Children need us to protect them

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 21, 2002

As parents, we cringe at the headlines and news stories.

A bright and engaging young girl taken from her upper-middle-class bedroom in the dark of night,

with no traces left behind.

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An innocent 5-year-old girl, abducted from the yard of her townhouse complex while playing with a friend. Less than 24 hours later, her naked and abused body was found nearby.

Thankfully, police have arrested the man they believe ­ 100 percent, according to the California county sheriff ­ kidnapped and killed Samantha Runnion.

But in Utah, Elizabeth Smart’s parents still wait and wonder if their daughter will ever return home.

These stories terrify parents, law enforcement, even an empathetic society. Our children are precious treasures, innocent and trusting, and we are learning daily that the adult world we want them to trust and embrace can be a terrifying, dark and deadly place.

And as much as we need to protect them from that world ­ from the men and women who would harm them for reasons we can’t begin to comprehend ­ we cannot. As parents and as that "village" that must help raise a child, we must teach our children to be aware; to be as safe as possible at all times; to be cognizant of the fact that the "strangers" we worried about a generation ago lurk everywhere.

Yet we walk a precarious line in doing that. We cannot shatter their trust in adults or society; we cannot ruin their innocence and wonder in the world; and we cannot terrify them with thoughts of "what could happen."

We must be careful and cautious; we must be ever vigilant as parents, caretakers, friends and neighbors. And we must realize that our children need us, more than ever, to protect them.


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