Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week Coming Up

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Next week kicks off Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week in New York State. The calendar is packed with live presentations, the website has been humming with downloads of the free curriculum and the foundation is buzzing with excitement for the broadcast of PIX11’s broadcast of Tamsen Fadal’s Changemakers, highlighting the foundation’s work regarding stranger safety.

Each day next week, we will be dropping a blog about a different stranger safety awareness tip to help open the discussion with your children about the dangers strangers may pose. We stress the importance of never going anywhere with a stranger – an all too common theme on the nightly news as attempted abductions seems to happen at an increased rate as of late. Please check in with http://www.rosebrucia.org over the next week and pass along our blogs and lessons to your local PTA organizations and elementary school principals.

In a world that seems to be a little short on kindness, we like to remind children that you may talk politely with strangers, but you must never go with a stranger. Anywhere. Ever.

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.

 

Make it so!

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Just the other day, September 18th, Matt and I presented two sessions to students an elementary school on Long Island. In the first session, kindergarteners, first graders and second graders in attendance, we spoke of issues concerning personal space and the need to be aware of just who the people you are near to are. Our second session, third graders, fourth and fifth graders, dealt with internet safety.

That evening, I listened to a news item concerning an internet sting operation that New Jersey police had successfully enacted wherein twenty-four, TWENTY-FOUR, potential child predators were apprehended. Today in the Long Island daily, Newsday, police captured a recently released violent offender who had wantonly murdered a coed in Ames, Iowa. According to the article, the alleged predator had spoken about how he wished to “rape and murder a woman.” Previously the similar murder of Mollie Tibbetts had played across the airways, print and social media.

Matt has told me often of comments he has received from other child advocates that our mission was too narrow; that we had to address the issue of predators being familiar to their victims. Others have said we were alarmists in promoting fear of strangers in parents and thereby children. We are not burying our heads in the sand concerning the overwhelming issue of child abduction by persons known by the children. We are responding yesterday, today and tomorrow to what so achingly ravaged a family, the Brucia family. If the news items above don’t speak to the legitimacy of our mission, I ask the doubters to look again.

I leave you with this:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide.  As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.  Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.  The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make”?  The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”.

THAT ONE! As Jean Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise, echoing the commands of his predecessors in the British navy, would say to his crew, MAKE IT SO!

Be safe! Let all of us make it so!

 

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.

Don’t Tell Your Mother

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

My college aged granddaughter and her friends love horror/thriller movies. The scarier the better, she tells me. These films, according to psychologists, can provide catharsis of suppressed aggression, an adrenalin rush, pure excitement, curiosity, intense emotions, and dispositional alignment, a concept in which the viewer enjoys the violence visited on those the viewer feel deserve it. Wow! As a teenager I loved the old school Universal Studios monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man. I am not a big fan of the genre, but will sit through one, waiting to be scared, then being surprised when I am startled. As I have aged, the appeal of horror films has greatly diminished.

Do you like scary movies? Recognize the quote? Horror film buffs will remember it as the opening of the movie, Scream. The phone rings and Drew Barrymore picks it up and hears that line. In another thriller, When a Stranger Calls, a young woman answers the phone and hears, Have you checked the children?

When I started writing this blog, those two lines of dialogue immediately came to my mind. Phone calls in both films introduce the dread that is about to impose itself upon the actors who answered. Reread those lines of dialogue, so effectively spooky, so ominous! In the former instance, a stranger implies you are about to participate in your own existential nightmare; in the latter, a nightmare beyond belief has already unfolded.

The first principle of stranger safety awareness that Matt and I present to school assemblies is the concept of personal space. We ask student volunteers to demonstrate wordlessly what this idea means to them. We attempt for a child to be able to easily describe the space around them using extended arms to make visible to all the sacred area that no one may enter without the child’s permission. We ask the children to name people they would allow into their personal space. We believe it is an effective teaching method. Any story, any fairy tale that uses a ruse by a stranger to get near a child is exploited by us.

Read the newspapers and you will understand why I get apprehensive that times have changed so quickly that we have to up our game. The instant communication of today amazes and dismays me. Letter writing seems so quaint and archaic. Texts with emojis and phonetic abbreviations glut messages from those younger than I. Voicemail, mostly unwanted and unsolicited, fills answering machines no matter that your number is on a state no call list!

Here’s a sample of what I mean. This headline appeared in Newsday, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The article below the banner filled half a page.

