Imagine This: Part 2 of an ongoing stranger safety lesson

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

In the article, The Abduction of Children by Strangers in Canada: Nature and Scope, by Marlene L. Dalley and Jenna Ruscoe, published December 1, 2003, the authors note different classes of abductors, pedophiles, profiteers, serial killers and childless psychotics, have been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to Dalley and Ruscoe,

“…abductors use the advantages of their physical strength over their victims… (their) age, social position, economic power, authority and/or manipulative lures as their weapons. They rely on their victim’s fear, vulnerability and obedience to adults’ authority.”

One method used by these abductors is known as the Blitz Attack. Dalley and Ruscoe provide the following description of this event:

“A stranger appears suddenly. Children’s responses resemble reactions to any other sudden, unexpected, dangerous event in their lives: (a) they are in so much shock that it interferes with any defensive action they might take; (b) the shock of the stranger’s behavior precludes seeing or remembering much of the incident, so that they may have considerable difficulty recognizing and identifying the individual at a later time; and (c) they label the experience as an assault and themselves as survivor. This type of attack may or may not involve an assault with a weapon.”

This forms the basis of Imagine This! …Part II

Your child hears this – “Come with me!”

Paint the picture for your child. The child is at the park, or on the way to school, walking home from school, at the movie theater, in a store or at the mall. Someone comes up to your child and grabs your child by the arm and tells your child to get moving with them. Have your child, unaided, given no cues, either oral or visual, decide what to do after you go over these questions:

  • Do you ask them who they are?
  • What if it is a little boy or girl who asks you?
  • What if it is a woman?
  • What if you think you know them?
  • What if they say I (the parent) sent them?
  • What if they say I was in an accident?

What is your child’s response? Did the child think to yell the word, “STRANGER“? Did the child say he/she would make a fuss? Go over what you want your child to do, but moreover ask how he/she got into the situation where he/she was ALONE at the time of the confrontation. Stress again the need to practice the BUDDY SYSTEM time and time again.

We are all partners in this endeavor of stranger safety awareness. Let’s help insure that our children’s response to a potentially dangerous situation begins with an instinctual response to that threat.

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.

 

Legacy

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Long before the day itself, the true harbingers of Memorial Day, the red poppies sold by veterans at any storefront where I shop appear. Photos will appear in every newspaper on that weekend, and they should. There will be a silhouetted shot of a bugler sounding Taps, of rows of flags on the graves of veterans. A country must remember its fallen.

While visiting a friend in Crossville, Tennessee, I read through the local newspaper, The Glade Sun. An article by a Rod McBrayer was entitled, “This truth remains: Your life will outlive you.” He recounted the life, times and lasting impact of his grandmother’s words and actions.

In author Mark Helprin’s collection, The Pacific and Other Stories,  an older man recalls stories of his late father and is saddened by the realization that with his own passing those tales so resonant in his heart and soul, that speak so pointedly to him will be deleted from collective memory when he also passes away.

I joke with my wife about the depth of my interest and understanding about many things. In her former life, Kate was a teacher of LOTE, a Language Other Than English, a rather pc way of saying she taught Spanish. Because of her, I know the names Lorca and Neruda, fiery poets of contemporary literature. Looking through The Captain’s Verses by Neruda, I came across the following lines in the poem The Mountain and the River:

Who are those who suffer?

I do not know but they call to me.

I do not know, but they are mine

And they say to me: “We suffer.”

Further, in the poem, Lives, Neruda wrote

…because it is the voice of all

those who did not speak,

of those who did not sing…

Certainly, in the cases of Carlie, Hailey Owens, Jessica Holloway, Leiby Kletzky, their immortality, tragically and notoriously earned, will endure far beyond the temporal span of their existence among us. Their voices were lost; their songs not sung.

We must remember. Most of us did not know them. Yet they are ours. All of us who remember now speak and sing for them.

Within the next six weeks our Foundation will visit at least five different schools and groups, presenting our lessons 11 times. Our Really Beyond Prime Time Group will interact with students in Brooklyn, Brentwood, Holbrook, Holtsville, Lake Grove and Smithtown, meeting over 2,300 students, grades K through 5!

We do not know them. Yet, they too are ours.

 

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.

