It’s a balmy November day, and young Maddison Raines is out and about with an acquaintance when a mysterious man drives up to them, covering his face. At this point, the stranger tells Raines that her brother has suffered an accident, and he’s there to collect her. When he demands that she gets into his car, she offers a startling response…
A resident of San Tan Valley, Arizona, Raines was taking in the sights of her local neighborhood on that fateful day. School was out, and she was enjoying the freedom that came with it. For a lot of us, moments like these marked some of the best times in our lives as children.
However, as youngsters we were far more vulnerable to danger, especially if we were out alone without our parents. Raines was no different in that regard, as we’ll soon discover. At the time of the aforementioned incident, she was just ten years old, unaware of what was ahead.
Raines was walking along the sidewalk with one of her friends in the mid-afternoon, close to a local park. From there, the stranger arrived on the scene in an SUV, calling her out specifically. Needless to say, this was an unnerving situation for the young girl, but few could have predicted what happened next.
For many people across the world, becoming a mom or dad is one of the biggest ambitions they can have. After all, there are few things more fulfilling than starting a family of your own. But this particular role brings with it a lot of responsibility, as parents are tasked to guide their child through the early stages of their life.
If we think back to our own childhoods, some of the most important lessons we learned were from our parents. So with that in mind, we would no doubt look to replicate that should we become moms or dads ourselves. Raines’ mom Brenda James certainly employed that strategy; she had previously made an inspired suggestion to her family.
A native of Mesa, Arizona, James is a married woman with children of her own, including the young Maddison Raines. The family now live together in San Tan Valley, a suburban area of the state’s capital Phoenix. And in terms of life skills, the mom is a trained medical assistant.
As for Raines, she was in the fifth grade back in 2018, continuing her journey through the school system. During that period as a student, you’ll be learning a lot of new things about various subjects, ahead of the jump to middle school. But thanks to mom, the San Tan Valley resident was also taught a significant life lesson away from the classroom.
For you see, earlier that year James had read an article that had stirred up some memories from her own childhood. Following that, the mother then shared the story with her family, before devising an interesting plan. She looked to teach her children a valuable lesson in how to deal with strangers.
From a young age, most of us have been told to avoid engaging with strangers outside our homes. While that might seem like an obvious bit of advice now, children can be easily led in certain situations. As a result of that, responsible parents are generally keen to prepare their kids for potential scenarios where a stranger might approach them.
On that note, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has provided a shocking statistic on its website. According to the organization, more than 1,600 cases of attempted abductions were reported in 2018. And to break things down even further, a post on the site raised some important points.
The post read, “NCMEC collects information concerning attempted abductions of children by individuals unknown to the child. Based on over ten years of data, NCMEC identified that attempted abductions occur more often when a child is going to or from school, or school-related activities.” That wasn’t all, though, as we’re about to find out.
“School-age children are at greatest risk on school days,” the NCMEC post continued. “[Both] before and after school (7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m.) and after dinner time (6 to 7 p.m.). Attempted abductions most often occur on the street while children are playing, walking or riding bikes.”
Off the back of that, another interesting point was raised by the NCMEC. If you’re wondering why schoolchildren are at most risk, the organization outlined that young kids tended to stay alongside their parents more often than not. Yet that isn’t the case with pupils, as they’ll likely be on their own while going to and from school.
So given the dangers that youngsters face, some of the techniques of potential abductors have been shared online. Not only does that help the parents who want to teach their kids, but the children themselves can also read up on what to look out for. Should you be concerned, here are a few of the more notable examples.
For instance, one technique has been dubbed the “help lure” online. In that situation, the stranger tries to grab the attention of a young boy or girl by asking for their assistance. To avoid confusion, parents have been advised to tell their kids that adults wouldn’t normally ask them for help.
Meanwhile, another method has been referred to as the “gift lure” on the world wide web. Much like the previous example, this involves a child being approached by an adult they don’t know. But on this occasion, the older individual attempts to lead their target away by promising to give them a present.
If any moms or dads are wondering how to prepare their kids for that, the MSN website provided a good piece of advice. A post on the site read, “Remind your child that he should never accept gifts from anyone (including someone they know) without first asking for permission from a parent or guardian.”
Furthermore, the “name lure” could prove somewhat problematic as well. As the title suggests, the stranger gets the attention of the boy or girl by saying their name, hinting that they know them in some way. Due to that, the kid might drop their guard and feel safe to follow the aforementioned adult.
However, MSN offered an additional solution to the problem. The post continued, “Teach your child that he must always ask for permission before going anywhere, following someone or getting into a vehicle with them. Remind your child that he has the right to say ‘No!’ in any situation that leaves him feeling uncomfortable or scared.”