Voicemail left for girl helps nab sex predator

 Astute mom, LI police lead to capture in Calif.

How’s that for sending a shiver down your spine? The registered sex offender who has done this phone tag before had made a call that was answered by an 11 year-old girl. Think of the odds of dialing THAT number! The apprehended predator said he was calling random numbers and the girl’s voice sounded young. He had warned the 11 year-old not to tell her parents. The mother luckily overheard part of the voicemail and took the phone away from her daughter. She then purchased a phone app she used to unblock the predator’s phone numbers.

The concept of personal space must be updated. How much more personal is the space when a complete stranger can be invited into it with a simple hello? The whispered message of a predator does not easily recede from the mind. The sex offender was arrested through the teamwork of Long Island’s Garden City Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on felony charges of making criminal threats, attempted child molestation and annoying or molesting a minor.

Many years ago a fellow teacher told me he was giving up all his coaching duties. Why, I asked. When the kids were younger, he said, I could actually believe that I didn’t need to be there 24/7. Trust me, he added, as the kids age you have got to be there more than ever.

Parent involvement matters. Who knows what message might hook your child when a strange message is heard. I think the following partial list of expressions that might be heard forms the basis for a good conversation with your children concerning messages from unknown sources. You can call them warning sounds, bells, or whistles. Tell your children that should they hear any of these statements in a message, they must immediately tell you. You must tell the police. Use any, some, all of these statements or one you believe focuses your child’s mind on the danger lurking on unsolicited calls.

  • I’m here for you.
  • You’re so funny.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I would love to spend time with you.
  • You seem very smart for someone your age.
  • You are so impressive. Will you show me how you did that?
  • If I hurt your feelings, will you forgive me?
  • We have a lot in common.
  • I really think we should meet.
  • You’re really cute. How about sending me your picture?
  • I believe in you.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Go for it! Don’t let anybody hold you back!
  • I really, really like you.
  • Are your parents as clueless as mine were?
  • What we have may be special. How about we keep it just between you and me?
  • I love you.

 

Do you like scary movies? Have you checked the children? These classic movie lines thrill and chill, for sure. Now, if we add a real life predator’s plea, Don’t tell your mother, how much fear does that instill?

Stephen King had one of his characters realize Grownups are the real monsters!

Being safe takes time, effort, patience and vigilance. You’ve got to be there more than ever. What a world!

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.

Nothing More

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Education Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Education Foundation

 

A few years ago I was watching an episode of NCIS. As the episode ended a poignant melody accompanied the images on the screen. I found the name of the song was Nothing More by the band Alternate Routes. In the lyrics of this song I found two lines that struck me as exceptionally potent in their simplicity:

We are how we treat each other when day is done.

We are how we treat each other and nothing more.

I will make some personal assumptions here: that those of you who know of our organization and read our blogs will attest to both these statements; that the vast majority of people in the world believe likewise; and that those who harm children physically and emotionally, those predators, abusers, pornographers who steal a child’s innocence, do not hold to such notions.

It is a sad fact that the narrative in our minds of our children growing up untouched by the ugliness of predatory adults must be tempered by the reality of our kids and grandkids physically maturing more quickly than in generations past, that they can’t stay kids for a longer time. Their bodies may reach maturation more quickly but not necessarily their minds and their emotional states. What pressures they must have as the biologic changes in their bodies outstrip the growth curve of their judgmental processes!

Decades ago education was swamped with various catch phrases that pointed us in new directions: It takes a village…; Top down support for bottom up reform; Just say No!, and Common Core.

In the arena which The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation has chosen to perform, there are some better, stronger phrases that I think applicable, ones that have been around far longer and are time-tested. Our stated goal is to reduce the number of child abductions. Consider these mottos from some of our armed services and how well they apply to our group:

This we will defend. The United States Army

Semper Paratus (Always prepared). The United States Coast Guard

Can do! The Seabees

We could not have better descriptors of our mission and our programs.

We are how we treat each other when day is done, today and tomorrow.

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.

Warning: Danger, Will Robinson!

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Some of us may be old enough to remember the Robot alerting the young Will Robinson to the peril of the week on Lost in Space. Such dramatic warnings are not evident in our everyday life. We are, however, silently blasted by alerts of varying alarm. Electrical devices and appliances all have warnings attached. Our medicines all carry warnings lest litigation is pursued. Leave your home and you might see Beware of Dog signs affixed to fences or gates. Get into your car and you see those lovely yellow signs alerting you to pedestrian crossings, curves in the roadway, numerous situations where caution is urged. Signs in red speak to truly hazardous possibilities on the street. Enter a building and caution is urged because of slippery floors. Signs on doors identify restricted areas. It’s amazing that Stan Berenstain’s Little Bear character was able to say I went to town, not, I’m never going anywhere ever again!

