See also Child Sexual Abuse and The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, the latter designed for custody and divorce cases.

Every community has felt the sting of child abduction. Sooner or later, those who we allow to walk among us, offend by taking a child against his or her will and ..... Child abduction: where an ounce of prevention outweighs any amount of "cure".

Few moments, hours or days ... or years ... can be more terrifying than a child who has disappeared.

It is enough to wrench the heart right out of a caring parent's chest.

The fact is: child abduction happens.

To wit, the criminal justice registers of every major jurisdiction is filled with thousands of child sex offenders, such as England's ViSOR, which stands for Violent and Sex Offenders Register, which has some 29,000 names.

The United States National Sex Offender Registry has a search function (see http://www.familywatchdog.us/). A map of Port Angeles, Washington (population: 18,000), reveals 20-some dots of registered sex offenders living in this sleepy town alone. The red dots are for offences against children and they are by far the most prominent on the map.

Child abductionThese registers are for convictions. For every conviction, there are likely far more incidents of assault upon a child that the child or their parent has kept secret.

Here are some chilling facts:

  • 1 of 5 girls and 1 of 6 boys will be molested before they turn 18;
  • 1of 5 children is subject to a sexual proposition emanating from the Internet; and
  • Up to 70% of convicted sex offenders will offend again.

Most child abduction reports involve custody disputes or the abductor is a family member.

But according to Taking Care of Your Child, 4,600 children are abducted each year by non-relatives.

It remains one of the great mysteries of modern law why child sex offenders are not subject to life in prison.

In the event, the risk is real. Here's what you can do to prevent it and then, what to do if it happens to you.

Prevention

Most children reported as abducted have either run away or are "lost" (but then found) as a result of a misunderstanding about where they were supposed to be.

But there remains that small risk of horrible crime that the child must learn to avoid.

• Have a recent photo of your child handy at all times.

• Set age-appropriate boundaries for your child.

• Never leave a young child alone in a public place. Leaving an infant in a parked car while you run in for groceries may be convenient but it may also be putting your child at great risk.

No need to spook the child but they need to be aware of the risk, and that inevitably requires some "spooking". Be direct but don't make it overly frightening as you may mark the child for life and spark lifelong fears and paranoia. Give each child, at a bare minimum, these basic instructions:

  • Make sure the child knows that most abuse and abductions occur by a family friend or relative (about 75%). In any event, coach the child to make a ruckus,  yell "No!" if someone asks, or tries, to touch their private parts, or grabs them in a threatening manner. Get away as quickly as possible and most importantly. Tell a parent or another trusted adult about the approach the person made to you. Speak up! It could save your life!
  • The bare fact is that most child abductors are men.child abduction scene
  • Don't go anywhere, accept any gift or enter any stranger's car without checking with a parent of guardian.
  • Going outside alone means being outside a parent's eyesight and exposure, in particular, to passing-by vehicle traffic. Make the child aware of the remote but real risk of child abductors and that the offenders are quite capable of using trickery to entice a child away, such as "can you help me look for my puppy?" or "can you come here and tell me where I am on this map?" We raise our children to be polite and this is exploited by the abductors who use this to lure the child.
  • Adjust these instructions from time to time as the relevant child grows older. Teenagers are not exempt or immune from the interests of child abducters or sexual abusers. The Internet appears to be a portal of choice for pedophiles.

Technology is catching-up with GPS-equipped cellphones. As of 2008, the GPS transmitted remains quite heavy and so difficult to conceal. One current device is a heavy wristwatch-like easily noted by an abductor.  But the hope remains that the transmitter will soon be so small as can be sewn into the child's backpack, or worn as a earring or necklace or bracelet. Similarly, cell phone tracking is gaining momentum - provided the privacy dolts don't shoot it down - with some services allowing the mapping of any cell phone number.

Exercise great caution while travelling. Language difficulties will compound the difficulty in finding a lost child. Countries do not like to broadcast their child abduction statistics for fear of affecting tourism.

It Happened!

If the child has gone missing from home, search the house first. Kids love crawl spots and may be stuck or fallen asleep.

Don't be shy to call your child loudly by name even in your own house.

Kids can get lost trying to return home - they may not have been abducted; they may simply be lost. Retrace their route home as well as possible accidental detours they may have taken. Chase down their friends who may have seen them last - use the phone first -  time may be of the essence.

If in doubt, call the police immediately. Many jurisdictions have rapid deployment Amber Alert systems which may manage to cut off transport paths to and from the point where the child was last seen, as well as broadcast the details of your child's appearances to public transport employees in a wide radius.

Be prepared to provide your child's name, height, weight and all unique identifiers such as eye colour, hair colour and length, clothes last worn, eyeglasses or braces.

The police are also trained to search for clues. They may glean from your report or from the circumstances of the last sighting of the child's information missed by the untrained eye, as well as be alive to deception.

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