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.

And now for something completely different

By Patrick M. Chierichella
Educational Coordinator
The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

First period, Earth Science Regents, immediately after the bell sounding the beginning of class, over there in the last row, Sam has raised his hand and is calling out, Mr. C! Mr. C! Recognizing the persistence in his tone, realizing it is better to acknowledge him than not, I simply ask, Sam? His reply is one that every teacher past, present and future has heard, does hear, and will hear throughout their careers. Mr. C, this has nothing to do with the topic, but…  

And so it goes, even today.

The Foundation earned its reputation by becoming a resource guide for parents and teachers looking to empower their charges though engaging video lessons and presentations concerning STRANGER SAFETY AWARENESS. The RBEF has been approached about providing similar support regarding internet safety. The concern of parents and schools is understandable. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children states that one in seven children have been sexually solicited on line. This is a frightening statistic. 1 in 7? Welcome to the online world!

Perhaps this may help.

An online approach by a sexual predator is nothing but a long con game, a psychological grooming of a preteen or adolescent to accept that person’s trustworthiness based on perceptions of mutual attraction, support and caring for one another.

Thomas Reid, an18th century British philosopher, wrote An Inquiry into the Human Mind wherein he stated…people have a disposition to confide in the veracity of others, and to believe what they tell us. This is known as Reid’s Principle of Credulity. The dictionary defines credulity as a willingness to believe or trust too readily; gullibility. Reid saw credulity unlimited in children until they met with instances of deceit and falsehood. According to Piers Benn, an adjunct professor at Fordham University London Centre, We all believe things we should not, and this arises from numerous faulty tendencies, including wishful thinking, fearful thinking, cognitive bias, intellectual incompetence, such as a tendency to misjudge probability. All these sources of error can lead to excessive credence to appearances, which can have deleterious… repercussions. He further notes …if we badly want to believe something, we often end up doing so. We might deliberately fail to look for reasons not to believe it, or place trust in people of whom we have reason to be wary. Much of what a person believes is based upon the word of others since we cannot directly experience everything as Dr. Beth Snow of Simon Fraser University states. We believe lots of things based solely on what others say or write.

Apply this to the issue at hand and a built in tendency to be gulled is evident. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are a few suggestions gleaned from numerous articles and websites.

  • Be involved with your children by asking if they use social networking. Check it out together.
  • Tell your child never to post their full name, address, phone number, school name and other personal information that could help a predator find them. Remind them that photos offer clues as to their location.
  • Supervise your child’s time on the internet.
  • Read and discuss Aesop’s The Wolf and the Shepherd. (A Wolf had been prowling around a flock of Sheep for a long time, and the Shepherd watched very anxiously to prevent him from carrying off a Lamb. But the Wolf did not try to do any harm. Instead he seemed to be helping the Shepherd take care of the Sheep. At last the Shepherd got so used to seeing the Wolf about that he forgot how wicked he could be. One day he even went so far as to leave his flock in the Wolf’s care while he went on an errand. But when he came back and saw how many of the flock had been killed and carried off, he knew how foolish to trust a Wolf). Be hammy. Make a short play of it and give the wolf, shepherd and lamb different voices. Have your child describe the behavior of the Shepherd and the Wolf. Ask your child why the Shepherd was so gullible. Ask if that could happen when a person is using the internet.
  • Make a copy of the diagram at the end of this blog. Follow the instructions about matching the groups to the various circles of interaction that have been drawn. Ask the child to describe what the lessening of color intensity has to deal with safety and trust. Talk about the real distance between people communicating on the internet. Ask your child to say how far away a person using the internet to talk with them is. Use this as a simple image to show that lack of color means you do not have enough information about someone and therefor the site being visited is not safe.

There is no easy answer. Be vigilant, be involved and, as always, Be Safe!

Diagram Something Completely Different

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.

 

 

 

Super Bowl XXXIII

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

David J. Liberman, PhD, in his book, You Can Read Anyone, calls memory an anchor, an association or link between a specific set of feelings or emotional state and some unique stimulus: an image, sound, name or taste.

Do you recall SuperBowl XXXVIII? In what Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King called the greatest SuperBowl of all time, the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers, 32-29. The game, played on February 1, 2004, was decided on a field goal with four seconds left on the clock. Tom Brady was named the MVP as the Patriots won their second Lombardi Trophy in three years. Replays of the kick would be shown over and over for the next few days. Replays of Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show would be replayed far more often than the game. Remember it now?

Another video replay would also make its way to television sets throughout the country that week. The setting was Evie’s Car Wash on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota, Florida. People in the community knew that cutting through its parking area allows you to round the corner and save some walking time. Many had done it before; many do so today. Carlie Brucia would not get the chance.

