This past fall, a student from Lake Highlands Elementary was approached by a stranger. Though the child was unharmed, it was this frightening act, along with the rash of child abductions across the nation, that prompted the Lake Highlands United Methodist Church to host a recent workshop designed to arm children with information to cope with such an incident.
“It happens everywhere,” says Farrel Chapman, a former Dallas County child abuse prosecutor and speaker for the church’s “Raising Safe Kids in an Unsafe World” workshop. “We think abductions and abuse only occur in other people’s neighborhoods, but it’s not true.”
Chapman, a Lake Highlands High School graduate, was inspired to start the Dallas franchise of a national organization called Yello Dyno by her work in the judicial system. Devoted to preventing the horrible crimes she spent years prosecuting, Chapman says, “It’s my mission.”
Through Yello Dyno, she runs a series of workshops for Mother’s Clubs, Junior Leagues and churches, teaching parents and kids how to recognize risk factors and prevent incidences of crimes against children.
“Since our parents never taught us how to deal with these crimes, we don’t know how to teach our children. So I present a list of simple safety rules children need to know,” she says.
“The first thing parents should know is that 70 to 90 percent of perpetrators of child abuse and abduction are not strangers, but someone the child knows,” Chapman says.
Still, Chapman recommends that parents warn their children about any interaction with strangers. But, she stresses, parents should begin by redefining what a stranger is.
“Kids think strangers look scary,” she says. “When we teach ‘stranger danger,’ we’re doing our kids a disservice. I teach that a stranger is anyone that you or your parents do not know, but who looks just like you and me.”
In the face of an approaching stranger, Chapman says, children should take three steps backwards.
“The idea is to get them out of arm’s reach of anyone threatening.”
The Yello Dyno method teaches safety measures through music and non-fearful tactics so children will remember the information.
“Music is a non-threatening educational tool that aids children’s memories. We don’t want to scare our children, but we do want this information to be accessible to them when they feel threatened,” Chapman says.
She says her motivation comes from the damage she saw as a prosecutor.
“It’s amazing how devoted we are to helping kids after they’ve been abused, but nobody does anything before it happens. After, there’s only so much you can do – you can’t un-ring that bell.”
For information about scheduling a workshop, call Chapman at 214-327-2939. For information about Yello Dyno, visit www.yellodyno.com.