be safer.