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Child Safety Situation #13

Girl, 12 years old; abducted from her bedroom through an unlocked door.

One night in 1993, Polly Klaas and her spend-the-night company were snacking and talking in Polly's bedroom. Her mother was asleep in her bedroom down the hall. The breeze coming in the window was cool for that time of year in Petaluma, California.

Suddenly a man came into Polly's bedroom. He'd gotten into the house through the unlocked door. He waved a big knife at the girls and said if they made any noise he would kill them. Richard Davis knew how to scare kids; he had done it before. Polly begged, "Please don't hurt my friends or my mother or my little sister." "Come with me then," Richard told Polly, as he dragged her out.

The frightened girls at the slumber party ran to Polly's mother's room. Although her mother immediately called 911, Polly and her abductor were gone by the time the police got there. Later that night, officers helped a man named Richard Davis get his car out of a ditch. Although Polly was not in the car, it is believed she might have been still alive nearby. The officers thought it was a little suspicious his being on a private road at that time of night, but they had no reason to hold him, not knowing Davis had a record for molesting children.

After Polly's body was found, Richard Davis was arrested and tried for her rape and murder. In 1997 he was found guilty and is now on death row.

What can you learn from Polly's terrible experience to make you more predator resistant?

If someone grabs your friend, you must turn and run right then to get help, just like you would run if you had to get out of the way of a truck. You have to be brave enough, even if he threatens you with a knife or gun, to run to save yourself and get help for your friend. You must get law enforcement there as quickly as you can to stop him from taking your friend. If there is a bunch of you, split up and run in different directions--one to Polly's mother room for her to call 911 or get a gun, another next door, another out into the street to get help or hide and see what kind of car he has and write the tag number in the dirt or on the side of a car after you run your hand through your hair to get oil on it.

If everyone of the girls had screamed as loud as they could, there is the chance someone living nearby would call the police to report the disturbance or come over to help. The odds are that the kidnapper would not stab or shoot anyone, but would take off, because he does not know who will hear the scream and what weapons they have. The major reason he probably will not stab you, though, is that he would not be satisfied just stabbing someone, when what brings him pleasure is terrorizing and sexually hurting his victim.

GEM (Great Escape Maneuvers):
There is no need for you to tremble in a corner like a frightened mouse afraid a cat will one day pounce on you. You may be small, but you can turn yourself into Mighty Mouse if you have GEM power. Pack your head with GEMs, Great Escape Maneuvers, to increase your chance of getting away if one day you face a sexual predator.

After you admit that even your children can be taken by sexual predators, empower them by teaching them these GEMs (Great Escape Maneuvers). Read all the GEMs and discuss these real stories with your children and decide which GEMs you think might have worked best in each situation. Role play, as this is a great way to teach them how to deal with emergencies. The most powerful weapons you can give your children are the abilities to recognize which situations are potentially predatory and which responses maximize their chances of getting away.

Background Check:
The Violent Crime Information Network now used in California lists some 430,000 convicted criminals, the worst of the worst. Police in squad cars can now pull up the criminal record of a suspicious person. When Davis was stopped, he had a history of child molestation, but officers in a car did not know this, so they had no reason to hold him while they searched the area. You need to make sure this resource is available in your state.

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Information presented for educational purposes only. Reprinted with permission from The Jimmy Ryce Center.

| Child Safety Main | Responding to Child Abuse |

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