How to Protect Kids (dedicated to Jessica Ridgeway)

Last week I was working at my desk when one of those horrific-sounding emergency alerts came on the radio about the weather – or so I thought. Instantly my heart sank, as I noticed the skies outside were dark and maybe this was a tornado warning.

But this warning was different. The announcer stated the Amber Alert for missing girl Jessica Ridgeway was officially over. She was found murdered, and the search was now a mission for justice.

My heart sank further.

Then I went and picked up my kids, hugging them tighter than usual. Kissing them more than they appreciated. Doing this not just for me, but for all the parents out there who can’t anymore because someone murdered their child.

All of us at Girls Fight Back send the friends and family of Jessica Ridgeway our love, support and our deepest sympathy. We stand with you in solidarity of intolerance, and hope someday you can find peace.

When I was a guest on NBC’s John Walsh Show a few years back, John said it so eloquently:

“Parents shouldn’t bury their children.”

I’ve had a unique perspective knowing parents who have lost children to homicide over the past decade, starting with the beautiful McNamara family – the loved ones of my friend Shannon who was murdered in 2001. GFB started because of 9 little words Cindy said to me at Shannon’s funeral:

“I am just so afraid she will be forgotten.”

My outward response was a tight hug for Cindy, leaving a tear on her shoulder. My internal response was I will make sure that never happens.

Over the years I have watched the McNamaras, John Walsh, and so many others go through the stages of losing a child in a violent way. They are some of the most inspiring people I know. Our deepest hurt often inspires our greatest courage.

So how do we move forward after losing children like Jessica, and others?

The violence expert in me advises you to educate your kids and educate yourself. The self-defense instructor in me suggests you sign your kids up for a class like FAST Cats (created by GFB’s self-defense trainer Bill Kipp) or Kid Power. If you just want to dip your toe into this subject with your child, start with a Safe Side Superchick DVD. It’s awesome and totally un-scary. The researcher in me asks you to recognize that most violence and abductions involving children is committed by someone they know. The threat assessment manager in me recommends reading Gavin de Becker’s book Protecting the Gift. Costing less than $10 on Amazon, it’s one of the best investments you can make in your child’s safety.

And the mother in me advises you to go back into your child’s room after she is asleep tonight for one more kiss on the forehead.