Casting Shadows

by Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

As I was reading in our den, I could hear the soft murmur of the TV coming from another room. A few seconds later my wife entered the room. She looked saddened and before I could ask what was going on she said, “They found that little boy, the autistic boy who ran away last month. They said the police found his remains; they mentioned body parts.” She sighed and asked, “That means someone took him, doesn’t it?”  The boy was missing for over 3 months and his body was found at a distant location from his home. With our involvement in the foundation, knowing how children can disappear, it was an easy conclusion to draw given the set of particulars-a handicapped child, roaming the streets of a borough of New York City, no money, no jacket, lost and possibly finding it difficult to communicate his plight to strangers. As time passed and more information came out,  the remains were definitively determined to be those of Avonte  Oquendo, the 13-year old autistic child who had walked out of his school and been missing since October 4, 2013. And this is all that is known. The tragedy strikes the hearts and minds of everyone. At least, I hope that is true.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program (OJJDP) prepared the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway (NISMART) children. The 2002 publication of the study present the following information:

A runaway episode is one that meets any one of the following criteria:

  • A child leaves home without permission and stays away overnight.
  • A child 14 years old or younger (or older and mentally incompetent) who is away from home chooses not to come home when expected to and stays away overnight.
  • A child 15 years old or older who is away from home chooses not to come home and stays away two nights.

A thrownaway episode is one that meets either of the following criteria:

  • A child is asked or told to leave home by a parent or other household adult, no adequate alternative care is arranged for the child by a household adult, and the child is out of the household overnight.
  • A child who is away from home is prevented from returning home by a parent or other household adult, no adequate alternative care is arranged for the child by a household adult, and the child is out of the household overnight.

Analyzing the data, the study concludes

  • In 1999, an estimated 1,682,900 youth had a runaway/ thrownaway episode. Of these youth, 37 percent were missing from their caretakers and 21 percent were reported to authorities for purposes of locating them.
  • Of the total runaway/thrownaway youth, an estimated 1,190,900 (71 percent) could have been endangered during their runaway/thrownaway episode by virtue of factors such as substance dependency, use of hard drugs, sexual or physical abuse, presence in a place where criminal activity was occurring, or extremely young age (13 years old or younger).
  • Youth ages 15–17 made up two-thirds of the youth with runaway/thrownaway episodes during the study year.
  • There is suggestive evidence that the runaway problem may have been smaller in 1999 than it was in 1988.

The numbers themselves are dry, simple nouns.  Add just a bit of what you know about abduction and exploitation and far too many of them in this report are chilling: 71%, drugs, abuse, criminal activity, all red flags.

Why bring up this data? Let’s never forget the endgame of the abductors we are trying to thwart. We are dealing with a group of individuals who wish to satisfy their particular desires. They need a supply of victims to attain their goal. Whether these victims are coaxed or coerced into this world of criminality, the end result of degradation and the potential for death are too real to ignore.

The SuperBowl takes place February 2nd in New Jersey. Read the newspapers, listen to the radio or TV and you learn of all the hoopla , overkill and excess that surrounds the game, how it is a financial boon to all aligned businesses.

Cindy McCain, wife of US Senator John McCain of Arizona, is in the forefront of efforts to combat human trafficking, said this in relation to the upcoming 2015 SuperBowl set for her home state: (The SuperBowl)…will be the largest human trafficking venue on the planet.

Bradley Myles, CEO of the Polaris Project, a non-profit working to combat sex trafficking, notes…the overall size of the phenomenon in the US is much more significant than statistics show.

Danielle Douglas, who says she is a sex trafficking survivor, says visitors are coming to the SuperBowl to have sex with women, and/or men or children.

I wonder how many of the missing, abducted, runaway and thrownaway children are or have been part of this dark underside of the game. Where do you think abducted children wind up?

February 1st marks the tenth anniversary of Carlie’s death. The world has gone on. There has been healing to close the wounds of her passing. She didn’t live to fulfill her dreams. From some English course I took many years ago, I remember the professor exhorting us with a line-something about measuring the greatness of your soul by the shadow it casts. Carlie’s shadow falls on us even today.

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.

Defying Gravity

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

 

I believe you remember this fable by Aesop:

A scorpion meets a frog on the bank of a stream and the

scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back.

The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?”

The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

 

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,

the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of

paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,

but has enough time to gasp “Why?” The scorpion says

“It is my nature…”

          While the recent Newsday article trumpeted a recidivism rate around 3% for three years after a convicted sex predator has been released, my mind goes back to a conversation I had with a clergyman this past April. He sorrowfully noted a man he had known for years had been removed from his church office because he had been convicted as a child predator. This acquaintance had absolved himself of all blame because he felt there was nothing wrong, morally or legally, with his behavior. It was the way he was made. I guess nature tops nurture in that case. Tell me how to deal with that mindset.

