FRANCOIS SENECAL-TREMBLAY JR. – Special to the Gazette – March 26, 1998
Merck Frosst, Pointe-Claire, Saturday: seven children between 6 and 9 are gathered, with U,eir parents. for a series of courses on streetproofmg themselves.
“I had a child taken from me,” Street Safe Kids instructor Wendy Hunziker said, explaining why she is passionate about the importance of street-proofmg children.
He was 6 then, nmv he is 20. He was lured by a man in an apartment block who asked if he wanted to see a cat.•’ Hunziker’s son escaped by screaming, which may have forced the man to open the front door and check the corridor to see if anybody heard the scream. The boy slipped through the open door.
The objective of the course is to make children a tough target. Ideally, to give them the skills required to avoid a threatening situa• tion before it gets out of hand. In the worst case, to give them the skills needed to seek help when abducted.
During the introduction, Hunziker dL«cusses the notion of a stranger. ‘i\m I a stranger?” she asked. “No,” the children answered.
“Do you know anything about me?”
“Then, I am a stranger,” she said. She has demonstrated that in just a couple minutes the children have accepted her – a complete stranger – as someone they think they know.
Hunziker also talked to the children about good touches, “a hug, a kiss,” and a bad touch – “doing something to you that you don’t like. Like touching you where your bathing suit covers you, that is a no-touch zone …. By telling a parent about bad touches the person will have to stop.”
The children learned to identify safe havens: depanneurs, gas stations, hospitals. To identify safe strangers: police, public security agents, ambulance-drivers, Block Parents. To run away from a stranger in a car in the opposite direction the car is heading.
Parems learned they should designate five people, wen known to their children, for afterschool pickups. This might prevent a stranger, impersonating a police officer or a friend of the family, trying to pick up their child.
The first two lessons end with self-defense practices. Hunziker, dressed in a thickly padded goalie hockey suit, attacks the children, who timidly apply the simple self-defense techniques they have just learned: kick, slap, the testicle crunch, scream the words, “Fire, call 91!.” By the second course they are more self-assured and defend themselves with more gusto.
The simulations are intense. During the first class. Sonya, a mother, leaves for the washroom crying. She explains, “It is so hard to see them being attacked. They are my precious little bundles.” But she is there because it is important.
Reach Street Safe Kids at (514) 328-4683.