At Girl Museum, we‚Äôre encouraged to write blogs about girls who have recently been in the news. While this news is often exciting and uplifting (because girls are doing great things every day!), there are also days when it‚Äôs hard to find anything but bad news.
Today is such a day. In looking for inspiration, all I kept seeing was stories of kidnappings and abuse, of girls scared and possibly gone forever. It‚Äôs not only sad; it‚Äôs enraging. As a stepmother, it makes me paranoid every time my son goes outside to play.
Every day, girls (and boys) are kidnapped or abused. And while ‚Äúbad guys‚Äù will always be out there, there are ways that young girls and boys can protect themselves. I‚Äôve taught my little boy (age 7) all about protecting himself, and my husband and I continually find new ways to remind and educate him about what to do if he‚Äôs approached by a stranger or finds himself in an uncomfortable situation.
Here‚Äôs some advice to get you started:
1. Learn your name, address, and telephone numbers for your parents or guardians. Know them by heart.
2. Learn how to call 9-1-1 for help.
3. Never leave home without permission, and only play in areas away from the street. Make sure an adult knows where you are at all times.
4. Avoid taking shortcuts or walking alone. Use the ‚Äúbuddy system‚Äù at all times.
5. Never hitchhike!
6. Do not get into a car unless your parents/guardian tells you that it‚Äôs okay to do so.
7. Identify safe houses in your neighborhood, with neighbors that your parents trust, where you can run to in case you need help.
8. Learn self-defense. Ask if your local YMCA offers self-defense classes. There are also many great resources online, including this video from HLNtv.com.
9. Adults and other people who need help should not be asking a child for help, even if its just directions or looking for a lost puppy. Go find an adult you trust to help them immediately; don‚Äôt attempt to do it yourself.
10. If anyone ever makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened, tell a trusted adult immediately. (Like your teacher, parent, or grandparent.)
11. Choose a special ‚Äúcode word‚Äù with your family. When someone offers you a ride after school or says that your parents asked them to pick you up, ask for the code word. If that person doesn‚Äôt know the code word, don‚Äôt go with them.
12. Yell, scream, fight, and run from any potential abductor. No matter what the assailant says, make as much noise and attract as much attention as you can. Scream that the person is not your mommy or daddy.
13. Talk to your parents about what they want you to do when dealing with strangers or situations that make you feel uncomfortable.
And remember: the more you know, the better prepared you are to stay safe.
Girl Museum Inc.