A “Freakish Occurrence”?

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

My phone was ringing on Thursday morning. I looked at the clock; it was 8:35. The caller ID let me know it was Maryann Brucia Barbis. “Are you watching Channel 2 right now?” I replied I wasn’t watching anything at the moment.  With a rather insistent tone I was urged to watch an interview that Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose were conducting with an author who was promoting her article about overprotective parents. Maryann said, “They are downplaying abductions!”

I turned on the TV too late to hear the interview but I found it on YouTube. The author, Hanna Rossin, had written an article for Atlantic Monthly about the harms, both physical and emotional, that are done to children by overprotective parents. Helicopter parents and grandparents, Munchausen by proxy-we know about these issues. I have a friend who taught a college course in engineering who had received calls from parents wanting him to change the grades of their sophomore son. In the teaching profession, calls from parents challenging awards of grades and offering excuses for poor performance by their child were to be expected.

Each member of this triumvirate took turns presenting information that supported the issue at hand. Ms. Rossin posited how these parents were “harming the intelligence and independence” of their children, how children’s creativity was being stunted, how parents today are too “preoccupied with safety.” Ms. O’Donnell noted how playgrounds were made safer. It was pointed out that we live in a “lawsuit culture.”  Charlie Rose talked about how growing up in a small town with “no one constantly surveilling you” was the rule for the time. So far this was going down some well-travelled roads.

And then…

It was said by the author “the stranger danger idea is just not true, …your children will not be abducted, …you have no greater chance of being abducted now than in the 70’s”.  Was this disregard for the National Incidence Statistics of Missing, Runaway and Throwaway Children (NISMART) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) statistical analysis of data which reports over 21,000 children are abducted annually by complete strangers?

By the way, in 1970 the US population was slightly over 204 million; in 2014 our country holds over 317.7 million citizens. So by the very expression used, “no greater chance”, doesn’t this translate to more children being abducted on a yearly basis?

Case Analysis Unit analysts of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) recorded more 9,000 confirmed attempted child abductions by someone unknown to the child from February 2005 through January 2014. The site also noted over 2 million reports of child sexual exploitation in 2013, an alarmingly steep increase over the past decade.

“Your child will not be abducted”. A quick search of attempted abductions in 2014 on the internet reveals the following on the first two pages alone:

January 6:                 attempted abductions in Seattle, WA

January 17:               attempted abduction of adult females in Santa Monica, CA

January 14 and 21:     3 attempted abduction of children in Gavinnett, GA

February 11 and 14:   attempted abductions of 3 girls and 2 twelve year old boys in Arvada, CO

FEBRUARY 19:       ABDUCTION AND MURDER OF HAILEY OWENS, SPRINGFIELD, MO   

March 14:                  attempted abduction in South County, NV

March 17:                  attempted abduction in Troy, IL

Les Standiford, with Detective Sergeant Joe Matthews, wrote Bringing Adam Home-The Abduction That Changed America. The dedication includes “all the sons and daughters taken long before their time.” A quote from Dylan Thomas, “After the first death, there are no others,” opens the text. The book recounts the impact of abduction of the family of John and Reve Walsh and then on the nation by the abduction and murder of their 6-yer old son, Adam on July 27, 1981. The circuitous route to the family’s closure is traced in the pages of this story. Adam was taken by a drifter, pedophile, serial killer that, when in custody, confessed to numerous killings, even talking about how he wished to tell John Walsh face to face what he did and then saying how he wanted to kill John in the same way.

If the idea and the reality of abduction is a “freakish occurrence”, why did John Walsh create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children? Why are there government reports of over 800,000 missing children a year? Why, from 1999-2002, did NISMART report over 58,000 abductions by strangers? What makes these numbers invalid?

Oh, by the way, how about a call to the family of Carlie Brucia, the family of Leiby Kletzky, the family of Hailey Owens and the family of Jessica Ridgeway, just to name a few, and tell them how their child’s abduction and murder was just a “freakish occurrence.” The segment downplayed what for many of us is an “oh no moment” Our pain has not evaporated; in quiet moments we do feel the tightening of our hearts, feel the urge to avenge our lost children when new reports of these “freakish occurrences” are splashed across the news media.

You all know of our vision: making children self-reliant by instilling in them stranger safety awareness skills. Simple and straight forward.

After watching and re-watching this news segment, I believe the families of all children who have been abducted are due a sincere apology for the affront condescending report produced.

