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Child Safety Situation #9

Girl, 10 years old; attacked after she let strangers in while home alone.

One day in 1982, Debbie* told her father, "I do not feel good enough to go to school today." Andrew* looked at his 10-year-old daughter and thought, "I'm not sure Debbie's sick enough to need to stay home. But, even if it's just depression from losing her mother to cancer, she's so bright it won't hurt her to stay home one day." "OK," he said, "but stay in the house until I get home."

After her daddy left, Debbie watched cartoons for a long time. She must have forgotten what her daddy said, because when the postman saw her, she was petting her dog, and she came out to get the mail out of the mailbox. While Debbie was outside, two carpet cleaners in a yellow Stanley Steamer van stopped and asked her directions to a neighbor's home where they were scheduled to clean carpets.

Later in the day, one of the same men knocked on Debbie's door and told her his name, and that while he was in the area, he would give her an estimate for cleaning her carpets. After Debbie let him in, the 20-year-old made sexual advances, and when Debbie threatened to call the police, he hit her and dragged her into a bedroom. When his 25 year old partner came in to pick him up and saw what was happening, he kidded him about being "a cherry" and urged him "to be a man" and have sex with her. The more Debbie resisted, the harder they hit her "to soften her up." At some point, one of the men went out to the van and got a gun. Debbie ended up being shot first in the chest and then in the head.

What can you learn from Debbie's fate to make you more predator resistant?

Obey Rules:
If your parent asks you to stay inside, do not go outside. Staci's father probably though she would be safe as long as she did not advertise she was home alone.

Lock Up:
If you must be home alone, keep your doors and windows locked. If the bell rings or there is a knock on the door and you can see the person is someone you know, without opening the door, ask the person to come back later. If you see it is someone you do not know or you can't see who it is, do not answer. If your parents have told you to let a particular company in, to spray for bugs or something, tell the person through the door that your mom or dad has to check if the person is really who they say they are before you can open the door. Ask the person's name and the company telephone number, and call the company. It is safest never to let a workmen in if you are home alone. No legitimate salesman or inspector will ever insist on coming in to do a job without adults being present.

Call 911:
Run to the telephone and call 911 if someone is trying to force his way in or if you hear something that scares you. Give your address, name, and age, and ask for an officer to come immediately as someone is trying to break in, and you are home alone.

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*Names changed to protect privacy; information presented for educational purposes only. Reprinted with permission from The Jimmy Ryce Center.

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