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Friend or Enemy?

14 May

My last post, Secret Eyes, was about an Internet predator who was exposed and arrested before he could pull off his plan to sexually exploit two sisters. Today I’ll tell you about another case the FBI agent shared at the same seminar.

Kayla (substituted name) was a lovely sixteen-year-old. She had a good relationship with her parents, who tried to be proactive in their attempts to protect her safety (like putting the family computer in a common area of the house). Without her parents’ knowledge, however, Kayla was communicating with someone she’d met online. He worked for a long time to build their friendship (and gain her trust and confidence) before suggesting they meet. Wanting to meet her virtual friend in real life, she agreed.

One night after dinner, Kayla announced she was going to work on homework in the family room—but instead sneaked out of the house to meet this guy. At the designated meeting place, he abducted her, took her to his house, and chained her to a support beam in his basement to use her as his sex slave.

At home, her parents eventually realized that Kayla wasn’t working on homework in the family room like they thought. After a thorough search of the house and many calls to friends, they knew something was terribly wrong. Soon they informed the police that their daughter was missing.

Kayla became this man’s prisoner for many days. One morning, before he left for work, he told her he was beginning to like her too much and would have to do something about it. Those words terrified her. Did they mean he was going to kill her soon? Later that morning, Kayla heard footsteps upstairs and began shouting out for someone to help her. Moments later, two FBI agents found her lying naked on a mattress in the basement. One of the agents cut through the chain that bound her, wrapped her in his coat, and she was taken to safety. (Since police efforts had failed to find Kayla, the FBI had been contacted, putting a trace on her computer. Eventually, they discovered who had been communicating with her and ascertained his address, leading them to where she was being held captive.) The man was arrested later that day.

At the seminar, we saw a video clip of Kayla being interviewed after her rescue. When she was asked why she had agreed to meet this man, she answered with something like, “Because he was my best friend; I could talk to him about anything. We liked the same things, and he understood me like nobody else.”  Sadly, her “friend” turned out to be a deceptive enemy who worked hard to say what Kayla needed to hear over time in order for her to trust him. Then he abused her in ways beyond description.

Kayla did not have the maturity to accurately evaluate this man or his motives. God puts us in families for a reason. Children and teens need their mentors’ input to keep out of the reach of predators. If Kayla had told her parents that this man was contacting her, they no doubt would have stepped in, and she would have been spared this terrible, life-altering experience.

The following is a continuation of the Scriptures I used in my last post to describe the methods of the wicked:

He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; He lies in wait to catch the poor; He catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, that the helpless may fall by his strength. Psalm 10:9-10 (NKJ) 

Those with wicked intentions do not trap just anyone. They are looking for:

  • The unsuspecting—“It could never happen to me.”
  • The trusting— “This is my friend.”
  • The hurting— “This guy understands me like no one else does.”
  • The stubborn—“I will do what I want, even if my parents don’t approve.”

And these predators are not who they pretend to be (friendly guys or teenage boys). They are disturbed men who will often develop friendships with their targets for weeks and even months before laying a specific trap.

If Kayla had known in advance what her so-called “friend” had planned for her, do you think she would have behaved differently? The answer is obvious—no one intentionally walks into a trap! So gain some insight from her mistake. Pick your friends from people your guardians know and approve. Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?

These posts are not meant to make you overly fearful, so you don’t feel safe anywhere. Actually, the FBI agent said that cases like Kayla’s don’t happen in epidemic numbers, thankfully. But he also made the point that numbers become painfully personal when it happens to you or someone you love. So, the more we are aware of what can potentially happen, the more we can ensure that it doesn’t.

If you check my last post, I included some great Scriptures to grab on to regarding God’s protection and rescue. As we said last time, “His faithful promises are our armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:4b) But we also talked about being aware of dangers and then making wise choices to stay safe.

Staying safe is possible. One key is to be open and honest with your parents and other leaders regarding all of your associations/friendships, knowing that those authority figures love you and are better able to protect you when they know what’s going on in your life.

Lisa and I love you girls—enough to tell you the truth. To be forewarned is to be forearmed! And we want you well-equipped to live wonderful, safe lives as you pursue your God-dreams!

Barbara

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Secret Eyes

7 May

Recently I attended an American Teens in Crisis seminar hosted by a local organization I support (PATH-A Positive Approach to Teen Health), where many speakers reported on the various problems and dangers currently confronting our youth. In this post, I want to tell you about a case an FBI agent shared at that meeting.

The family in this case had two daughters who shared a bedroom. They had a computer in their room with a webcam and began exchanging messages with a man they met online. He asked them to send him a pic of each of them, but they refused, explaining that their parents wouldn’t approve. He seemed to accept their reason and asked if he could send them a pic of him instead. They didn’t see any harm in that. Besides, they were curious to see what he looked like. So they said okay.

He sent the pic, the girls looked at it, and then they didn’t hear from him again. A few months later, however, he contacted them as before, asking for pics. When they refused the second time, he said, “I already have pictures of you. I’ll send them to you if you don’t believe me.”