Be safe. Watch out for “freakish occurrences.” (sarcasm implied)

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.

Live & Learn or Learn and Live?

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

I enjoy the Sunday edition of the New York Times. I look forward to the various sections: Arts and Leisure, Week in Review, Sports, the Magazine and Travel. But most of all, I love reading the Book Review. While I do not rush out and buy every title that catches my eye, I find that I do go to the library and look for titles to which the reviewers refer in their opinion piece. Of late, I came across a review of An Enlarged Heart by Cynthia Zarin. What struck me was the quote excerpted from her work that the reviewer boldly placed in the middle of the article. “We learn more than we ever wanted to know about things we wish we’d never heard of,” Zarin writes. THAT sentence caught my eye.

“Live and learn!”  Wasn’t that one of those adages our parents were fond of?

  • Be too trusting of a friend or even a relative – Live and learn!
  • Don’t study for a test – Live and learn!
  • Forget to fill the gas tank for that barbecue – Live and learn!
  • That used car salesman you trusted?
  • I’m sure you’ve heard these words before: “should have, could have, would have”.

You are the primary teacher of your child/children. You teach them to talk, to learn their ABC’s, to learn to count. You teach them fundamentals for sport, dance, social skills and personal hygiene. I smile when I see the car commercial in which a father is teaching his son how to throw a baseball. It is at once touching, awkward, even painful, but still a life lesson:  a father teaching a skill to his son. Isn’t it amazing how children will do their utmost to copy their parent? Do you practice EDITH (Exit Drills in the House)? I remember reviewing this strategy with my children over 35 years ago.

Do you work on this necessary awareness skill? Can your child/children describe their personal space? A simple activity such as having the child stand with arms stretched to the sides is a good start in attaining a working definition of personal space. Have the child turn in a circular path. The area contained within this circle is the child’s personal space. Show the child your personal space. Have the child compare the two areas. Kristyn  Crow blogs Activities that Teach. She proposes the following: Explain that this area is his “personal space.” Now you do the same and demonstrate “your” space. This helps the child to visualize what the space “looks” like. Now put your arms down at your sides and have your child slowly walk toward you. Tell him to stop just before he thinks he has reached the edge of your personal space. When he stops to make his guess, raise your arms out straight and slowly turn in place. If you bump him with your arm, he has to try again.

  • Ask the child who should be allowed into their personal space.
  • Ask the child a reason for letting those people into that space.
  • Impress upon the child the need to keep another person’s space from touching or overlapping his/her space, especially if the child does not know the person, be it man, woman or child.
  • Make it similar to a game of tag: you the adult are “IT” and if your personal space touches the child’s personal space, the child becomes “IT”. As the child becomes adept at avoiding being tagged, change the emphasis to increasing the time he/she avoids being tagged. This activity is simple and easily taught.

Why urge teaching young children such skills? The world changes minute by minute. Our children and grandchildren live in a world fraught with peril. In the fall of 2012, there were numerous reported incidences of attempted child abductions in Bergen County, New Jersey. In October 2012, Jessica Ridgeway was abducted and murdered in Colorado. Again, in October of 2012, Autumn Pasquale was abducted and murdered in Gloucester County, New Jersey. Recently, in Deer Park, New York, there were reported incidents of children on the way to school being approached by strangers in cars. It doesn’t stop.

This awareness teaching has to begin early and be reinforced throughout a child’s life. The odds for dire consequences are statistically long. Would any of us like to be on the losing end of a bet about our children’s safety? A friend of mine, a personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach and a member of the staff of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, always has some thought-provoking statement on her website. She quotes John Wooden:  If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

That is so applicable to the issue at hand. Our children’s safety is of paramount concern. We have to get it right!  That’s why we are here. Our special thanks to the Parkville Elementary School of the Great Neck Public School for trusting us to present our program at a PTO meeting that was attended, not only by concerned parents and teachers at the site, but also by superintendent Thomas Dolan and members of his central office administration. Our program does not succeed without the trust and support of parents such as: Maria Angelaras, president of the Parkville PTO; principal Debra Shalom and social worker Judi Kohn. They had enough faith in us to ask us to put on two performances of our introductory lessons to the pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes. To the staff at Parkville, a huge Thanks! After our most recent performance, a teacher approached us and applauded our efforts. I said, “I hope you will have us back.” I got the words I wanted to hear: Oh, you will be back here!

Let us help.

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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