How to teach your kids to recognize and escape scary situations

Since the beginning of 2019, there have been at least four cases of kids reporting suspicious people just in the city of Fort Myers. This includes a story WINK News brought you Wednesday, where a girl said a man tried to grab her when she was walking near Six Mile Cypress Parkway and Winkler Extension. That girl said she was able to fight off the attacker.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports non-family abductions are rare, just one percent of all missing kid cases. Still, the NCMEC reported more than 1600 attempted abductions in 2018 nationwide. Martial arts instructor Dan Torro of Torro Training Center in Fort Myers said just one is too many.

“How many children need to be kidnapped before we just decide that it’s important?” he said. “So we’re trying to prevent it, and stick with the number zero.”

Torro teaches a martial arts fitness class for kids, which also covers situational awareness. In the days of constant cell phone use, Torro said it is important for kids and parents to put the phone down and keep their eyes up.

“What we want you to do is be aware of what you should be doing in the moment,” Torro said.

He said the keys to self-defense are volume and distance.

“I could look like the nicest guy in the world, “Hi how are you!” And just keep getting closer to you,” Torro said. “And all of a sudden get right next to you and become a monster.”

Suzzane Bessert, a mother of four, brings her youngest kids to Torro’s class. She said they are learning important life skills.

“It’s teaching them what is the right thing and what is the wrong thing. What’s a good touch, what is a bad touch. What’s a good thing to say, what is a bad thing to say,” Bessert said.

If martial arts isn’t your thing, women and teenage girls can also sign up for free self-defense classes with the Lee County and Charlotte County Sheriff’s Offices

“It is very important for every woman to know,” Cape Coral mom Ana Correa said. She and her teenage daughters signed up together.

Finally, if you’re looking for something specifically for child abduction prevention, C.O.B.R.A. Self Defense Fort Myers has a class just for that. Instructor Joe Saitta said the C.O.B.R.A. self-defense system is designed to be fast and easy to learn.

“What we like to say is it’s a law-enforcement academy for civilians,” Saitta said.

The course goes over physical techniques, placing a 9-1-1 call, and even how to avoid being pulled into a car. Saitta also goes over how to identify a bad stranger versus a good stranger, what constitutes an emergency, and more.

“We want to cover all the bases,” Saitta said.

Saitta explains that kids’ first step when approached by a suspicious person or in attempted abduction scenario should be to scream and run. They should only resort to physical self-defense when it is necessary.

Talking to Your Kids

Parents might feel like this is a scary topic to bring up to kids.

We spoke with Florida Gulf Coast University professor and counseling expert Dr. Russ Sabella to find out how to get the conversation started.

Sabella recommends:

  • Gauge your kids’ maturity. Whether they are ready for this conversation is not always determined by age.
  • Focus on the purpose of reducing risk, rather than inducing fear.
  • Measure how much your kids are exposed to these situations online or on TV,and make sure not to over-expose them.
  • Remind them that if bag things do happen, it is never their fault.
Reporter:Sara Girard
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