Don't Talk to Strangers 2.0

The news from Cleveland last week was sickening on so many levels.  My heart breaks for those three women, not only for what they endured these last ten years, but for what they lost, as well.  Your late teens through your late twenties are some of the best years of your life.  To be robbed of those years for doing nothing more than getting in the wrong car is so devastatingly sad. 


But what happened to those poor women is another reminder of just how vulnerable we are, and how easily anyone’s life can change in just an instant.  And I would imagine that they wouldn’t want what happened to them to happen to anyone else ever again.


The first time I spoke to my daughter about not talking to strangers was when she was in kindergarten.  I had the typical talk with her that you’d expect to have with a five year-old.  Don’t talk to strangers, even if they say they know me or daddy.  Don’t take food from strangers.  Don’t ever get in a car with a stranger, or agree to walk anywhere with a stranger.  If a stranger tries to touch you or take you somewhere, run away and scream as loud as you can. 


Since then, the subject has only come up a few times.  If my daughter takes her scooter around the block by herself, I remind her not to stop for anyone she doesn’t know.  If she goes to the bathroom by herself at the movies or in a mall, I might casually toss off a “don’t talk to any strangers in there.”  Her reply is always the same - "I know, Mom," along with an eyeroll.  But after I heard about what happened in Cleveland, I couldn’t help wondering, does she know?  Does she really know? 


I decided it was time for Don’t Talk to Strangers 2.0.


This past Friday night, she and I had dinner together, just the two of us, while my son and my husband were at a hockey game.  As we sat in the food court at the mall, I told her about the three girls in Cleveland who’d been kidnapped and had been living in some sick guy’s house for a decade.  I didn’t go into detail - I didn’t tell her about the child that had been born, or about the chains in which they’d been kept.  But I told her about how the guy had offered each of them a ride home, and how they’d all accepted. 



That is exactly the issue I am having with my son. He thinks bad people look a certain way and that is how you know. It is so hard to explain to them that it really could be anyone.


Risa, I am printing out your examples to make my nine-year-old read them. I've been thinking about this non-stop and couldn't think of the right examples. Thank you.

When I was your age, we just let them ride in the back window. Surrender, Dorothy


Wow. Fantastic article. I had chills after reading it. Thank you for that important reminder. I have 3 kids and this is SO important to remember.