He sent them, and the girls were horrified! The pics showed both of them undressing in their room. They had no idea how he had gotten them; they had never posed for those shots. How was this possible?

Once he knew the girls had viewed the pics, he threatened to post them online and also send them to their parents. They only way they could keep that from happening was to send him more pics of themselves, showing him whatever he asked for.

Fortunately, these two girls made the right choice: they told their parents immediately what was happening. The father called the authorities the next day, and the FBI took their computer, discovering that the pic this man sent of himself to the girls was encrypted, giving him access to their computer once they clicked on it. For months he had been watching both of them undressing in their room via their webcam.

Wow! I didn’t know such things were possible. We are living in an age where the capability of linking one device to another has some scary consequences.

Girls, it isn’t safe to communicate with ANYONE you don’t know, whether online or via phone. You may think you can just talk back and forth without any risk, but that’s no longer the case. These men are professionals, equipped with skills most of us don’t have. Today you can even be found easily through GPS systems on computers and other devices.

Because these girls told their parents about this situation, the FBI was able to trace this man through their computer, and he was arrested and convicted. If they hadn’t been truthful, who knows what might have happened?

Did you notice how this Internet predator threatened the girls in order to frighten them into doing what he wanted? Giving in to that manipulative kind of fear will only take you down a more dangerous path. Oppositely, healthy fear will drive you in the right direction. (Example: Even though I don’t want my parents to know how dumb I’ve been, this situation is scary serious; I’m more afraid of what will happen if I hide the truth and start giving in to this guy’s demands!!) Getting in trouble with your parents is nothing compared to the nightmare that awaits you in the hands of one of these sick men.

For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; He blesses the greedy and renounces the LordHe sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the secret places he murders the innocent; His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. Psalm 10:3, 8 (NKJ)

Please be wise, girls. Secret eyes can be where you least expect them.

But also know that God’s eyes see all, even traps that are being set for us. (So stories like these do not have to make us feel scared out of our minds or helpless.) Psalm 91 is a wonderful section of Scripture to memorize, full of comforting verses of God’s protection. Here are a few lines from that chapter:

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91:2-4 (NLT)

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16 (NLT)

In Matthew 10:17, Jesus tells his disciples to be “…wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  What a great instruction for us as we interact with others, both online and off!

So again, let’s not be overwhelmed with fear by stories like these, but let’s choose to be aware of dangers and wise with our choices, putting our trust in our Heavenly Father, setting our love on Him, trusting Him to guide and protect us through every situation we face. Then we can have confidence that He will help us with each step we take in today’s world.

Next post, I’ll share one more story from the FBI agent with you. Be sure to check back next Monday!

Because I care,

Barbara

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Potential Evidence

17 Nov

Off on another travel adventure, I had asked my dad to drive me to the airport. Wanting to make sure his college daughter made it to the right check-in station, he quickly ran inside with me and left his car running at the drop-off area. He was only gone for five minutes, but when he got back, his car had been towed. Oops! Guess that wasn’t such a great idea, despite his good intentions! To get his car back, he had to go to the designated parking lot and pay $150 in tickets & fines. Surprised at how expensive it was, he asked if they gave a break to first-time offenders. The woman at the counter smiled. “Sir, we don’t have second-time offenders.”

My dad learned something important that day: ignorance is not bliss! In fact, you are responsible for what you do whether or not you know all the consequences up-front.

Did you know that it’s a felony to send inappropriate (read: nude) pics of a minor—even if you are a minor? Some teens are finding out that what they thought was a harmless choice (sending or forwarding a nude pic of themselves, a friend, or a classmate) is actually a crime! And a big one, at that. A felony stays on your permanent record. (The one that colleges & employers check.) And because this offense is linked to child pornography, those convicted may have to register as sex offenders! To many young people’s shock, saying, “I didn’t know!” doesn’t change a thing. You still have to “pay the ticket.”

Even if you’re over 18, sending an inappropriate pic of yourself or someone “of age” can come back to haunt you later. Remember, anything you send into cyberspace is potential “evidence” against you. Once it hits the Internet or media devices, consider it public and available forever. Even texts. (Once you hit send, you can’t get it back.) Things like tweets, Facebook comments, texts and pics may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but you have to remind yourself to think bigger: is this comment/pic how I want to be remembered? Because you could make great comments 99% of the time, only to be remembered for the single one you wrote in anger.

Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1

Let’s choose to have good reputations, especially when it comes to what we do and say with social media. Not just because we might get caught and have to face consequences. But because we want to please our Heavenly Father and feel good about who we are (whether or not others notice).

