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Children Learn Skills To Avoid Abduction
If you saw a man forcing a kicking, screaming child into a car in downtown Riverbank recently, rest assured it was only a practice. But the lessons learned could prove invaluable in a real-life situation.

More than 60 children attended a course at Karate For Kids on Nov. 19, where business owner Scott Pettit and his instructors taught them about abduction or kidnapping by strangers and how to avoid it.

The two-hour class was free and unique in this part of the country, according to his Internet research, said Pettit who was formerly employed in law enforcement and uses that training combined with karate skills to teach youngsters how to defend themselves.

Children of ages three to 14, coming from as far away as Elk Grove, were taught in the first place to ignore and avoid strangers in a vehicle and any invitation to join them.

"I've lost my dog, can you help me find it?"; "Do you want some candy; I've got some in the car."; "Your mother's sick and sent me to bring you home."; "I'm looking for my grandfather's house; can you direct me?" are the kind of invitations that abductors will make to lure children into their vehicle, Pettit said.

His advice to the children was to keep walking, away from the vehicle and in the opposite direction from which it's going because it's more difficult for the driver to back up than continue following the child and try again.

If the stranger gets out, grabs the child and tries to force him or her into the vehicle, the child should resist with all their strength, pushing with extended arms and legs against the door frame to make the abductor's task more difficult, hitting and kicking and screaming.

"Yell, use your voice," he said.

If they are finally forced into the vehicle, Pettit said, they should reach for the car keys before they're in the ignition, throw them out the window and try to scramble after them. The abductor can't pursue or run them down until he has the engine running.

In simulations run during the class, some of the children proved to be adept at worming out the window despite the pretend abductor grabbing at them.

Pettit gave instructions first inside in the karate school, using inflatable rubber pillars as fake doorframes and a couple of chairs to simulate a car's front seat. Then he took the class outside to practice on real vehicles, a car and a pickup truck, one loaned by Setliff Bros. Company of Riverbank and the other by Anderson Drywall of Escalon.

Many of the abductors came equipped with padded jackets and sports helmets and Pettit gave the children permission to hit and kick them as other instructors coached them in the best way to resist the would-be abductors.

If a stranger steps out of the vehicle and accosts a child on a bicycle, scooter or skateboard on the sidewalk, Pettit recommended the child hold tightly onto his bike because that makes it more difficult for the abductor to force him into the car and the metal frame can also be used as a weapon.

The best way to avoid abduction is to ignore a stranger's calls from a car and not to get close in the first place, he said

"Certainly don't get smart and make comments or hand gestures that can be taken for gang signs," he said. "Many of them have a very short fuse and may come after you outside the car.

"Don't raise your fists," Pettit added. "That means aggression. Put up both your hands with the palms outward, which is a universal sign for stop, speak loudly and tell them to stay back and away from you."