By Jim McMahon
On my way home from school a car pulled beside me, two teens yelled provoking comments out the window at me. Says Blake Young, a 15-year-old student from Chatsworth, California.
I kept walking, but the car followed and they didn’t stop verbally pushing me. Next thing I know, four of them got out of the car and started coming at me, and I never ran so fast in my life. I was scared. I didn’t want to take it but what could I do? I didn’t know how to defend myself against so many guys.
This scenario is more familiar than you may think. Male youths usually don’t tell their parents when they’ve been almost beat up. If Blake was a female, it would have been a sexual assault in progress.
Chatsworth, a residential community in the northern fringes of Los Angeles county, is really no different from any other upper middle-class neighborhood. Surely a place where any parent would think their teenage kids could walk to and from school without incident.
But, unfortunately, criminal activity is spreading more and more into our suburbs, our small towns, and our middle schools and high schools, at a rate faster than any of us could have predicted. And this means that our teens are more at risk.
According to the National Institute of Justice, an estimated 16 percent of all high school students in this country have been involved in one or more physical fights on school property during the school year. In 2000 alone, the last year in which a national school violence study was conducted by the Justice Department, over 501,000 students between the ages of 12 and 18 were victims of serious violent crimes on or near school property. Serious violent crimes include rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault. 128,000 of these occurred directly on school grounds.
But this isn’t all. Add to this list the 1.2 million simple assaults on our youths on or near school property during this year, and the 3.9 million students that were victims of theft, and it becomes clear we have a serious problem with our teen’s safety, both while at school and coming to and from school.
Although student theft and simple assaults have been on the decline, serious violent crime against students has been increasing. Aggravated assault often results from events based on seemingly trivial matters. In many circumstances these serious violent crimes could have been easily avoided had the victim understood some simple concepts on personal safety.
Any parent’s biggest nightmare is that our teenage sons will get assaulted, or our daughters raped. Statistics show that they are within the highest demographic for the above to occur. Yet few programs exist that really teach our children how to keep themselves safe from bullies, degenerates and sexual perverts, whom every day over 15,000 students fall prey, and are physically and emotionally harmed.
What can our teens do? The American Council on Personal Safety (www.acps.us) recommends 12 vital tips for our youth’s safety …
1. Avoid walking alone, and in dark or empty areas.
2. Be alert at all times, especially when leaving stores and restaurants.
3. Keep at least one hand free at all times.
4. Walk facing oncoming traffic.
5. Keep your distance from strangers.
6. Never hitchhike, or pick up hitchhikers
7. Always tell someone your exact plans, be traceable.
8. Plan ahead what you would do if you were ever attacked.
9. If you sense danger, react quickly by changing your behavior immediately.
10. If someone is stalking you, turn around and yell
Stop right there!, and move into a position of defense, or a crowded building.
11. If you are threatened, make a lot of noise. Honk your horn, scream, attract the attention of others.
12. Behave in a way as though you are in control, teens who appear very aware, sharp and determined are less victimized.
Front Sight Resorts provides a Youth Safety program that has been successful in really getting youths to understand the importance of the concept of personal safety. And even more importantly, gets the teens to understand how to spot impending trouble, how to spot when they’ve been targeted, and how to diffuse it. How to evade the potential disaster before it happens.
What really surprised me was the depth of practical skills my kids learned on how to spot dangerous situations, how to not fall prey to strangers, and what to do to get help when they feel threatened. Says Jean Paul, a Las Vegas mother, who recently had her two children attend a Youth Safety course at Front Sight Resorts.
For the first time I could see they really knew what to do.
The theory Front Sight provides on keeping oneself safe is well balanced with practical role playing, and the teens emerge with a real, street-smart understanding of how to keep themselves safe.
You cannot keep your teens from encountering trouble. But you can equip them with the know-how to effectively deal with dangerous confrontations, and know what to do to keep themselves safe, despite the situation. As a parent, you owe this to your children. Without these skills your teens will continue to be easy prey to the degenerates and perverts that prowl our streets.
For more information on Front Sight Resorts and their unique Youth Safety program for teens, call Front Sight.
Jim McMahon writes on personal safety and self defense issues.
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