Jaycee Dugard’s Therapist: Tips for Warning Children About Abductions

In the forthcoming book Safe Kids, Smart Parents, co-author Rebecca Bailey discusses the rare instances of ‘atypical abductions’

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The country is still struggling to comprehend the news out of Cleveland, that three women have been found alive, after spending more than a decade in captivity. Officials continue to investigate whether the captors knew Amanda Berry and her fellow prisoners. TIME has been provided with an excerpt from a forthcoming book co-written by Elizabeth Bailey and Rebecca Bailey, therapist to one-time captive Jaycee Dugard. In it, Rebecca Bailey discusses the notion of ‘atypical abductions,’ and just how rare it is for a stranger to kidnap a child. (Also provided to TIME, an exclusive foreword by Dugard’s mother, reflecting on what it was like to lose, and then find, her daughter)

The third type of abduction is usually called atypical abduction and is the least common.

According to the Department of Justice, atypical abductions make up less than one percent of all abductions. Atypical abductions are committed by someone who is completely unknown to the victim or the family, as in the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was taken by a total stranger from a street in Lake Tahoe, California, or Adam Walsh, who was abducted in Florida and subsequently murdered.

Safe Kids, Smart Parents

Rebecca Bailey is the co-author of the upcoming book Safe Kids, Smart Parents (on sale July 2, pre-order now) and Jaycee Dugard’s therapist

Abductions by strangers involve someone the child or the family does not know in any way. The child is held at least overnight or might be transported some distance away without the permission of the parents. Nationwide, 115 children were the victims of atypical abductions in 2010. A stranger will take a child for a variety of reasons: ransom money, sexual perversion and possession, among others. Though the least common, these cases are often the subject of immense media attention and frequently don’t end well. Cases of atypical abductions can form the seeds for organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which had its origins in the abduction and tragic murder of Adam Walsh in 1981.

(MORE: ‘I’m Free Now’: The 911 Call That Led to Cleveland’s Dramatic Escape)

In the past few years there have been a rising number of children who have been able to escape from these “stranger” abductors. Perhaps an increased awareness and programs such as Elizabeth Smart’s radKIDS, a program for self-defense, are helping children see that escape is a real option.

So, how do you respond to a threat from someone you cannot know who is motivated by reasons you may never be able to understand? While you cannot eliminate the risk of atypical abductions, you can follow simple rules and guidelines to minimize it, and respond most effectively when a child is in danger.

For starters, it is likely that your kids are aware of high-profile cases that have been in the media, perhaps have even discussed them with their friends, and might naturally have an exaggerated sense of how often they happen. Indeed, given the media, it is almost certain that their understanding of abduction, and atypical abduction particularly, is filled with inaccuracies. Fear can paralyze all of us and keep us from taking action; it’s easy for kids (and parents) to be afraid of what they don’t understand.

(MORE: Elizabeth Smart, 10 Years After: Would Fighting Back Have Helped?)

Making your children aware of the more common forms of abduction will, in fact, help them consider the least common form. Learning the habit of quickly assessing the people you know will inform a habit of assessing people you don’t and also situations that are new and awkward. Being clear about the unlikelihood of “stranger” abduction, but at the same time acknowledging its existence, is a good response to this topic. It is also a way to open up the larger topic of abduction, and knowledge and awareness are the first steps toward greater safety and security.

So now you know a little about abduction and have the re-sources to help you deal with it. Safety and empowerment of your children should be kept in mind when having a discussion about this subject. Remember that knowledge is power! By opening up this subject to your children, you are helping them to stay safe, to be aware, and you are giving them the keys to unlock other complicated topics that affect their lives.

—From Safe Kids, Smart Parents by Rebecca Bailey, Ph.D. with Elizabeth Bailey, R.N. Foreword by Terry Probyn, JAYC Foundation. Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Bailey and Elizabeth Bailey. To be published by Simon & Schuster, July 2013. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. 
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