Those kinds of things don’t happen here!”  We were talking about a scenario that involved a young woman having a coffee with a friend when she realized something was terribly wrong.  She suddenly felt lightheaded and her vision was starting to blur. She told her friend she didn’t feel well…but her friend was experiencing similar symptoms.  Afraid they had been drugged, the young woman kept her cool: she immediately unlocked her phone, summoned an Uber and used her friend’s phone to call her mother. The women carefully wound their way through the shopping center, hanging onto one another as they tried to stay focused and meet their driver.  They were approached by a well-dressed man who said he was a manager. He noticed they didn’t look well, he said, and offered to assist them…just as their Uber arrived.  In spite of his protests they ignored the man and managed to get into their Uber.  Dizzy, and still on the phone with her mother, the woman quickly used the app to share her trip information for the brief time it took them to get to safety.

This scenario illustrates that clear, quick thinking can improve one’s odds of survival. Most parents discussing this scenario would be impressed by the young woman’s actions.  We would want our kids to react the same way in a dangerous situation, right?  More troubling than this scenario, however, is the number of parents I’ve met who have never talked through dangerous scenarios with their kids.  And more frightening than that is when I hear comments like the one I opened with.  That scenario? No way, it would never happen to my kids!

I often speak with parents who believe their “safe” communities are immune from crime. I hear them cite the training their kids get in school (think: active shooter lockdown drills) and the use of reactive services (think: calling police or security) when asked if their kids would know what to do in an emergency. Some parents don’t think past their own limited experiences, or simply haven’t yet correlated recent crime trends involving drugs, sexual assault and sex trafficking to the world their kids are living in. They often send their kids off to college or the local mall with the following safety plan: “Call 911 if something happens.”  That’s why I have to ask: If we don’t proactively empower kids to really think through personal safety, how can we expect them to navigate danger…or take every lifesaving action they can in those (sometimes long) moments before help arrives? 

As a parent myself, I can attest that  it’s not comfortable to discuss topics like sexual assault or drugs with your kids. As a former law enforcement officer, however, I have seen what happens when people don’t know what to do. We don’t want to scare kids and make them too afraid to ever leave the house…but we’re not helping them learn personal safety behaviors or how to think through their options if we simply don’t talk about subjects that are uncomfortable. Kids will ultimately be more mindful…and prepared for all types of situations…if you’ve discussed these topics using age-appropriate scenarios that get them thinking about what actions they could take.

How would you or your kids react in a scenario like the one above?  If you don’t know the answer, this might be a great time to start that conversation.