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Jun-05-2009 07:05printcomments

Important Reminder for Parents and Children on Stranger Dangers

As we close in on the summer months and you're you're still unsure how a situation should be handled, talk to another responsible adult, a school teacher or administrator, or a police officer.

Stranger Danger
Image courtesy: 2.bp.blogspot.com

(BEAVERTON, Ore.) - I was recently told about a situation in south Beaverton where a man in a vehicle drove up to a young high school student and asked her if she would get into the car. She handled herself very appropriately and knew how to handle the situation. The end result was a text book happy ending.

But, that had me thinking, have we reminded our children about what to do if they were approached by a stranger or home alone? Do our younger children understand who a stranger would be? How to be careful in these situations or things to do to help avoid these dangers?

As the summer months fast approach the Beaverton Police Department would like to remind parents and children about stranger dangers and how to handle those unsettling situations. It's important for parents to talk with their kids and go over their own family plan(s) as to what to do if their child(ren) is approached by a stranger.

It's also important to remember, with the daylight hours extending, children may be outside walking around, playing or simply hanging out into the later evening hours. If a stranger approaches them, do they know what to do?

If someone were in the area where your children were playing and they were acting odd, making the kids feel uncomfortable, would they tell an adult?

If someone approached a child, on foot or in a car, do they know not to get close that person or car, if possible? Would they walk away, call someone from their cell phone or go to the nearest house, if no one else was around?

Parents talk to your kids about these helpful tips they should know to help prevent these situations from happening. For example walk in pairs or small groups but remember to stick together, there's safety in numbers!

Kids should be aware of their surroundings and look up to see who or what is nearby. Remind kids they don't have to be afraid of a stranger, but being careful is a good practice.

When they know some options on how to handle a bad situation, if it presents itself, the likely hood of there being a positive outcome has increased.

Let kids know not to get into a car when asked, especially if you don't know that person. Walk away and don't talk to them no matter what the stranger tries. Parents let your children know if someone else will be picking them up from their activities, maybe have a code word to know as a safety precaution for younger children.

If your kids are walking home remind them to try and not take shortcuts through woods or fields, especially if they're alone. Always stay in areas with other people.

If children need to be home alone until their parents get home from work set up a family plan up regarding computer use or answering the phone or the door. Set rules to follow for having friends over when an adult is not present.

These are just a few examples of how you could educate your children as we close in on the summer months. If you're still unsure how a situation should be handled talk to another responsible adult, a school teacher or administrator, or a police officer.

Parents try to plan activities or events for the children to participate in or family outings in your local area. This would allow them to be around others and placed in safer surroundings.

The Beaverton Police Department would like to help the citizens of our community have a safe and happy summer. For information on neighborhood parks, flicks by the fountain, summer reading clubs at the Beaverton Library or other scheduled summer events visit the city's website at beavertonoregon.gov under the community heading.

Detective Pam Yazzolino




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Keith Smith June 8, 2009 8:07 pm (Pacific time)

My name is Keith Smith. I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. It wasn't a neighbor, a coach, a relative, a family friend or teacher. It was a recidivist pedophile predator who spent time in prison for previous sex crimes; an animal hunting for victims in the quite, bucolic, suburban neighborhoods of Lincoln, Rhode Island.

I was able to identify the guy and the car he was driving. Although he was arrested that night and indicted a few months later, he never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in Providence before his court date. 34 years later, no one has ever been charged with the crime.

In the time between the night of my assault and the night he was murdered, I lived in fear. I was afraid he was still around town. Afraid he was looking for me. Afraid he would track me down and kill me. The fear didn’t go away when he was murdered. Although he was no longer a threat, the simple life and innocence of a 14-year-old boy was gone forever. Carefree childhood thoughts replaced with the unrelenting realization that my world wasn’t a safe place. My peace shattered by a horrific criminal act of sexual violence.

Over the past 34 years, I’ve been haunted by horrible, recurring memories of what he did to me. He visits me in my sleep. There have been dreams–nightmares actually–dozens of them, sweat inducing, yelling-in-my-sleep nightmares filled with images and emotions as real as they were when it actually happened. It doesn’t get easier over time. Long dead, he still visits me, silently sneaking up from out of nowhere when I least expect it. From the grave, he sits by my side on the couch every time the evening news reports a child abduction or sex crime. I don’t watch America’s Most Wanted or Law and Order SVU, because the stories are a catalyst, triggering long suppressed emotions, feelings, memories, fear and horror. Real life horror stories rip painful suppressed memories out from where they hide, from that recessed place in my brain that stores dark, dangerous, horrible memories. It happened when William Bonin confessed to abducting, raping and murdering 14 boys in California; when Jesse Timmendequas raped and murdered Megan Kanka in New Jersey; when Ben Ownby, missing for four days, and Shawn Hornbeck, missing for four years, were recovered in Missouri.

Despite what happened that night and the constant reminders that continue to haunt me years later, I wouldn’t change what happened. The animal that attacked me was a serial predator, a violent pedophile trolling my neighborhood in Lincoln, Rhode Island looking for young boys. He beat me, raped me, and I stayed alive. I lived to see him arrested, indicted and murdered. It might not have turned out this way if he had grabbed one of my friends or another kid from my neighborhood. Perhaps he’d still be alive. Perhaps there would be dozens of more victims and perhaps he would have progressed to the point of silencing his victims by murdering them.

Out of fear, shame and guilt, I’ve been silent for over three decades, not sharing with anyone the story of what happened to me. No more. The silence has to end. What happened to me wasn't my fault. The fear, the shame, the guilt have to go. It’s time to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family. It’s time to speak out to raise public awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they’re not alone and to help victims of rape and violent crime understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.

For those who suffer in silence, I hope my story brings some comfort, strength, peace and hope.

My novel, Men in My Town, was inspired by these actual events. Men in My Town is available now at www.Amazon.com

For additional information, please visit the Men in My Town blog at www.meninmytown.wordpress.com

Editor: Keith, I'd be happy to possibly to a review of your book and help promote it.  That sounds like something people need to know far more about.  Please drop me a line when you can at: tim@salem-news.com.

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