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{Dear Ambria}, Not All People Are Good People.

"A few years later, it happened again. A childhood camp friend disappeared. I was old enough then to remember rumors of an upsetting story, possibly a familial abduction gone awry, or maybe even the work of a serial killer, but again, there was no forthright discussion in our house or in the community. Instead, there were rumors and a silent acceptance of the girl's disappearance. Questions were not encouraged, answers not given. Perhaps it was a symptom of fear; discussing the unbelievable, the terrifying, might make it happen. But, as parents, we have a responsibility to discuss these difficult topics with our children. All kids need reliable information. Yes, of course, how you talk about tough topics differs with a child's age, but again, all kids need information. That is just common sense."
-Safe Kids, Smart Parents (Bailey, E. and Bailey, R., 2013)

Jaycee Dugarg was held in captivity for 18 years. She was kidnapped at 11 years old and suffered constant abuse. Jaycee was walking to school in South Lake Tahoe, California, when she was kidnapped by the couple Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

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Dear Ambria,

You are two now. 

The more I read about these horrible, sick cases of child abductions and torture of women and children, the more worry I have; more than I can possibly describe to you. I just want you to be safe...and that probably means I am going to have to tell you about things I don't want to in a few years, but I must for your sake.

I keep thinking how lucky I am, to have survived my 30-years as a millennial, in America, without any instance of true abuse, harm, endangerment, imprisonment, rape, assault, crime or otherwise. 

I have to agree with my friends who take active roles in ensuring their daughter's safety and survival with talks about safety, even if they may be somewhat uncomfortable, because it is the best chance of survival without being permanently damaged or scarred by sexual abuse. I would rather it be me, your mom, to warn you rather than some demented pervert or crazy coming along. 

Now, we are not here to judge; that is not our place. But we can certainly be aware, and  honest with our sons and daughters. Times simply aren't like they were 50 years ago, or, maybe they are and we are just more aware...

What I mean is, countless times... countless... I talk to girls my age, 25-35, who have never had a "sex" or "safety" or "what it means to be a woman" talk with their moms or dads in their youth. Not that their moms were bad people or bad mothers, it was seemingly such a taboo topic - sex and the body - that women didn't want to talk about it usually, even to us kids from the 90's. (Especially parents who were very religious, the "not my child" attitude.")

Ambria, I just want you to know that unfortunately, the cycle of abuse and torture continues many times without understanding. We can't possibly understand what really made the wife of that monster in the case of the Jaycee Lee Dugard go along with his perverted sense of demoralizing human torture. We may not understand the inner workings of someone so disgusting and perverse because our decade has not quite gotten to the true inner-workings of such criminals. In the case of Rachel Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, Ariel Castro was sentenced and ended up hanging himself with only a month into serving his time. He kidnapped and tortured THREE young women for a decade and couldn't take 'prison life' for even a month.

One commentator on facebook wrote, "Ariel Castro, coward in life, coward in death."

My point is, trust takes time and effort to build. Maybe that's a wrong way to look at relationships, but the way I see it is -- trust is earned, not given. Unfortunately, like in the case of the Elizabeth Smart abduction, some Crazy given a job at their home ended up kidnapping and torturing her (14 years old) for almost a year before she was found. And another instance when another woman was involved with the kidnapping...  : /

There is a strong sense of wickedness that is sweeping the world through the internet and the increase in human trafficking - the worst crime that can be committed on another human being - no one has such a right! 

Yes, I've been safe so far in my life, but that doesn't mean looking back I can't see situations that could have turned out worse. Like one time, I accepted a ride in the back of a truck with some people I barely knew at a party. That could've turned out worse than me just happening to get home safely and they were decent folks who didn't kidnap and murder me. But what if they had? 

I guess we all will make "dumb" choices in our teens and young adulthood, it seems most everyone I've talked to admits it. But victims, especially children, are so defenseless! Some adult messing up a child's entire life--it's so inhumane, so cruel. 

We normal members of society labeled "good people," can hardly fathom such sick people like Castro or Garrido even exist.

My mother was the one when I was growing up who often made me watch the "Unsolved Mysteries" shows or read the newspaper about an abduction of a child and reiterate many different reasons why I should be where I say I'm going to be and to 'watch out for' strangers. Of course, as a teen, I wasn't always where I said I would be. But in the back of my mind, I did heed her warnings to some extent. I learned to look out for myself, I taught myself to be wary of people and to usually have a friend with me whenever we went out. I even took  a self-defense course at our local community college and through the police department to gain different perspectives about self-defense. 

My very good friend was brutally murdered and left on the side of the road with traumatic blunt force to the head and lacerations to her throat in 2006. This girl was my high school friend, and it doesn't seem possible she isn't here anymore... Because of a Crazy. 

In her memory, and for all girls fighting for their lives in the world... 

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Teaching our children about child predators is a very stressful, yet vitally important, thing we must do.  As parents it is our job to protect these beautiful babies we have brought into the world, and as they grow older, that means that we need to begin arming them with the knowledge of how to stay safe themselves.  These talks are often dreaded, and let’s face it, it hasn’t been that many years since parents started really accepting the responsibility to educate our children on this matter.  We are all still learning, and in many cases, no one ever had the type of conversation with us that we now need to have with our children.  As time passes, more and more technology is exposing our children to more predators than ever before.  Social media is essentially putting together a catalogue for these monsters, helping them to find the ‘weak’ and move in for the kill.  Children are trusting little beings, and they should remain so for as long as possible, but talking to our children about who they should trust is our best defense in ensuring that our children will recognize a bad situation when it happens, know who to talk to about that situation, and furthermore to have the confidence to talk about the situation."

 From abduction to abuse, Bailey explains how parents can speak to their kids about troubling topics while building their self-esteem and teaching them how to protect themselves. 

You can find every book, article or flier you want regarding teaching children about predators, but when it comes to the bottom of it, there is only one tool that can really get the job done.
As a parent, you are the single most effective tool in fighting child abuse, you alone can give your child the confidence to know how to keep themselves safe by trusting their instincts.

"No program or identification tool will keep children safe or prevent abductions 100 percent of the time. Parents, guardians and members of the community must all work together to help ensure children will be protected and have access to help if they need it. Child safety is all our responsibilities."
Nancy McBride, Child Safety Spokesperson and Executive Director, NCMEC Florida Regional Office
For a more comprehensive checklist download the Missing-Child, Emergency-Response, Quick-Reference Guide for Families.