When a child is abducted by a stranger, most of time, they are reunited with their families soon after. However, in the case of some kidnappings, like Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, and Adam Walsh, the victim is kidnapped for months or years, or is killed. This only happens in a very small percentage of reported kidnappings — less than 0.0003% of the more than 465,000 reported kidnaps in 2016 — but is still a nightmare everyone worries about. Read on for common characteristics among child kidnappers.
Very few kidnappers abduct ‘long term’
Child abduction by a stranger is very uncommon. The largest category of abduction is kidnapping by a family member, which constitutes 204,000 cases per year. Compared to that, long-term abduction by a stranger — transporting a child at least 50 miles and holding the child at least one night — seems almost nonexistent at just 115 cases per year. In total, there are about 4,600 stranger kidnappings each year, but the victims are often released after a very brief amount of time.
Most kidnappers are men
In cases of child abduction by strangers, 95 percent of abductors are men. There have not been any conclusive studies about why men are a much higher percentage than women. Of the 115 long-term kidnapping cases, 40% result in the abductor killing the victim. The child is seriously injured in 32% of cases. About 10 per year are a result of a woman wanting to raise a child herself. In 2002, The New York Times reported that a woman suspected of abduction brought a baby home and tried to tell her boyfriend that he fathered the child.
Most abductors are not married
Most kidnappers look for sexual gratification because they don’t have a spouse. An overwhelming majority of victims in stranger kidnappings are female; 74% total, which is about 3,400 victims. Most victims are only held briefly by their attacker. These abductions almost always result in sexual abuse to the female.
Kidnappers are usually social outcasts
Most kidnappers actually do prefer an adult female partner, however it is difficult for them to win over a female because they lack social skills. Kidnappers don’t have the means to attract and befriend anyone, let alone seduce a woman. They often have very few friends as a result of their social awkwardness. Abductors resort to going after children because they’re easier to lure and usually cannot defend themselves.
They have little contact with children
A startling fact is that these kidnappers often have very little day-to-day interaction with children. This sets them apart from most other child molesters, who gain trust from their victims by developing a friendship before making a dangerous move. Kidnappers are more likely to use violent force, such as a gun or knife, to threaten the child, because that trust was never built between the abductor and the victim.
They are victims of sexual abuse
Dr. Robert A. Prentky once conducted a study about sexual abuse and abductor-molesters. He found that 71% of strangers who kidnap for sexual abuse purposes had been sexually abused themselves in the past. This is still less than that of non-kidnapping molesters, which is close to 100%. The lower percentage compared to non-kidnapping molesters could be because not all kidnappings are carried out for abuse purposes. Some are carried out for ransom, while others are not intended, such as a child being caught in the backseat of a carjacking.
They are not usually considered pedophiles
“Pedophile is a very technical term,” Dr. Prentky told The New York Times. “And it literally means love of children … A pedophile would be mortified at the thought that his actions would be harmful to the child,” he said. One possibility for why most kidnappers are not pedophiles could be that most kidnappers resort to children because of a lack of social skills, rather than prefer children.
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