State of Mind

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

It’s easier to let down your guard when the world is going at a merry pace, as the race towards the holidays is in full swing. An anonymous quote about safety goes like this: Safety doesn’t happen by accident.

During the past weeks on Long Island, there have been three particularly unnerving situations involving children with strangers. First came the classic attempt at an abduction by a man in a white van offering a child money if she would get into his car. Luckily, the child immediately ran away from the van and sought safety with known adults. Next a truly unsettling occurrence at a local movie theater played out. A mother had taken her daughter to a holiday movie. They were looking forward to some time to spend together. As happens so often, the child turns to her mother and says she has to go to the bathroom. As the girl descends the stairs and turns to exit the theater, the mother notices a man who was sitting alone turn towards the sound of her daughter’s footsteps, get up and proceed to exit towards the lobby. Something sets off the mother’s sense of unease; she leaves her seat and goes to find her daughter. She catches up with the man at the door and watches as he opens the door, looks out into the common area of the theater, turns and nods at someone in the hall. The mother moves past the man, sees another man in the hall near the restrooms. She enters the rest room to find her child visibly uneasy due to the situation. The mom takes her daughter with her to front desk of the theater and informs the management of her concerns. The man is asked to leave the theater and DOES. The mother’s uneasiness may have prevented something serious from occurring. The third of these distressing situations took place in a large shopping mall, in the girls’ department of a clothing store. Another mom was shopping with her daughter. She saw a man there who didn’t seem to be shopping but just hanging around. She made eye contact with him, asked what he was doing. He said he was waiting for his brother. He left. Later she ran across him in another store’s girls’ department, this time with a woman. With her daughter in earshot of the pair, the mom heard them examining the clothes and saying loudly how lovely so and so looked in them. Enough of this, the mother thought. Feeling uneasy, she took her daughter and left.

Is this due to the moms’ or the young girl’s Spidey Sense or Dread or Paranoia? Does it matter? Thankfully there were no physical confrontations. The moms and the girl did what they had to. The girl’s response is spot on. A child alone needs to be taught and have reinforced the simple mantra, If I don’t know I don’t go.   A child alone needs to quickly recognize the situation that presents itself and make the one and only response to the requests and lures of a stranger that is appropriate: RUN. Author Eleanor Everet wrote, Safety is not a gadget but a state of mind. The child in the theater and the mall was accompanied by a parent. At a certain age, most parents allow a child to use the restroom on their own. How disturbing must it have been to see and conclude that a grown man may be up to no good? Her instinct was to protect her child and she did. I know that taking two grandsons under the age of 6 at the time to the movies meant a group restroom visit always. The shopping expedition to the mall was well supervised by the mom. If your child is given permission to go to the mall, do they always leave home in a group, stay together in the mall, come home together? I hope so. Safety in numbers, you know. The Buddy System does work.

As parents and guardians, we cannot ever allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security about where we are, where our children are. Our eyes, our children’s eyes must be open and our defenses on alert. Safety cannot be conveniently recalled in moments of stress and/or danger. It should be instinctual. It is in our best interests to make it so.

The very best wishes for a very happy, healthy & safe Holiday Season from everyone at The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation to you & your family!

Be safe.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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