Taken: How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Kidnapping
Kidnapping is a serious crime that can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. According to the FBI, there were 365,348 reports of missing persons in the United States in 2020, and many of them were victims of abduction by strangers or acquaintances. Kidnapping can have devastating consequences for the victims and their families, such as physical and psychological trauma, ransom demands, or even death.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of being taken or to increase your chances of survival and escape if you are kidnapped. Here are some tips from experts and former hostages on how to protect yourself and your loved ones from kidnapping:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the people and vehicles around you, especially in unfamiliar or crowded places. Avoid walking alone at night or in isolated areas. If you notice anything suspicious or feel uneasy, trust your instincts and leave the area or seek help.
- Don’t share too much personal information online. Social media platforms and online forums can be useful for staying in touch with friends and family, but they can also expose you to potential kidnappers who may use your posts to track your location, habits, or interests. Be careful about what you share online and who you share it with. Adjust your privacy settings to limit who can see your profile and posts. Don’t accept friend requests from strangers or click on links from unknown sources.
- Have a communication plan. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Keep your phone charged and with you at all times. If you are traveling abroad, register with your embassy or consulate and have their contact information handy. If you are kidnapped, try to communicate with your captors and establish a rapport with them. If possible, call or text someone you trust and give them details about your location, situation, or captors.
- Prepare for the worst. In case you are kidnapped, have a contingency plan in place. Have some emergency cash, a spare phone, or a GPS tracker hidden on your person or in your belongings. Memorize important phone numbers or write them down somewhere discreet. Learn some basic self-defense skills or carry a personal alarm or pepper spray. If you have a chance to escape, look for opportunities and act quickly and decisively.
Kidnapping is a terrifying experience that no one should have to go through. However, by following these tips, you can reduce the likelihood of being taken or increase your chances of survival and escape if you are. Remember that you are not alone and that there are people who care about you and will do everything they can to help you.
Kidnapping Statistics: How Common Is It?
While kidnapping may seem like a rare and sensational crime, it is actually more common than you might think. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there were an estimated **156,000** cases of kidnapping worldwide in 2018. However, this number may not reflect the true extent of the problem, as many kidnappings go unreported or are not recorded by authorities.
The prevalence of kidnapping varies greatly from country to country, depending on factors such as political stability, economic development, social norms, and law enforcement capacity. According to the World Population Review, the countries with the highest rates of kidnapping per 100,000 people in 2023 are **Turkey** (42.669), **Lebanon** (15.384), **Kuwait** (12.69), **Canada** (10.285), and **Belgium** (10.245). However, these numbers may not reflect the actual risk of being kidnapped in these countries, as they may include cases of parental abduction or false reporting.
In the United States, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported that it assisted with **29,718** cases of missing children in 2020, of which **91%** were endangered runaways, **4%** were family abductions, **3%** were critically missing young adults, **1%** were nonfamily abductions, and less than **1%** were lost, injured, or otherwise missing children. According to a NCMEC analysis of nonfamily abductions reported between 2016 and 2020, most of the victims were female (74%), between 12 and 17 years old (84%), and taken by male strangers (95%). The most common locations where abductions occurred were streets or roads (46%), parks or wooded areas (14%), and vehicles (13%). The most common methods used by abductors were physical force or threats (61%), luring or tricking (25%), and offering a ride (11%). Most of the victims were able to escape or were released within 24 hours (73%), while some were rescued by law enforcement or others (19%), or remained missing at the time of the analysis (8%).