Yet of all the listed techniques known to be employed to lead youngsters astray, there’s another that’s arguably the scariest of them all. Known as the “emergency lure,” this involves a stranger telling a child that a member of their family is in difficulty. Then, the former insists that they’re at that location to take the youngster back to their parents.
For a child, this is probably one of the hardest ruses to see through. After all, a friend of the family could very well be tasked to collect them in an emergency, even if they don’t know one another. But the kid in question might still have some qualms as to the legitimacy of the stated emergency should that happen.
Raines can certainly attest to that, as she was faced with this very problem back in November 2018. Like we previously mentioned, she was out with one of her friends during that period in San Tan Valley. And unfortunately for the ten-year-old, her afternoon was turned upside down by a suspicious individual.
Looking back on that fateful day, Raines and her mom sat down for an interview with TV news show Good Morning America a short time later. From there, James’ daughter went on to describe what the man said to her. On the show she reveals, “He was covering his face. And he told me that my brother had been in a serious accident.”
Raines continues, “And [the stranger said that my brother] told him to come pick me up.” At this point, the youngster recalls the lesson that her mom taught her earlier in the year. Happily, the family had adopted a special “code word” for instances such as this to ward off any potential problems.
As for what happened next, Raines touches upon her response to the stranger while talking to Good Morning America. She says, “Then I just remembered the code word, and I asked [for] it. He didn’t know it, so he drove off and I went off running to the park. I ran straight home and told my grandma.”
Meanwhile, James offered her thoughts during an interview with ABC-affiliate KNXV-TV. At that stage, the mother spoke about the creation of the code word. It turned out the system had come together earlier in 2018.
James said, “We actually just came up with [the code word] a few months ago. So it was something really recent from a story that I read. [Raines] told me that some guy tried to take her, that her brother had been in a serious accident and that she needed to come with him.”
“Did [the stranger] take a shot in the dark, or did he know that [Raines] has a brother?” James pondered, before making an additional point. According to the San Tan Valley resident, the code word was devised during a normal family car ride. And in the end, she believed that it prevented a potential tragedy.
James told British newspaper The Daily Mail in November 2018, “We were driving toward the store, me and my husband and my two girls, and we came up with this code word. This one time, it saved my daughter’s life.” Furthermore, when Raines returned to her house after the incident, she made a tearful 911 call relaying what transpired, which brought the local police in.
At that stage, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office went on to make a statement via its official social media page. The Facebook post was shared about 24 hours after Raines’ unsettling encounter, covering everything from her point of view. But that’s not all, though, as we’re about to find out.
Alongside the statement, the local sheriff Mark Lamb hailed the family as well. He said, “Kudos to the parents of this child for having a code word and talking to their children about stranger danger. We hope by putting this out, it will encourage parents to have that conversation and create a plan with their children.”
Off the back of those words, the statement then revealed some worrying information about the stranger. As it turns out, this might not have been the first time that he had frequented Raines’ neighborhood. The car he was seen driving in on that occasion seemed quite familiar to a few other kids there.
The Facebook post read, “Children in the neighborhood say they have seen that SUV in the neighborhood, circling the park several times a day. The man covered most of his face with his hand while talking to the girl to conceal any identifying features. He is described as a white male, possibly in his 40s, with a short beard.”
Following that revelation, the statement came to an end. And perhaps unsurprisingly given the content of this story, the social media post made a notable impact online. Indeed, it earned over 1,000 likes and more than 1,300 shares on Facebook. In addition to that, the troubling message also generated in excess of 300 comments from users.
Needless to say, a number of those individuals were shocked by what had transpired that day. However, there were a couple of users who couldn’t help but look back at their own “code words.” One person wrote, “Our kids are now 48 and 41, and to this day they can still remember their code word. Such a great thing and so happy they are safe.”
Those sentiments were echoed by another Facebook user, who recalled a story from their past. Much like Raines, this person was approached by a stranger while they were out and about. And they too had a code word, feeling the need to test the adult when he tried to collect them.
The user wrote, “My mom always had a code word, and I remember [when] I was five or six she sent some man to pick me up from school. I was sitting on the curb alone and this guy comes over. I didn’t move, but he said, ‘She said to say “China doll”,’ which was our code.”
“So even though he was a stranger, I went and all was good,” the user added. Away from that, James made one final point on the matter during the Good Morning America interview in November 2018. After what her daughter went through, she hoped that Raines could spread a certain message to the children in the area.
Indeed, James believed that Raines would sell the importance of having a special family code word. The mom concludes, “She could show other kids [that] it’s okay to ask that question, and not everyone’s your friend. I think kids respond more to kids than they do adults, and they can understand they can be brave and smart and run.”