On the heels of the rescue of sweet sixteen year old Hannah Anderson, who was abducted by a life long family friend, James DiMaggio, millions of parents, grandparents and caregivers are asking themselves the why or how could this have happened, and worse than that, wonder perhaps if something like this could happen in their own family.
Since this situation began to unfold, the facts have been found so disturbing it consequently should have an effect on the way we educate our children with regard to strangers. Most of us grew up learning about staying away from people we didn't know. People we call strangers. We were taught not to take candy, accept a ride, or go with someone using the lure of a puppy. As we got older we shared this information with our own children, nieces and nephews. In school they teach about “Stranger Danger”. We believed we had it all figured out. After all, we thought we were sharing everything our youngsters would need to know if they were to encounter a stranger trying to entice them by offering them most kids would like.
That was then, and this is now. Thanks to James DiMaggio, this will be much more difficult to explain to children of all ages. From tiny tots to teenagers (including adults) the thought process may go something like this: This is my aunt, uncle, cousin or someone so close to the family we address them as such, they wouldn’t let any harm come to me, let alone be the one to be causing the harm.
It’s a sad day when we can’t trust people we have known all of our lives. In the case of Hannah Anderson, both of her parents were friends of “Uncle Jim” for more than the 16 years Hannah has been on this earth.
As adults, we certainly don’t want to start looking at everyone with a jaded eye, or give young people the impression that everyone is evil. As a result of James DiMaggio, this is not going to be an easy task.
New techniques will need to be developed so the children can grasp this unfortunate ‘new reality’. Parents will need to be even more on guard making sure whatever rules your family decides upon are implemented, by both the children and the parents themselves.
There is no simple solution or an easy and painless way to explain what happened to Hannah Anderson, her mother, Christina Anderson and her eight-year-old brother Ethan, without causing stress and fear among our children as well as adults.
Perhaps now is time to return and enforce the ‘buddy system’ with our children. Even if they are going with someone you have known all of your life, have another friend join them. Although this is no guarantee this would dissuade these types of offenders, the buddy system may be a good place to start.