9/11/05 Not Really Missing? Part III
Richard has compiled tips on preventing a re-abduction. These tips are good for general child safety as well.
"After I recovered my daughter, my ex-wife telephoned wanting to talk with Jessica. She had just been let out of jail on her own recognisance, and had a bond posted against her to appear in Court. She also had a No Contact Order with Jessica unless her visit was supervised by a social worker. I did not find out about this order until much later.
A month later Jessica talked to me about what her mother had said to her. I was unaware of the details of the conversation, as I did not supervise the telephone call to allow them privacy. It was a very silly move on my part. I would advise any parent to have all communication between the other parent and your child monitored.
Jessica: Dad I have good news and bad news for you.
Richard: Amused that a 4 year old would use this expression, I first asked her what's the good news? Thinking that it would be something trivial or childish, I did not think I would get the response I got.
Jessica: I made a new friend at my babysitter's house today.
Richard: That's good. What's the friend's name?
Jessica: I forgot, no, his name's Jamie.
Richard: Jamie, well that's good. So Jessica, what's the bad news?
Jessica: Remember when mom phoned me at Grandma's, and she said that she was going to steal me away from you.
Richard: Well Jessica, what do you think of that?
Jessica: I don't want to go, do I have to go?
Richard: No, never, don't worry!
I learned the hard way to make sure that my child was not re-abducted and to this day I advise parents after they have a recovery to do the following:
While there may be no way to know for sure that a specific parent will re-abduct his or her child, parents who have threatened to abduct again or abducted previously should be taken seriously. If it happened once it could happen again, is what you are always thinking.
In my case I did the following:
* Make sure that all caregivers have copies of all Custody Orders and that you have the original copies safe but easily accessible. If the non-custodial parent lives out of Province file a custody decree where the non-custodial parent lives
* Inform all caregivers/teachers/school administration of what is happening. Make sure that they all know who are the only people to take your child out of their care. Reinforce this with them as many times as needed. In my opinion it is better to sound over protective rather than be an “Oops, I forgot about that!” victim.
* When my child was abducted, I could not find a recent picture of her so now I took lots of pictures. It is great for the family album if nothing happens, but useful if needed! This is necessary as kids grow up and change so fast.
* Keep a complete written description of your child including the way they act, talk, and their likes and dislikes.
* Have your child fingerprinted with a recent picture and make copies of your child’s Social Insurance Number and Birth certificate etc. You have already been through one abduction and you do not want to be groping for this information the second time. (Think Project Jason Personal ID Kits)
* Make sure that you child is supervised with his or her playmates at all times and also make sure that the parents of these friends know about what you are going through. Have your child escorted to and from school and after school care centers. My child was almost taken via a snatch and grab from a car. Only the quick thinking of her older sister (from a previous marriage) saved that day.
* Inform the Police immediately of any suspicious cars or people in your neighborhood. You will keep you child safe and at the same time inadvertently help out in any local Block Watch programs.
*Make sure that you answer all telephone calls, doors bells and if need be today, all email for the younger children. Remember, that you do not have to open the door EVER to anyone while you are home.
*If you think that you are being watched keep your curtains closed. Change your comings and going times from time to time as well.
*Teach your child to use the telephone and how to call you, long distance collect. Have a code word that only you and your child know. This will stop any attempts to abduct by the “your Mom or Dad said you’re to come with me!” storyline. Your child will then ask for the code word and that will be the end of that. Teach your child to run to a safe place such as a nearby house. If your child is grabbed teach them to kick and scream to get people’s attention.
*Treat child support and visitation as separate issues. If you have to get supervised visitation for your child and the other parent and their relatives then do so! They abducted once, they could do it again and their family, probably help out.
*Finally seek counseling for yourself and your child. Your church will also have resources that you can utilize. My church has done wonders for me!"
In order to come full circle with this issue, we need to make clear the ramifications for the child who has been abducted by a parent. We realize there may be occasions that custody was awarded to the parent who is not the best one for the job, but regardless, the psychological damage still occurs.
This information comes from the website built for missing Sabrina Allen, http://findsabrina.org/index.html abducted by her mother in April 2002. Her father, Greg, has never given up the search for Sabrina, and has done a good job in using the site to educate the public in regards to this type of abduction case.