          Video surveillance cameras at the car wash caught a not too clear image of Carlie being grabbed and pulled away by a man dressed in work clothes, his name fuzzily scrawled on a patch on his chest. It is the last picture of this young girl, too easily recalled for family, friends, law-enforcement officials, and interested by-standers who have viewed it online: the young girl being forcibly dragged towards the unknown abductor’s car, an old station wagon, off camera.

If you go online to view or review this video, you cannot but help feel the need to speak out to the child, to shout some warning that danger lies near. Mark Twain wrote that man is like the moon; everyone has a dark side. Masks are part of everyone’s psyche.

We will never know why Carlie walked unaware into mortal danger.

Here’s a question for you: When you look at the world, what do you see? If you are like me, you see a world that is the reflection of you, of all you know and think you know. Did Carlie see any reason to be upset, worried or scared?

William Butler Yeats said, There are no strangers only friends we haven’t met yet. This is a lovely sentiment but begs qualification. Say it to a child, profess its truth and you may place an innocent in harm’s way.

How many of us tell our children to respect adults, adults are in charge, that children owe these people obedience due to their authority? Saul McLeod, in a 2007 article, Obedience to Authority, stated Obedience is a form of social influence where an individual acts in response to a direct order from another individual, who is usually an authority figure. It is assumed that without such an order the person would not have acted in this way. Obedience occurs when you are told to do something (authority). Obedience involves a hierarchy of power / status. Therefore, the person giving the order has a higher status than the person receiving the order.

          So we prepare and reinforce the template for dealing with authority for our children. It is possible that children a) accept as permissible the commands of an adult whether or not they hold a position of authority, b) regard the position held as the reason to obey such a command, or c) base the acceptability of the command on a combination of position of power or just by the person being an adult.

What goes on in the mind of a child? Do you know? I surely do not. Our children, no matter what we think they know, what they tell us, what they keep from us due to fear of disappointing us or from some overwhelming sense of shame, remain deep secrets and mysteries to us.

I believe I read of John Walsh, Adam’s father, saying something like I wish I had taught him to scream instead of worrying about some stranger’s feelings. He further said, Adam’s abduction was our private hell-but it was not an isolated incident. On any given day, any number of children are absent from their homes for diverse and numerous reasons.

The why of Carlie’s behavior remains a mystery. Her fate was a tragedy.

February 1, 2018 is the 14th anniversary of Carlie’s passing.

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.

Teachable Moment

by Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator,

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

The best teaching, that “aha moment”, often comes from in that serendipitous instance when teacher and student simultaneously and precisely communicate on the same wavelength. Think back to Henry Higgins proudly saying proudly of Eliza Doolittle, “I think she’s got it!”  A flash of insight provides a moment for the teacher to help construct a meaningful concept for the learner. A seemingly unrelated query (Mr. C, this has nothing to do with this topic.) elicits a pointed response from another student that propels a class period-long discussion on the unrelated but thought provoking topic. Something thought, heard or seen ignites the launching point for learning.

Case in point: Paddington. My wife and I had taken two of our grandsons to see this movie. The audience was greatly varied: parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, AND couples of different demographic groups scattered throughout the theater. It was thoroughly entertaining. But my reason for citing the movie as a teachable moment rests on the following sequence: Paddington is standing on a London train platform with the sign: Someone please take care of this bear, around his neck. The father of a family notices him and says to his children, Stranger danger! He proceeds to quickly rattle off why he believes his family should distrust this bear.

What a great instance to be used to bring home the importance of being alert and wary of strangers to our families! Consider all the ways the meeting with this stranger could go: he can be totally ignored; he can be approached and studied as something out of the ordinary; he may say he is in need of assistance; he may say he needs money; he may reach out to touch their hands; he may be engaged in conversation. How would you want your children to handle the situation? A whimsical story provides the teachable moment. Why not use it?

Patrick O’Malley, a psychologist from Fort Worth, Texas, wrote Getting Grief Right, for the New York Times Sunday Review on January 11, 2015. He states we should not give credence to ideas of closure and stages of grieving. The author describes three chapters to the story of loss:  the first pertains to a person’s closeness to the one lost; the second concerns the particulars of the “death event”, especially if the event is premature and traumatic; and third, what you do when the world moves on and you are left to grieve alone.

Why am I relating these points? February 1 marks the eleventh anniversary of eleven-year old Carlie’s passing. The grip of sadness around some hearts remains as intense as it ever was; it is unrelenting. For others, intensity of loss is replaced with an empty spot in the heart/soul.

For those who never met her, never heard her voice, her laughter, or saw her smile, she remains a cogent reason to continue to do what we do. She is the reason we look for those teachable moments.

Teach your children well, now and always.

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.

