What would you do if a stranger woke you up in the middle of the night with a knife to your throat and threatened that if you made a noise your family dies? Even more importantly, what would your child do?
Hopefully, that is something you will NEVER have to answer.
A Mother’s Worst Nightmare…
There is one person that many of you know that had to experience just that – Elizabeth Smart. I had the opportunity to listen to her speak to a group of women at a Healthy Woman’s event. She began by taking us back to that very dark day where her life was changed forever!
It was a typical day at school with friends and everyone excited for the Summer break to start. She described everything in such detail from the last conversations she had with her friends, to what her brother teased her about. At first I wondered how she could remember those conversations so vividly, but those were the last happy moments she had to grasp onto for the next 9 months.
On June 5, 2002, after going to bed, Brian David Mitchell came into her room and put a knife to her throat. Not wanting her family to die as he had threatened her, she complied and went with him.
At one point as she was hiking through the hills she stopped and told Mitchell “If you’re just going to rape and murder me, please do it here.” She wanted her parents to know what had happened to her and that she hadn’t run away, or have them think that she was upset with them.
All he said was, “I’m not going to do that to you … yet.”
That night Mitchell raped her and for the next 9 months he would bind and rape her every day.
My heart ached for Elizabeth when she shared these feelings – “Who would ever want to have anything to do with me? Who would want to be my friend? I felt so ruined. I thought about the children who had been murdered and thought they were lucky. I wished that was me.”
She was brought up to never tell a lie, but she finally justified that Hell couldn’t be worse than what she was going through. If lying to her abductors is what it took to get her out of this situation, she was going to give it a try. Being manipulative is what ended up saving her life. She talked them into moving back to Utah, where she was from, and the day she arrived someone recognized her and she was once again re-united with her family.
The focus of the evening was overcoming adversity, and Elizabeth is a daily demonstration that it is possible. She shared one my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa, that I think many people can relate to.
What stuck with Elizabeth the most was what her mother said the day they were reunited – “What this man has done is terrible. He has taken 9 months of your life… don’t give him another second. By living and by being happy, that’s the best punishment you could ever give him.”
I can’t imagine the journey that Elizabeth has gone through and continues to go through, but she was truly inspiring that night. We all left with a renewed hope that we could make it through whatever challenges we were facing.
Sadly, Elizabeth’s story isn’t an isolated incidence.
Children everyday are being bullied, abused, sexually assaulted, and many other awful things.
Some of the stats mentioned on radKIDS are:
- 58,200 Children are abducted by non-family members (including an estimated 115 victims of stereotypical kidnappings)
- 203,903 Children are abducted by family
- In 40 percent of stereotypical kidnappings, the child was killed, and in another 4 percent, the child was not recovered
- American schools house approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims.
- Bullying in school tends to increase through elementary grades, peak in middle school, and drop off by the 11th and 12th grades.
- Each day in the United States, more than 3 children die as a result of child abuse in the home 92.5 % were under the age of seven; over 80% were under the age of 4, and 45 % of the children were under the age of one
- 797,500 children missing per year (2,185) per day
- Overall girls are 6 times more likely than boys to be victims of sexual assault; 73% of victims under 12 were girls, 27% were boys
- 1 of every 3 incidence of sexual abuse reported to law enforcement are children under 12 years of age. 1 of every 7 are under age 6
- For more stats, visit radKIDS
Sometimes we would rather believe that nothing will ever happen, or we don’t want to scare our kids by talking to them. The fact is it does happen, and even though we would like to live in fantasy-land, all we would be doing is lying to ourselves.
What haunts me the most is something Charles Ramsey, the man who freed the 3 women and 6-year-old child in Ohio. mentioned in his interview the day after. He was asked what the captor of the women (and his next door neighbor) was like, and Ramsey’s response was, “Cool… he was no freak of nature, he was like me and you.” (By the way, I think his interview is one of my all time favorites.)
The hard truth is you don’t know who to protect your kids from by just looking at them. When my husband worked at the prison he would often mention that some of the most normal people in there had some of the most unthinkable crimes.
So what do you do when loading your kids down with knives, guns, and pepper spray isn’t an option?
You may want to consider a program Elizabeth Smart shared with us that night. In this video, she discusses the radKIDS program and why she got involved with them!
Elizabeth mentioned to everyone “how wonderful it is when women, children and men return home safe, but how much more wonderful would it be if it never happened? We can’t guarantee that there’s never going to be another kidnapping or there’s never going to be another case of child abuse, but if we can lessen that by any degree, then it’s certainly worth it.”
I liked her advice for parents to stop telling your kids what they shouldn’t do, but what they should do if ever faced with needing to defend themselves. But even then, sometimes parents don’t give the best advice or know how.
I hear moms all the time tell their kids to scream as loud as they can if they’re ever in trouble. Quite frankly, I have learned to permanently tune-out screaming. No one CARES about your screaming bratty children! Believe me, the only time people will ever pay any attention to them is to tell them to shut-up (I know, I’ve had that happen a few times)!
I like my friends approach a little better – she’s taught her son to yell – “STOP TOUCHING MY PENIS.” Maybe you don’t agree with that, but I can GUARANTEE more people will come to the rescue!
I’m sure the radKIDS program has even better self-defense techniques and advice than I do, so I’ll briefly explain some of the things I learned that night.
The radKIDS Program
radKIDS has 3 main principles:
- You are special and no one has the right to hurt you.
- Because you’re special, you don’t have the right to hurt anyone else, including yourself, but you do have the right to do whatever it takes to get away.
- It’s NOT your fault, and it’s ok to tell.
The Basics of the radKIDS Program:
- rad stands for = Resist Aggression Defensively
- It trains children how to avoid, resist, and if necessary escape from harm.
- It helps with bullying, preventing abduction, internet safety, personal space safety, and much more.
- It’s a 10 Hour Safety Education Program.
- Anywhere between 3.5 to 13 years old can attend.
- Over 250,000 children have already gone through the program.
How You Can Get Involved:
- Find a radKIDS Program Near You
- Start a radKIDS Program in Your Community
- Become an Instructor
- Support radKIDS so They Can Help More Children
Elizabeth’s story is one that has touched my life and made me realize protecting my children is not an option. I know we all may do it in different ways, but I hope you will take a moment to at least think about it. Having something happen to one of my children is one nightmare I never want to live!
Let us know – what do you currently do? or plan to do? to protect your children and keep them safe…