“Stranger danger” — this is a catchy phrase we use to help our children remember not to talk to strangers; it’s a message parents have given parents for decades. When I was attending an elementary school in south Texas back in the early 70s, there was a film that the administration showed all of the students regularly, called “Patch the Pony.” Patch was brown and white and his message was, “Nay, Nay, from strangers stay, stay away. . .stay. . . .away. . . ” They showed it so often that all of the kids would join in the theme song as it began to play.
Conscientious parents teach their kids not to take candy from strangers, not to talk to strangers, not to answer when a stranger comes to the door – all (hopefully) without scaring them and making them think there’s a perv on every corner. Of course, this is absolutely the most imperative “must have” discussion of all.
But, what’s scary about the Adriana Horton case is this little girl and her sisters did everything “right” to keep themselves from being stranger targets. They got home from their first day of school where they found their father working. They asked permission to go to the park that was only 100 feet away from their house. After getting the “okay” from Dad, they left the house in a group.
And here’s where something went awry and all of their adherence to directives failed to keep Adriana safe. Why? Because she knew her abductor. In her 12-year old mind, this wasn’t a case of stranger danger; the man she got in the truck with had worked for her father and she had played with his children. To lure her into his vehicle, 34-year-old Bobby D. Bourne mentioned those children she’d played with on more than one occasion — he whined that he couldn’t find them. And she got in.
Somehow, within a span of 60 minutes, this freak talked Adriana into getting into his truck, killed her, buried her body 17 miles a way (note: a body has been found that has yet to be identified — unofficial sources tell HLN that Adriana’s father has said it’s his daughter, although formal identification has yet to be announced) and drove back in close proximity to that same park. At this point, he was arrested – several children at the park described his SUV in great detail. Adriana’s sisters ran home to tell their father that the man who took her was Bobby Bourne. His almost immediate capture is the only good news in this terribly sad story.
Our strategy must change. While there’s a fine line between telling a child to not trust strangers and needlessly scaring them, there’s at least a line. But Adriana’s case demonstrates that we have to give them the message that they shouldn’t necessarily trust people they know. How do we do THAT without scaring them?