‘Tis the Season

By Patrick M. Chierichella,

Educational Coordinator, The Rose Brucia Educationall Foundation

Let’s look at some of the advertising language that I saw in promotions used to describe this year’s cinematic presentations:

  • Spectacular! (The Hunger Games)
  • The Year’s Best Movie! (12 Years a Slave)
  • The sharpest comedy in years! (American Hustle)
  • A movie to watch for the rest of your life! (Nebraska)
  • He (She) gives the performance of a lifetime! (Choose your critic and make your pick!)

Ah, the season of excess, the yearly verbal indulgence in hyperbole! It is simply one of the ways the media uses to describe success. They know it when they see it.

I gleaned these tidbits from all the newspapers I read and scanned over the weekend. Publicity people know how to choose the correct words to help persuade the audience to take a chance and pay their hard earned cash to spend a couple of hours in the dark in a willing  suspension of disbelief in hopes of being amused, moved or frightened. It is success at the box office that drives the marketplace. Movie companies, actors, actresses, directors, distributors and movieplexes are all truly happy when the box office results for their films total several millions sometimes over 300 million dollars.

Happy! I tried to look up the derivation of the word; it is commonly thought to come from the word “hap” which means luck or good fortune. So, I guess, it is properly used with the movie industry, a good fortune is made by the studios.

Elsewhere, from an article from the New York Times on Sunday, December 15th titled, A Formula for Happiness, by Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, DC, I lifted this sentence: After 40 years of research, they (social scientists) attribute happiness to these major sources: genes, events and values.

That sentence gave me pause. It set me thinking about our Foundation. How can these sources deal with issues of stranger safety awareness and child abduction? How can happy be applied to this frightful situation?

Let me try to make my case for the antonym, hapless.

As I do research on the mindset of child predators, the one thing that keeps coming to the fore is that they are wired differently than you or I. These feral, amoral beings are out there. Something happened prenatally to these people to make them the way they are. Physically they may resemble you or me. But some disturbance occurred in their brains that predisposed them to harm children. Mental illness or psychosis, it doesn’t matter. They are different. This is not excuse for the crimes they commit. They know they are committing criminal acts. They know they are pariahs. The sooner we recognize this the better we will be able to formulate programs early in our children’s educational and psychological growth that provide a touchstone for stranger safety awareness skills. Brooks notes that up to 48% of happiness is hard-wired in our genes.

Books reports: Up to an additional 40% comes from the things that have occurred in our recent past. When will the passing of a child not be the recent past for any of us?

So, let’s see if my math is correct? 40% + 48% is 88%, leaving us with up to 12% of happiness defined by our systems of values? The perpetrators of sexual assault, changing forever a child’s view of life, and those that go so far as to murder their captives have no system of values, no superego or conscience influencing their ids or their reptilian brains, that any right-thinking person can understand.

Carlie, Leiby Kletzky, and Jessica Ridgeway were all hapless, without luck or without good fortune.

But the Rose Brucia Foundation and similarly minded groups are happy or blessed to have within their membership a value system that drives them to say NO MORE! ENOUGH! NOT ON OUR WATCH!

At this time of year I want to thank all the people who are working to strengthen our children’s stranger safety awareness skills. My thanks to

  • Matt Barbis deserves any and all accolades that come his way. His vision and drive are the heart and soul of this organization. To his wife, Renee, for her belief in him.
  • Maryann Barbis does yeoman like service in keeping all our records up to date and us in contact with each other.
  • The education committee continues to work in the shadows, preparing lesson plans that align with our newest state standards.
  • Lorcan, aka Smarty Pants, and all those involved in the production of our 2nd grade set of stranger safety awareness DVD lessons
  • Mike Pepe and Charlie Comstock for stepping up to teach classrooms and auditoriums filled with eager children
  • Dr. Charlie Kolenik for his encouragement, input  and review of our lessons and opinion papers
  • The prize committee for all their hard work (and my wife for putting up with me)
  • All the volunteers, sponsors, golfers and dinner guests who made our third annual outing so successful
  • Pat Abrams and the Sarasota K9 Search and Rescue Team for reaching out to us to form an educational partnership
  • Loriann LaRocca for her powerful essays
  • All the PTA presidents and members that took our materials for school and personal use at this year’s PTA Conference in Columbus, Ohio
  • The principals and teachers and PTA’s in Great Neck, NY, and New Jersey who invited us in and then back again for repeat performances- your faith in us makes us want to do even better.

So I guess I made my own Best of 2013 without really thinking about it.

The end of the years is never complete without some resolve on our part to make ourselves and the world around us a little better. Use the video lessons. Connect to other websites and see how they deal with the issue. Ask your local PTA’s to consider having us make a parental presentation in your school. We may even be able to schedule a presentation for your children’s school. The worst they can say is NO. But at least give them the chance.

My wish for 2014 is for you and your children and grandchildren, all children to BE SAFE. See you in 2014!

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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