Recently my wife and I went out west and toured through Arizona and Utah, experiencing the wonders of the US National Parks at the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The park rangers hand out cards that urge you to

  • Please follow directions from park rangers – it will be for your safety.

 

    • Always remember that wildlife is just that – wild. If an animal feels cornered or trapped, it will protect itself.
  • If you’re heading off for a walk tell a family member of your timings and location.
  • If you are threatened by wildlife – stay calm; keep eye contact; back away; and do not run.

 

These safety alerts further state: Sometimes the best relationship is a long-distance relationship offering suggestions as to appropriate distances to stay from the animal inhabitants of the parks. There are no yellow or red signs to remind you.

For those of you who read our blogs and have seen our school presentations, the melding of these park ranger statements with our stranger safety message is close to 100%. Almost all the above (we, of course, urge any child in a situation with an aggressive or threatening stranger to RUN) can be adapted to our teaching points. Our goal is to empower a child in that particular, singular event when the child finds himself or herself ALONE and feels threatened. We want every child to be able to recall words or phrases that flash yellow warning lights in their brains or red flashing lights accompanied with siren sounds that prompt their bodies’ flight or fight response to the stress of a given situation.

Good teaching never ends. There are always teachable moments. Here are a few to stress about stranger safety awareness.

  • No matter how harmless a person appears, you cannot predict what they will do.
  • If the person changes their behavior as they approach you or seem nervous, stay very far away.
  • Don’t be fooled by flattery.
  • Do not pose for any pictures with a stranger.
  • Never approach a stranger.
  • Give a stranger space.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.  These words of the Dalai Lama are timeless. Would that his message seep into the hearts and souls of those among us who do otherwise to children.

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.

What’s in a Name?

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

The rhetorical question in the title was voiced by Shakespeare’s Juliet as she applied it to Romeo. I am sure you can recall or will remember the words that follow: that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Rose! That just happens to be the word I want to you to focus on today, that word and what I think lies in it. I’ll get back to it later.

Leo Buscaglia, a man whose works I have read and reread, said, I have been a teacher all my life. I have an intense passion to share with others. I wish I said that first! I worked with teenagers over 37 years of my life. I can still see lessons that had them focused on what I was going on about; I also knew when the dryness of my presentation let them down.

One of the important beliefs in my teaching was the necessity of preparing a strong foundation for my students as they went on to the next level of science. I always felt that a strong memory was an integral part of their learnings. Notice I said memory; I do not mean rote learning. Nothing is more unfulfilling than learning that is forced on someone without application, without context. A strong foundation is not built through rote exercises. The foundation of learning I see as similar to concrete, the stuff of many structures throughout the land. That concrete, a mixture of gravel, sand, lime and water can stand for ideas and skills (gravel), context (sand), and lime (the adhesive material brought into the students’ minds by all their educators-parents, guardians, teachers-that helps make sense of all this jumble). That foundation you can build on.

To be effective the learning must pull the students in and not push them away. They must leave the student wanting more. This is no easy task on a daily basis.

The academic year has already started or is about to start. The Rolling Stones sang, Start me up! I want you to sing that tune. I want you to feel that rhythm. I am giving you homework.

Let’s get back to Juliet’s rose. Remember how teachers gave you memory cues to help you recall other terms. Do you know what the word H-O-M-E-S represents? Of course, they are the first letters of the names of the Great Lakes. How about King Philip called out for good spaghetti? K-ingdom, P-hylum, C-lass, O-rder,       F-amily, G-enus and S-pecies are the groupings in taxonomy.

Now, let’s add R-O-S-E to our memory prompts. (I know, kind of obvious considering our foundation’s namesake, isn’t it?) I would like you to see this word and think the following Review One Strategy Engagingly! R stands for review, recall, refresh, reteach, rekindle and whichever term you wish. O means one and only one at a time (See? It’s going to be easy!). S stands for any of the stranger safety awareness skills and ideas that you can find on our website. In case you forgot or want them at your fingertips, here are a few:

  • Describe and demonstrate personal space.
  • Identify who can enter your child’s personal space.
  • Have a simple definition for stranger.
  • Go over how your child is to answer the door or telephone.
  • Have a secret password by which your child can identify a person who claims they have been sent by you to pick them up.
  • Help your child develop a plan in case they get lost in a store or mall.
  • Go over the proper response to an emergency.
  • Model the mirroring technique for maintaining a safe distance from a stranger.