Much love,

Lisa

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Repeated Exceptions

28 Oct

When Gretchen talked with Julia, she was relieved to hear that Julia didn’t visit Jay’s room at his frat house. Many times girls sent off to college are warned not to go to a guy’s room or apartment alone. Often when a girl is given a rule like that, she’ll initially agree with it, inwardly committing to follow it. Yeah, that’s good advice. I’ll be careful not to do that. Yet later, when she’s interested in spending time with a guy, she’ll make an exception. I know I said I wouldn’t do this, but with Josh it’s different. He’d never do anything to hurt me. Trustingly, she goes alone to his apartment and disregards the wise advice that made so much sense to her at an earlier time.

If nothing negative happens that first time, she begins to feel confident in her ability to judge a guy’s character and intentions. She makes that exception more and more until her commitment to take precautions simply fades away.

The problem with compromising wise principles? You gradually let your guard down, potentially opening the door to someone that will harm you. You may find yourself in unprotected places with someone that you think is safe but really isn’t.

Something to think about: No one gets ready for a date planning to be raped later on in the evening! It only takes one time alone with the wrong person to experience something truly painful.

It’s not wrong to be a trusting person, but when it comes to our safety and protection, we must be diligent to think ahead and make the wisest choices possible.

Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. Proverbs 2:11 (NLT)

Journal to the Lord about your commitment to protect yourself. Ask God to grant you wisdom in each scenario you face—to keep you from making repeated exceptions that break down your resolve to stick to the rules (rules that could end up saving your life).

*The above is an excerpt from The Journal (workbook for novel one)

Looking Back with Gratitude

27 Oct

Hearing Shauna Newell’s story reminded me of a sleepover situation in my past. Looking back, I must have been in middle school at the time. I had developed a friendship with a girl in my class. She was very sweet, and we clicked right away as friends. At first, we just hung out after class and during lunch break. But eventually, we wanted to spend more time together. So we planned sleepovers—several of them—but always at my house. I would say, “Let’s do a sleepover at your house next time.” She always had an excuse why it wouldn’t work out. I kept pressing her until she finally looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Trust me, Barb. You do not want to have a sleepover at my house! Please don’t ask me why.” I can still see the devastated look on her face when she told me that. I never asked her again.

It wasn’t until she had moved away a few months later that I learned her father had been sexually abusing her for years, even before her mother had died. Who knows what might have happened to me if this friend had not loved me enough to protect me from her father. So you see, even in my day, sleepovers could prove risky. You don’t always know what’s going on in other people’s homes.

So old friend, (I won’t use your name to protect your privacy), if by some miracle you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of heart. Please know that after all these years, I have never forgotten youand I still love you! My prayer is that you were able to walk away from the hurts of your past and eventually have a happy life—one filled with all the good things you truly deserve.

Much love and gratitude,

Barbara (Rigich) Precourt

 

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Our Part to Play

25 Oct

This week, we’re focusing on safety. Below is a video link from the Today website, where Shauna Newell shares her incredibly sad (and scary) story of being sex trafficked while attending a sleepover at a friend’s house. The video is a few years old (first aired in 2008), but the dangers of such things have only increased since that time. Sex trafficking is real, and it is here in the United States. This precious girl’s story is just one way such things can happen.

If you’re a young woman watching this, I hope it reminds you to be incredibly careful regarding where you go and with whom you spend time. As unthinkable as it is, there are predators who are looking for someone to exploit. While we don’t condone everything in Shauna’s story (traumautized from this experience, she does make some choices we wouldn’t recommend), this video does a great job of reminding us that parents can sometimes sense things we can’t, that listening to your parents can actually save your life!

If you’re a parent watching this, let it remind you to be more diligent than ever regarding your children’s safety.

Remember, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7 ).  To keep you (or your kids) safe, you have the wisdom and protection of God. We do not have to be paralyzed with fear about what might happen. However, being aware of the dangers around us help us to make the best choices we can to avoid them. We, too, have a part to play. Let’s play it well!

Click link below:

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/27098993/ns/today-today_people/t/teen-recounts-horror-abduction-sex-slavery/

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Think Ahead

24 Oct

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NLT)

Can that really be true? Well, if it says so in God’s Word, we can be confident that it is. Girls and women today may not realize it, but they have a lot in common with their mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, etc. Culture and fashions may have drastically changed through the years, but the world in which we live hasn’t. Ever since sin entered the world, women have become targets of all kinds of abuse. It is true, however, that the deceptions and dangers that threaten women today seem much more depraved and widespread than in recent generations—all the more reason for today’s women to take every precaution to ensure their safety. Risky behavior is no longer worth it. The negative consequences are too terrible to even contemplate.

So, do you take your safety (online and off) seriously? God sees you as a treasure, and so do we! Make sure you are putting yourself in the best situations possible. The stakes today are too high not to think ahead.

Before you choose to do something, like post information/pictures online or go somewhere alone, consider if it could somehow put you at risk (now or later). Ask God to give you wisdom with each situation you face. Then make the best choice you can, taking your future into account. We cannot foresee every danger ahead, but by being intentional about the situations we put ourselves in, we drastically reduce the chances of experiencing harm. Live life fully, but be intentional. Taking a moment to think through a situation first could make all the difference!

Love,

Barbara

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