Protecting the Gift- Survival Signals Part 2 in a series
De Becker details the strategies used by any type of criminal who must persuade his target to cooperate. He urges parents to think of violence as a process in
which the early, subtle events are as telling as the dramatic events. When predicting violence, there are pre-incident indicators, (PINS). Your defense against predator's is to recognize the PINS in the very behaviors intended to put you at ease. These behaviors are forced teaming, charm, and niceness, too many details,typecasting, loan-sharking, unsolicited promises, discounting the
word "no." I will simply highlight a few of his points from this chapter
Those same behaviors termed PINS are in use every day by people with no sinister intent. The generous stranger and the sinister one have something in common:
motive. Sometimes motive is innocent, sometimes sinister. But since it's always there, ask yourself what it might be.
The most universally significant signal is ignoring the concept of NO. When someone ignores no, ask yourself, "Why is this person seeking to control me? What does he want?" Get away from the person altogether, but if that not
practical, respond with "I said NO!"A mother in public with her child who feels she needs assistance is far better
off choosing someone and asking for help than waiting for an unsolicited approach. The person you choose is nowhere near as likely to bring you hazard as is the person who chooses you. It is unlikely you would choose a predatory
criminal. Ask a woman when help is needed, and accept an offer from a woman rather than man.While many women are reluctant to appear rude because they fear it will cause
anger, in the context of approaches by strangers in public, the anger you might cause is rarely a step towards violence. In fact, perceived as a rude woman, you
are a far less attractive target than a polite one.
The human being is the only prey in nature that cooperates in its own
victimization. Imagine an impala in Africa looking at a lion and thinking, "But this is a nice lion." Though people do just that all the time, you and your children do not have to.
When you don't trust someone, when your intuition sends doubt or suspicion, you've all the information you need. Don't wait until you can construct a logical reason to act. When you listen to your intuition, your children will
learn to also.Even young children do not inherently trust everyone. There are people they recoil from. This is something to cherish and nurture, not something to force
them to ignore (i.e., "apologize to Mr. Ames for not being friendly," or "Give Mrs. Bear a hug right now.")
Never Talk to Strangers. Children are taught the rule when young, but see parents violate it over and over. And they themselves are encouraged to violate it. "Say hello to the nice lady." What children actually learn is never talk to
strangers unless they are wearing a clown suit or uniform, work at the bank, are handing out tasty samples, or are especially nice.
When we assume young children will reliably do what we say in our absence, or that doing it will keep them safe, we're sharing our duty with the least qualified person available. And, it doesn't work. The Rule actually reduces safety. The message "Never trust a stranger" implies that people you know will not harm you. The opposite is true far more often, so the issue isn't strangers versus acquaintances, it's people who might harm your child versus people who
won't, people who deserve your trust versus people who don't.
Until a child is old enough to understand what predatory strategies look like, old enough and confident enough to resist them, assertive enough to seek help,
powerful enough to enforce the word no, a child is too young to be his own protector. The irony is that if lost in public, the ability to speak to strangers is a child's greatest asset. To seek assistance, describe one's
situation, give a phone number, ask advice, say no--all require speaking with strangers.The Rule provides unearned peace of mind; because of it, some parents don't take
other precautions. Furthermore, children raised to assume all strangers might be dangerous do not develop their innate skills of evaluating behavior. The Rule produces generation after generation of people who fear people, mostly because they don't understand them. For every person you encounter who might hurt your child, there are millions who will not. Don't treat everyone as if they are in
the dangerous group.Bottom line: The issue isn't strangers, it's strangeness. It's inappropriate behavior: a stare held too long, a smile that curls too slowly, a narrowing or
widening of the eyes, a rapid looking away.Our children's intuition can be aided by our watching our child communicate in a store then discussing the encounter afterwards. "I felt safe with that man at the next table who talked to us. Did you?" Or "What did you think when that guy tood so close. I thought he seemed strange. I wasn't comfortable with him."If Lost, Go to a Police Officer. Another rule that rarely enhances safety. Young
children can't tell the difference between a police officer and security guard (the latter are from the employment pool that gives more serial killers and rapists than there is time to talk about!). Even if a child can identify a
police officer, it could take hours to find one, and it might not happen at all. "Go to the manager" poses the same problem as identifying a police officer. That small name tag is several feet above a child's eye level.
Teach children that if they are lost, go to a woman. Why? If a child selects a woman, it is highly unlikely she will be a sexual predator. A man approached by a lost child seeking help may say, "Head over there to the manager's desk," a woman will get involved and stay involved until the child is safe.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. The fact is that men in all cultures and at all ages and at all times in history are more violent than women--and facts are not political.
If lost, "go to woman" works because it's practical (there will usually be one around), and simple (easy to teach, learn, do). Teaching children to choose someone rather than wait for someone to choose them will serve them throughout life.
If You Are in Trouble, Go to the Nearest Police Station. There are actions likely to be far more practical and effective, such as trying to call home or asking someone for help.
No Place is Safe. Telling children this is telling them it hardly matters whatanyone does because danger is waiting everywhere to get them. This is inaccurate; the opelessness of the message discourages personal responsibility; and, the messenger quickly loses credibility.
As to "Don't wander off in public," saying this to kids makes sense--so long as we don't rely upon their compliance. Along with this advice, dress children in
brightly colored, distinctive, easily describable clothing, and when in unfamiliar areas, have an agreement such as "If anyone gets lost, we'll meet at the Ferris wheel."
The Changing of the GuardTime passes, and the day comes when your child will makes that walk to school, a friend's house, or the store, alone.Below is an abridged version of de Becker's test of what children should know before being alone in public. (Obvious requirements such as knowing home
address, phone number etc. are not included.)