E for engagingly should call to mind that you have been and are your child’s first playmate. Think positively. Don’t be so authoritative when presenting the safety ideas and skills. Use those cartoon voices that make your kids laugh. Ham it up. You know the kids imitate you. Furthermore, Buscaglia pointed out, I’ve learned that you teach best by modeling. If you want people to learn, do it! Act out Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, Snow White taking that poisoned apple from the Evil Queen. Make up your own stories, but get the point across. You’ve done it before; you can do it again. Remember, parents and guardians, you are the first and most present teacher your child has had. The hope is that you double down on reinforcing these simple safety skills.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose is…Well, I’ll leave that up to you.

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.

Déjà Vu

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Taken from the French expression, literally meaning “already seen,” déjà vu is that eerie sense of “I’ve experienced this before.” This may occur from the current situation producing some clues that may subconsciously trigger retrieval of an earlier experience.

In 2004, Central Florida TV station Local 6 reported that investigators found 11-year old Carlie Brucia’s remains between 12:45 a.m. and 1 a.m. on Friday, February 5th outside a church a few miles from the car wash where she was taken.

“Our prayers on behalf of everybody here in Sarasota County go out to the family,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill in a press conference, naming Joseph P. Smith, 37, as the suspect who was charged with the girl’s kidnapping and murder. Smith had been arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993, according to state records and convicted of drug possession and other charges. He was arrested in 1997 in Manatee County on kidnapping and false imprisonment charges, but was acquitted a year later.

Investigators found the body after negotiations with Smith, said the TV report. Earlier it had been said that Smith, believed to be the tattooed man in a mechanic’s shirt shown in the surveillance video leading Carlie away by the hand, had not been cooperating during police questioning.

At a nationally televised press conference shortly after 7 on Friday morning, sheriff’s authorities announced, “We have found Carlie and the person responsible for her murder is in custody.”

Forrest Carr, in his February 17, 2004 article, Covering Carlie: A News Director’s Perspective, said

  • Some critics believe the media exploited Carlie Brucia.
  • We needlessly frightened parents and children… leaving people with a distorted view of reality and a feeling that the world is scarier than it really is.
  • I would venture to guess that every mother in America had a conversation with her child about strangers. Every parent I know had such a conversation. Every teacher I know did the same.
  • They had the conversations because for one heart-rending week, not just the community but the entire world was reminded that monsters do walk amongst us, and that we need to be aware of that. Telling children about this is not an easy conversation to have. It frightens them. Though painful, it’s an inoculation against a reality of life that many parents have come to feel is necessary. It is necessary. (Emphasis mine).

 

On May 31, 2017 twelve year old Naomi Jones was reported missing from her home. Last known contact with the child was by a friend who had texted her at 12:21pm that day. Police theorized that Naomi probably died within 24-36 hours of her abduction. Her body was found by fishermen on June 5th. The Sheriff’s department noted Naomi may have been a possible target through social media.

Several years ago I wrote a short blog entitled There be monsters! I spoke of imaginary as well as real individuals who inflicted unspeakable harm to children and their families.

Pensacola, Florida is located in Escambia County. The county’s Sheriff’s office Chief Deputy, Chip Simmons announced that a convicted sex offender, in prison for 15 years for two counts of sexual assault and rape, released from prison 4 years ago, was arrested. Simmons said, “We have caught our MONSTER (emphasis mine). We have caught the killer that took Naomi’s life-a twelve year old girl who had her whole life in front of her.”

That word, MONSTER, describes so clearly the revulsion the rest of society holds for these killers of children. As Forrest Carr said, the painful conversation between parents/guardians and the children they raise is NECESSARY. Carr described the dialogue as an inoculation. I am sure we all recall how we winced as the needle with the preventative medicine neared our child’s arm. I suggest it is time to have another such important discussion with our children. Dr. Charles Kolenik noted that booster shots of reminding and refreshing the concepts of stranger safety help keep the original inoculation strong.

These cases of déjà vu we can do without.

As always, and especially now with the freedom of summer vacation upon us, 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.

%d bloggers like this: