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Cleveland kidnappings: what abductions should teach worried parents

The Cleveland kidnappings scenario portrayed in court documents is a familiar nightmare for parents, who should take the opportunity to teach their children about safety, experts say.

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Nonfamily abductions are rare, representing an “extremely small portion” of missing children, according to the US Justice Department's most recent report on missing children published in 2002.

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Staff writer

Allison Terry works on the web team at the Christian Science Monitor, coordinating online infographics. She contributes to the culture section and Global News blog, and previously reported and edited for the national news and cover page desks.

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These kidnappings involve a stranger or acquainteance who detains a child overnight, transports them more than 50 miles, holds them for ransom, or intends to keep them permanently or kill them, the report said. These type of abductions often receive the most media attention.

Parents should talk with their kids about how to be aware of their environment and how to recognize potentially dangerous situations, said Rebecca Baily, a pshychologist who worked with former abductee Jaycee Dugard, in an interview with Time magazine.

She said, “we have [talked to] middle school groups, and it’s unbelievable how many kids in the classrooms will have experienced a scary event and not talk to their parents about it – whether they’ve been followed home by somebody as they were walking home from school or walking to the store. [The scary event] may be as innocuous as a teenager shouting at them, or it could be as sinister as somebody offering them a ride.”

The whole point is to address the fear involved with these topics, for both parents and children, she added.

Teaching children about safety and how to react in these situations helps protect kids, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said in their 2011 annual report.

[Editor's notes: The original version of this story incorrectly paraphrased the NCMEC annual report.]

“Children escape attempted abductions 81 percent of the time through their own actions; 28 percent actively resisted by yelling, kicking, pulling away, running away, or attracting attention; and 53 percent recognized something was not right and responded by walking or running away,” the report said.

In her forthcoming book, “Safe Kids, Smart Parents,” Bailey writes that there is a rising number of children who have been able to escape from abductors, and it shows children that “escape is a real option.”

Berry proved this with her escape from Castro’s house Monday night.

"The situation has turned,” assistant prosecuting attorney Brian Murphy said During Castro’s arraignment hearing Thursday. “Castro is the captive in captivity."

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