The Dark Side of Those Cute Family Decals
We’ve all seen them and most of us have cringed – either from the danger they pose or because they seem to be quickly losing their appeal. The family decals on the windows of vehicles showing not only mom, dad, and little Johnny but Fido and Felix the cat.
Many think they are a sweet tribute to the family unit, a proud proclamation of their love. There is another kind of person who sees these stickers as opportunity knocking. I am talking, of course, about child abusers.
When I first saw these stickers, they were on the back of a mini-van and merely showed the parental units, a stick figure child and a stick figure dog. I smiled because it was, indeed, sweet. Nothing wrong with stick people, and it wasn’t as though they were telling strangers anything they couldn’t see upon looking inside the vehicle at the traveling family.
I saw a few more after that as it seems they have grown in popularity. In fact, I see them as anything from hobby related to sandals to even religious oriented. I think it’s a refreshing change from chrome silhouettes of naked women and racist imagery. However, the sets I have seen more recently, especially the combination of sets I saw Tuesday, have now infuriated me to the exposure about which people seem clueless regarding their children.
A few weeks ago I saw a set of the family decals with each member’s name listed below. My first thought? “You have to be sh*tting me!” I hoped this would be a rare incident and that the person somehow made the names themselves. I was wrong and I have since seen even religious stickers (Jesus fish) with names beneath and the last name displayed proudly at the top.
I was already hot under the collar that parents could actually be so careless with their children’s safety when I passed a woman parking her SUV at the grocery store. As I passed her to find my own spot, I noticed the family stickers with the last name displayed at the top, “The Carter Family”, and each member’s name listed below the corresponding stick figure. Additionally, there was a dog sticker, two cat stickers, and a bird sticker – each, also, with the name listed beneath.
Now, what makes this particular vehicle more offensive to people like me (and anyone who cares about the safety of children) than even the others are the accompanying stickers around the vehicle: On the left of the back window was one of those Little League decals with the son’s number and name. On the bumper was one of those “My child is an honor student at … ” stickers. As I came around the other side of the lot, I noticed a military sticker on the front windshield that listed her husband’s command as well as a decal showing his rate and rank.
I took a deep breath and drove back around as I noticed the lady had exited her vehicle and was walking toward the grocery store. I pulled up along side of her with my window rolled down and politely introduced myself. I stated that I wasn’t trying to be rude but asked if she realized how dangerous having those stickers on her vehicle was.
She rolled her eyes and said, “Here we go again. I’m not a paranoid parent. My kids are perfectly safe, thank you very much!” and walked away. As badly as I wanted to rip those rose colored glasses from her sneering, overly made-up face, I drove on and parked a few spaces down.
As I walked passed her vehicle on my way to the door of the building, I noticed something else. Hanging from the rear view mirror was her hospital ID badge. On it as clear as day was her full name (including middle), age, employee ID number, contact number, floor number of her station, work number, and several more bits of information.
This entire vehicle was a one stop shop for anyone looking to kidnap or abuse her children, and she had apparently been warned about this before based upon her “Here we go again” remark.
What this woman has told any predator who happens upon her vehicle is:
- My husband is military (here’s his military status) and probably out to sea, leaving his family alone for long periods of time (we live in a Navy town).
- Here is my work number for you to call and make a note of my work hours so you will know when my children are the most vulnerable.
- Here are my children’s names, where they attend school, and what programs they are in so you can stalk them.
- Here is my private information as well as all of our names in the event you try to remove my children from their caregiver/school with the excuse I (give them my full name) had to take the sibling (pick one of the names from the list on the window) to the emergency room.
- Here are our pet names in case you want to approach my child and use his/her pets names to convince him/her you know us well enough to know our pets. Better yet, you can approach our child at a neighbor’s house or down the road and tell them Fido or Lucky are sick and you need to bring them home right away.
One thing about predators is that they love the hunt. Watching their prey is a big part of the pleasure for them. So, while one may think they are safe because nothing has happened yet in cases like these stickers, it does not mean there isn’t someone out there who is using the information those stickers have provided in order to stalk their targets and learn enough about them and their caregivers until the moment is right to strike.
I’m beginning to see many articles written about these stickers and every one of them are against them. I’ve also seen comments to these articles criticizing the author and others agreeing with the author for being “paranoid”, “overly sensitive”, “making kids afraid to live”, “witch hunt”, and even a comment claiming child abuse and abductions “aren’t as common as the media and fear mongers claim!” . Interesting world that person lives in. A shame he is the father of three young girls under the age of 6 with their photos – including bathtime – posted all over his editorial site.
We cannot live in a plastic bubble or expect that nothing bad will ever happen to our children. We cannot expect our children to live in fear, nor should we make them afraid of their own shadow. We should, however, arm ourselves with a little education and a lot of common sense about the world around us. Pretending bad things don’t happen does not make it so.
We can enjoy silly little trends like family stickers in the shapes of turtles or sandals or monkeys …..
without making our children easy targets for the very real threat lurking around every corner …
CHILD ABDUCTION: STATISTICS
- Parental abductions and runaway cases make up the majority of missing children in the United States. In 2001 there were about 725,000 children reported missing, or nearly 2,000 per day. The vast majority of these cases were recovered quickly; however, the parent or guardian was concerned enough to contact law enforcement and they placed the child into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center – a computerized national database of criminal justice information. It is available to Federal, state and local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies. * Source National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
- Each year there are about 3,000 to 5,000 non-family abductions reported to police, most of which are short term sexually-motivated cases. About 200 to 300 of these cases, or 6 percent, make up the most serious cases where the child was murdered, ransomed or taken with the intent to keep. * Source National Center for Missing & Exploited Children