'Stop! Leave! Help!' Teaching kids how to stop a potential abduction

ByJuan Carlos Guerrero & Ama Daetz KGO logo
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
'Stop! Leave! Help!' Teaching kids how to stop a potential abduction
Children learn how to protect themselves unwanted touching or possible abduction during a training session organized by Kidpower International.

SANTA CRUZ (KGO) -- It was a frightening moment. A young girl was followed by a man in a car on a quiet street in Vallejo. She hid behind a truck and eventually runs for safety.

"What she did right is that she used her awareness. First, she tried to hide and when he backed up, she ran to get away. She noticed him and she took some action," said Irene van der Zande, and expert in personal safety.

30 years ago, van der Zande founded Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower, a group that teaches kids and adults how to prevent kidnappings, abuse, bullying and sexual assault.

"What we teach are simple, practical skills that people can learn very quickly and that apply to a large number of situations," said van der Zande. "We practice those skills."

Stranger abduction is not common, but it does happen. According to the "National Center for Missing and Exploited Children", less than one percent of the 25,000 children that went missing last year were from stranger abduction. In most cases, these potential abductors try to grab their victims on the street or lure them into their vehicles.

Just like the girl that was followed by a car, knowing what to do should be second nature.

Van der Zande should talk the following skills:

Be Aware

"The first skill we teach is awareness. We teach people to be aware out on the street, to notice trouble whether it is a car or a person and to move away from trouble," said van der Zande, who tells children to look for a woman with children if they ever get lost. "A woman is most likely to help," she added.

Create A Barrier With Your Hands

The Kidpower program teaches kids to take charge of their safety. If someone approaches them and they feel threatened, they are told to run away. If they can't, Kidpower instructors teach kids how to create a barrier by putting their hands in front of their body and yelling "Stop. Leave. Help."

"The reason we practice the words to say is so that you don't have to think," said van der Zande. "When you are yelling, "Stop Leave Help" you are taking away that privacy and control. You are getting the attention of other people and you are creating uncertainty in the mind of the attacker about what is going to happen."

Identify Safe Areas Along a Walking Route

If your child walks to school, walk that route along with them and point out safe areas they can run to if they feel unsafe. That can even be a liquor store. The point is that they need to let someone know they need help.

Don't Be Shy About Asking For Help

Kidpower teaches children how to interrupt busy adults to get help. Children are told to get in front of the line and persist in getting help at a store.

Learn Basic Self-Defense Skills

Preventing kidnappings is just one part of the training. Kids are also taught some basic self-defense techniques in case they can't run away. That includes poking potential abductors in the eyes, or striking them in the head, or kicking them in the groin.

Practice Safety Skills

"Making kids scared does not making them safer. Practicing what to do is what prepares them to be safe," said van der Zande, who recommends that parents practice self-defense skills with their children so they know exactly what to do if they face an emergency.