When I taught physical science, I would present information about the forces of nature to my charges. Students would present so many instances they had gleaned from TV or the misconstructed ideas they had formed about the natural world. Newton, I am sure, must have had so laughs when he heard our discussions. My favorite to this day concerns The Case of the Falling Elevator. It is very possible my students came to class with fully formed concepts about gravity based upon the behavior of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner and Daffy Duck. Thank you Warner Brothers! Concerning the elevator in distress: my students would argue that, should they find themselves in a rapidly descending, out of control car, they would only have to watch the lights indicating the present floor level, wait and jump just before the car hit the bottom of the elevator shaft! I always told the kids, you have to obey gravity; it’s the law!

How naïve their preconceptions! But chalk it up to youth and imagination! But when a local newspaper article reports recidivism rates at “only 3%”, tell me how you would feel if your child, grandchild, nephew, niece, neighbor’s child, or any other child is included in that 3%? When is the number statistically relevant?

A recent song by the Goo Goo Dolls, Come to Me, includes the lyric, History’s like gravity. History has weight; it has substance. Georges Santayana wrote about those ignoring the past being doomed to repeat it.

Learning is an always thing. We cannot simply open our charges minds; pour in correct thinking along with right actions. Learning needs reinforcement.  The trick is to make learning stranger safety awareness skills games that can be continually revisited.

Small things can make a difference. Here’s something that you might find helpful. First, go over the meaning of personal space. Have your child stand and physically describe their personal space. They should spread their arms out to the side and turn slowly back and forth to show their space. Write the letters D, E, R, U, T, T, and S on index cards or pieces of paper. Have your child(ren) spell out as many words as possible with these letters. Hopefully they will get to the word, T-R-U-S-T-E-D. Go over with them why they can call someone “a trusted adult.” Your home and therefore your rules and definitions! On a sheet of paper, print in large letters, T-R-U-S-T. Stress to your child the idea that trust is a bridge one person makes to another person. Draw or have your child draw a figure of a person on each side of the word. Draw a line over the top of each letter and reinforce the idea of the “BRIDGE’ from one side of the word to the other. Ask the child to identity the middle letter of the word. The “U” represents the child. Tell them YOU are the center of the activity we call TRUST. Ask them what would happen to the “bridge” if the letter “U” is removed. Hopefully they’ll say the bridge is broken, does not stand, or the bridge is incomplete. Tell them that without “U/YOU”, there is no chance of trusting someone. There can be no bridge.

If there is one word to be stressed over and over again, it is T-R-U-S-T! Say it loudly and often.

I wish I could come up with some rhyme based on Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” something based on the idea of would you trust them in a car. Maybe one of you out there can help us.

We cannot defy gravity. We CAN give our children the skills and wherewithal to fly safely into their future.

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.

The Secret Word

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

“Innocence is always unsuspicious”Joseph Joubert

That is a quote that rings loudly in my head as I write today’s blog to kick off the first school day of “Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week” in New York State.  It drives home two very profound thoughts that motivate all the volunteers at The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation.  One, that children are probably only innocent for a very short time in today’s society.  It is difficult for parents to maintain their innocence with constant bombardment of advertising and a continual feed of “information” available through the media and the internet.  Two, due to their innocent nature, it is very easy for a child to fall victim to circumstance.  As somber as that sounds, we strive to maintain innocence in children for as long as possible – the world is tough enough without having to thrust them into adulthood prematurely. Enough philosophy – let me get to the point.

Since children may be tricked into a dangerous situation if their parents aren’t around, here’s what we can teach them without having to scare them.  Creating a secret word with your child can be the key to making sure they may not be tricked into going with someone they should not.  This will work outside the realm of stranger safety for it is very simple.  If the child is not told the secret word, they do not go with that person.

Parents: Sit down with your child and create your very own secret word.  It is a word that only you and your child will know. It is very important that you stress that they do not tell ANYONE this word.  It will only be told to them, never the other way around.  Once you have created it, teach your child that they will only hear this word if you cannot come to pick them up somewhere.  You will be the only person in the world that can share this word and you will only do it in an emergency.  Practice with them to show different circumstances where the word would be used.  Now, no one will be able to tell your children that you were in an accident and that they sent that person to pick them up; they won’t fall for the stranger offering them a ride to school; they even won’t fall for a familiar person trying to trick them.

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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