Directly from the site:
"DAMAGE TO THE ABDUCTED VICTIM CHILD
Alteration to Appearance
-The abducted child's appearance is often altered (hair cut and dyed, etc.,). Name Change
- The abducted child's name is often changed, with young children sometimes never knowing their true identity.
Loss of true identity
- The child is stripped of his true identity. He loses out on the love of his left-behind family and his roots.
- The abducted child is often medically & physically neglected as abducting parents have the worry that their child may be discovered to be missing.
- Abducted children receive unstable schooling as moves for them are common and getting proper paperwork to schools to enroll your child can be difficult under a new name.
Unstable Living Conditions
- Abducted children have unstable living conditions as they are on the run from the law, and often end up homeless or moving frequently.
Lies and more lies
- Abducted children are often told lies about the abduction and the left-behind parent. They can form a false hatred for the left-behind parent and family. Sometimes they are even told the left-behind parent is dead or in jail or doesn't want them.
The Life of Fugitives
- Abducted children live the lives of fugitives. They are taught not to trust anyone, not to tell about their past, and live a life on the run. They have no opportunity to establish relationships with friends.
Psychological and Emotional Distress
- as a result of living life on the run and being subjected to this kind of abuse, the abducted child is subjected to severe psychological and emotional distress which show up for many years to come.
UNDERSTANDING PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION
Parental child abduction victimizes more than 354,000 U.S. families each year. This crime is widely misunderstood by those not directly affected by the crime, including some law enforcement and government officials, who are under the misconception that children are inherently safe when they are with an abducting parent. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Dr. Dorothy Huntington, an early leader in parental child abduction issues, best describes what parental child abduction fully encompasses, in her 1982 article entitled, Parental Kidnapping: A New Form of Child Abuse. She states, "Child stealing is child abuse.....Children are used as both objects and weapons in the struggle between the parents which leads to the brutalization of the children psychologically, specifically destroying their sense of trust in the world around them.....We must re-conceptualize child stealing as child abuse of the most flagrant sort." (Huntington, 1982, p. 7)
Parental Child Abduction often scars children and their left behind families for life. In addition to psychological trauma, children often suffer from inadequate schooling, poor nutrition, unstable lifestyles, and neglect. The abducting parent poisons the child against the left-behind parent until the abducted children believe the left-behind parent is either dead or will harm them if found.
Parental Child Abduction is not an act done out of love for the child. The primary goal of the parental child abductor is to get even with the other parent. The abductor victimizes the left-behind family by depriving them of visitation or custodial rights and in the process psychologically torturing them with worry and grief. Statistically, half of parental child abductors have criminal records and most have a history of violent behavior, substance abuse or emotional disturbance. Gender doesn't matter. Both fathers and mothers abduct equally and 15% of the time the abduction is with force or violence. Half of family abductions occur before the relationship between parents end while half occur 2 or more years after divorce or separation, usually after parents develop new households, new relationships, move away or are frustrated with the legal system. Once abducted, the children are at the mercy of the abducting parent, who, in hiding, avoids scrutiny by police, doctors, counselors, and child protective services.
The victimization that children suffer when taken by a parent is no less than that of children taken by a stranger, yet the response of society varies considerably. It is this variance that lessens the chance of aggressive investigation by law enforcement or from the public intervening. The left behind families are left in a constant state of emotional turmoil, never knowing if their children are safe, where they are, or whether they'll ever see them again.
Even if a family is lucky enough to find their children, life is never the same again. Families must start over, attend counseling (sometimes for years and years) and in many states must face allowing the children to have visitation with the abductor again and the possibility of re-abduction.
Education, awareness and stronger penalties for parental child abductors are key in the fight to keep children safe and deter would be parental abductors. Unfortunately, the process has been slow across the 50 United States. Some states do not even recognize parental child abduction as a crime while others treat it with the severity it deserves. Until the justice systems in all 50 states uniformly handles the issue with severe punishment, the lives of innocent children will continue to be destroyed in mounting numbers."
Now I ask you, can you still say that these children are not really missing and that they are ok because they are with a parent?
I want to thank Richard for sharing his experience with us to help us understand these issues and also Greg Allen for never giving up to find his Sabrina.