What to do if your child is kidnapped?

The last few weeks, as mother’s we have collectively sent up prayers for the safe return of the 4 Moti Brothers who were kidnapped on the way to school.

Each of us, imagining the fear these poor parents must be going through. Whilst we will never understand fully their emotions or anguish we know how we feel if our children are hurt or in danger.

Losing my child

Many years ago on our first holiday to Cape Town, my then father in law, was keeping an eye on one of my boys as we popped into a book store and I looked again to find him gone in a busy Canal walk mall. My heart died. I remember the panic welling up in my throat as I was overcome with fear and the need to vomit. I found him 5 minutes later at the information stand. Someone had helped him get there but it could have had an awful outcome.
So, I could only imagine the sleepless nights and panic these parents were going through.

Kidnapping in South Africa

Kidnapping has seen a rise in South Africa and we as a collective society, know that we need to be more vigilant. I read a report saying that our kidnappings have also become more violent which immediately leaves us as moms in a panic.
According to this article the crime statistics for 2019/2020 are as follows :
Kempton Park ( Gauteng) has the most incidents of kidnapping 122
Followed by 
Tembisa ( Gauteng)74
Inanda ( Kzn) 74
Randfontein ( Gauteng) 67
Johannesburg central ( Gauteng) 66
These statistics are shocking but also don’t paint a true picture. The reported amount of kidnappings for this period was 930 people. 
The reasons for kidnapping vary, as crime has increased there has also been an increase in crime-related kidnappings like occupants in a car hijacking or in a robbery but others are kidnapped human and sex trafficking, sexual offenses, mob justice, and criminal vendetta.
As a mother, these reports are gut reaching and my biggest question is not only how do we protect our children from these predators but what would I do if my child was kidnapped?

What to do if your child is kidnapped ?

When researching for this article I came across the website www.lawforall.co.za who has listed the following as a guide on what to do if your child is kidnapped.
The first 24 hours in kidnapping are the most crucial. It is important to act as quickly as possible as this dramatically improves the authorities’ ability to assist in finding the missing child.
1. Find a recent, clear photo of your child. One that shows their face clearly.
2. Most importantly remember there is no waiting period to report a missing person. Go to your nearest police station with your photo and open a case.
3. Give a full description of your child to the police
– age
– height
– weight
-distinct features like birthmarks, etc
-what they were wearing
-where and when you last saw them
4. You will need to complete and sign the SAPS 55 ( A) form and importantly get the name and contact details of the investigating officer.
5. Contact missing children South Africa to help distribute flyers with all the relevant information.  This information is then circulated to volunteers,  social media and social networks. The service is free and they stay in touch with the family and the police and report any tip-offs or information they receive.
6. Keep in contact with the investigating officer and report any new information to them.
7. Get psychological help. If you can’t afford this many police stations have Trauma rooms or can refer you to a free service to assist you.

How to protect your child from being kidnapped

As moms, we also know that sometimes a situation is beyond our control and I personally do not believe that there is one parent out there who isn’t looking after their child as diligently as they should but here are some helpful tips to protect your children even more.
Teach your child their name, age, birthday, address, parents names, and contact number
Teach them how to call emergency numbers like 10111
Teach your child to use a cell phone and how to make calls.
Be vigilant when you are out. Especially in public places.
Have a tag or bracelet with your child’s details on them if they are younger. This shouldn’t be things like a huge name on a bag, but rather something they could show a safe adult if they are lost. Perhaps in a bag or jacket.
If your child is old enough to play at parks alone or go to the store, let them wear a whistle and teach them to use it if they feel afraid. A younger child could wear a whistle and learn to use it if they are lost.
Teach your child to scream or shout out No! I DON’T KNOW YOU! THIS IS NOT MY MOM/DAD! if they are lost, afraid, or in danger.
Never let a child go somewhere alone. Even tweens and teens should rather attend events, go to malls or parks in groups for safety. Teach the buddy system.
Practice safety plans, without adding anxiety. For example, you could tell your children,  we are going to the mall if you get lost find your way to the information center and then walk them through the steps before starting your day at the mall.
Talk about important topics like kidnapping, abduction, rape, etc at your child’s level of understanding. Answer their questions as matter of factually as you can without instilling fear and anxiety in them.
Teach stranger danger
Share age-appropriate information with your child regarding safety and dangers to children.
Carry a recent photo of your child with you. I often take a photo of my child before we head out to a public place so I remember what they have on. Often in an emergency, it can be easy to freeze and not recall if a shirt was blue or purple.
Fingerprint your child and keep these in a file.
Never leave a child alone in a car.
Have a safe word for collecting your children. Inform them of who will collect them. Keep this as consistent as you can.
For older children and teens have them phone / WhatsApp their location if out with friends. Let them update you if plans change and check-up.
Remind a child never to accept a ride even if they know the person and to never leave home without permission.
Always have an adult supervise small children when they are outside playing.
If you or your children walk home teach them to never just wander off, not to take shortcuts, to avoid lonely places, and to find safe areas for example a shop, a neighbour, etc.
Thankfully the Moti Brothers were returned home safely but there is still a huge database of children and missing people who have not been found. As parents, we need to step up a village and keep an eye on our children. If you see anything suspicious report it and more importantly let us educate ourselves and share our knowledge with other parents to help keep our children safer.

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