The issue that’s missing from the Republican debates? Sexual violence.

The US Centers of Disease Prevention and Control reports that 1.3 million women annually are victims of predatory sexual violence. They regard it as a public health crisis. One could reasonably expect that this epidemic of sexual violence would be of vital concern to our leaders, but did you hear it raised in the Republican debates? I didn’t. Planned Parenthood. Immigration. The budget. Building a wall on the Mexican border. Hillary Clinton’s emails. Syria. There was lots of anger and sparring on these issues. Sexual violence? No opinion.It seems the candidates regard the war on women as a lost cause. Either that, or it’s so unimportant to them, they don’t give it a second thought.
There is no reason for our leaders to be so complacent. Nothing has improved.  While other types of violent crime have decreased, the incidence of rapes and sexual homicides have skyrocketed. Even simple measures could make a difference. For example, rapists are known to follow their victims as they walk home along darkened streets. City councils could be providing better street lighting. Getting rid of the backlog of untested rape kits would make an even bigger difference. The Joyful Heart foundation reports there are hundreds of thousands of them. Yet it’s so often the case that after DNA testing leads to an arrest, it turns out the perpetrator was a serial offender. By failing to test rape kits, cities allow serial rapists to roam free, attacking more women.
Sexual violence is not an issue that galvanizes our leaders. They don’t debate it, they don’t campaign on it, they don’t ask women’s organizations, “what can I do to help make a difference?” They regard it as a non issue. Is it cynical to think that if 1.3 million males were raped annually in the USA, crimes of sexual violence would be a recurring topic in the Republican debates?


How to keep your kids safe from harm – The Adelaide Advertiser

 Alison Summers

When they’re little, parents warn children about the ploys kidnappers use: the lost puppy, the offer of lollies, the pretend message from Mum or Dad’s hospital bed.
My two kids knew I would never send someone to pick them up in an emergency without the secret password. (Big Bear, a favourite stuffed animal). We created a list of things considered inappropriate for strangers to ask kids, like directions to the school, or help carrying shopping bags.

We invented rowdy scenarios of strangers trying to grab them. The boys liked the parts where they ran away, shouting “This is not my parent!” Or (pretend) bite the stranger’s hand, or kick the stranger’s leg rather hard sometimes! I thought I had done a good job. I could relax, right?

But then not so long ago I read about an experiment the FBI conducted with college students. Princeton undergraduates were approached by a man claiming to be lost. After each student gave him directions, the man (an FBI agent) would offer $100 if the student would get into his van and direct him en route. Every student got into the van.

When the experiment was repeated at the John Jay School for Criminal Justice in New York City, once again every student hopped into the stranger’s van. Over breakfast I told my own college age son about the experiment. Charley’s response was to whistle: “$100? That’s a lot of money!”

For a Mum hoping to hear: “Those crazy kids! What were they thinking!” this was like a bucket of cold water. But it got me thinking. What should parents say to adolescents that replaces the lost puppies, and strangers offering lollies? What do FBI criminal profilers teach their kids?

BEFORE he retired to write books, author John Douglas investigated hundreds of cases for the FBI, including the Atlanta child murders.
“I try not to obsess about the safety of my loved ones,” says Douglas, upon whom Thomas Harris based the character of Jack Crawford in Silence of the Lambs, “but I can tell you from personal experience as the father of three that you can’t be involved with this kind of work without having it affect your perceptions of your own children’s safety and well-being.”

FBI profiler Candice DeLong was a single mother. She insisted Seth lock doors and windows when he was home alone. “His father accused me of promoting ‘fearfulness’ but it’s basic common sense,” she says. “You’d be amazed how many assailants simply waltz into unsecured homes. Having worked in child abduction cases, she gave Seth clear instructions about escaping a kidnapper.
“The time to plan what to do if your child is accosted is right now, not when the attack is under way, when most people will be too panicky to think straight.”

Coaching a child, says DeLong, builds confidence and shows them they have options.
DeLong told Seth about a child who didn’t make any noise as he was being dragged from a mall, “because his parents taught him to respect adults – any adults – too much”. “So when you’re around people, scream like hell,” she says.

Gavin de Becker is widely regarded as the leading expert in the USA on predicting violent behavior. He says sometimes onlookers assume the adult struggling with the child is a parent, so the child should also scream: “This is not my father.”

For DeLong, whose cases included the arrest of the Unabomber, mobile phones are the most “super-powerful, crime-fighting weapon in existence”. She advised her son “Make eye contact with individuals, not the whole mass, who can retreat into anonymity, and beg those people individually to call the police”.

Absent of onlookers, he should shout “Fire!”. “Children at play scream ‘Help!’ all the time,” explains DeLong. “It is all too easy to justify ignoring a cry for help. But we all know exactly what to do when someone yells ‘Fire!’”

In Strong on Defense former police supervisor Sanford Strong points out even if an assailant shows a weapon, children should know “initial injury is far from the worst consequence of a violent crime”. The attacker is unlikely to use the weapon, since it is in their best interest to escape the crowd without being noticed.

Sometimes children think if they do as they’re told, they won’t be hurt. Experts say children should always fight back and that twisting, rather than pulling out of an abductor’s hold is more effective.

During the 1980s when Roger Depue was at the helm of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit, the father of three recalls visits to the mall where the hardest thing was “watching as a little kid wandered away from an inattentive parent”.

“It was all I could do to restrain myself from going over like a crazy person and warning them not to let their kids out of their sight.” Depue instructed his own kids if they became lost not to wait for a stranger to offer assistance, but to choose someone themselves.

Parents used to recommend children ask a police officer if they need help but today experts are skeptical that children can distinguish between a security guard and a cop.

Gavin de Becker, who frequently spoke about safety on television chat show Oprah, says this employment pool has yielded more than its share of violent individuals, so “you certainly don’t want your child’s first choice to be a security guard”.

He suggests that if your children are ever lost to teach them to go to a woman. “It’s highly unlikely that a woman will be a sexual predator,” continues de Becker. “Is what I’ve said politically incorrect? Maybe so, but the luxury of not running for office, is that I don’t care if it’s politically incorrect.”

John Douglas agrees: “By definition, this is sexist, but by definition, men are the problem.”

FOR decades parents have been warning their children not to speak to strangers. But this advice can backfire, according to de Becker who says when a child is lost “the ability to talk to strangers is actually the single greatest asset he could have”. He needs to be able to describe his situation, give his phone number, and ask for assistance.

“Talking is just talking,” he says. “What we really want to avoid is our child going somewhere with someone.”

De Becker believes it’s more critical that parents teach “privacy and control”. A dangerous man is not dangerous in a crowd. He is dangerous when he gets to have “privacy and control”.

It was when the students got into the FBI agent’s van, not when they were on the footpath chatting, that they put themselves at risk. If the child can’t escape, the experts’ advice is never give up.

DeLong, who says the highlight of her career was rescuing a nine-year-old kidnap victim, urges: “You don’t want them to be paralyzed by the kidnapper’s threats to kill them if they try to escape. Their goal is to survive. They may have to wait and watch for that right moment to break free.”

Experts recommend parents give an updated age-appropriate talk each year. It should be delivered as matter of factly as a traffic safety discussion. Just as much a part of life.

What about parents who worry about their child losing their innocence? De Becker suggests they consider this question: “Of all the approaches you might take to enhance the safety of your child, do you suppose that ignorance about violence is an effective one?”