Chapter Eleven: The Difference Between Abduction and Kidnapping

Much to everyone’s surprise, there is a difference between abduction and kidnapping. This chapter will define the differences and break down the different types of each phenomenon.

Abduction and Kidnapping Definition

As legally defined, abduction is "when someone uses deceit or force in order to take a person or a child away from their home or relatives." In these cases, the victim most often "knows or has some sort of relation with the abductor," making abductions one of the most prevalent issues that arise during separations, divorces, and custody battles amongst parents. "Kidnapping is taking away or forcefully transporting a person against their will and holding them in false imprisonment, or a confinement without legal authority. The kidnapping is usually done for a motive or for ransom." Kidnapping usually involves the earning of profits from the family or the victim in order for them to be set free. In kidnappings, it is not necessarily the case that the victim knows the perpetrator; it may just as likely be an unstable stranger from the street. For abductions, it is most often the case that the abductor is a family member, such as a mother or father who may be involved in a custody battle, divorce, or other kind of family issues. Abducting the child is one method they might use to try to make statements about their case.

Types of Child Abductions

Family Abduction

There are three distinct types of abductions that vary depending on who the abductor is. The first, and most common type of abduction, is family abduction. It is estimated that family abductions account for forty-nine percent of all abductions in the United States. In these types of cases, a child is most often abducted by a relative that they are close with. The perpetrator is most often a parent who may be attempting to settle their own issues, and they take the child to make a statement to the other partner. This type of abduction, and crime in general, "involves a larger percentage of female perpetrators…than other types of…offenses," making the case for parents involved in custody battles more plausible for this sort of abduction. As there is no specific pedophilic attraction or diseased motive for this type of crime, as with most other crimes involving children, this type of abduction "equally victimizes juveniles of both sexes."

Acquaintance Abductions

A lower percentage of abductions are "acquaintance" abductions. These abductions account for twenty-eight percent of all abductions, wherein the victim is only slightly acquainted with the perpetrator, but can still be considered familiar with the suspect from past history. This type of abduction has the highest percentage of being female or teenage victims, as well as the "highest percentage of injured victims." Most of these abductions are associated with other sexual and physical assaults, most often by juvenile perpetrators. This can be related to the fact that a majority of these abductions and assaults come as a result of relationship or dating issues.

Example of Child Acquaintance Abduction

For example when one person, say the woman, unsuspectingly breaks off ties with the other, such as the man, she may upset him to such a point that he may cause her harm or abduct her to get her to do what he wants her to do. Acquaintance abductions are one of the most dangerous and harmful of its kind, and usually happen in homes. This is especially alarming because the home is considered a safe haven for almost all children and adults. As such, it is important to constantly be aware of your child’s surroundings so as to not let potentially dangerous situations, such as abduction, happen under your roof. It is also important to get restraining orders or police protection from crazed or seemingly dangerous exes, ordering them to stay away from you and your child and averting the risk of acquaintance abductions.  

Stranger Kidnappings

The third type of abduction, called "stranger kidnappings", makes up about a quarter of all abductions and kidnappings (roughly twenty-four percent). In this type of crime, the victim has no previous history with the perpetrator and has no knowledge of his existence or motive. When it comes to girl victims, these kinds of kidnappings are generally associated with sexual assaults. For boy victims, these kidnappings are usually related to robberies. In eighty percent of stranger kidnappings, the perpetrators strike their victims in outdoor locations that are often within a quarter mile of the child’s home. This type of kidnapping usually involves the perpetrator luring the child into their car, promising them candy or gifts. Whether or not the child obliges, the kidnapper in this type of crime is most likely to use a firearm to either lure the child in, or cause harm to the child when they are already in the kidnapper’s grasp.

It is extremely important to warn and educate your children on these types of crimes so that they don’t fall victim to the kidnapper’s persuasions. Telling them that although candy and lost puppies seem interesting and fun, they should never go alone to help someone they do not know. Warn them that they should never take candy from a stranger and never even give heed to a stranger’s attention and/or promises. Assure your child that the stranger’s candy is dangerous, and instead, they should only take candy from people they know and trust well, with your permission and under your supervision.

Time is a crucial element in finding missing children, especially the first three hours. A staggering "76.2% of abducted children who are killed are dead within three hours of the abduction." Though deaths associated with all abductions are rare, this statistic is alarming. As such, parents should focus on educating their children on the dangers and risks of abductions and kidnappings. With education and sufficient love and care, abductions and kidnappings can hopefully be avoided. Studies indicate that when parents worry about their children, their most frequent fear is of them being abducted or kidnapped. While this is a natural worry, parents should be less focused on fear and more focused on educating their children on safety tips to prevent abductions and kidnappings with both strangers and people they know. Staying proactive and alert in your child’s life can make all the difference in protecting them from harm and dangerous situations. Remember to not involve your children into your own marital or financial problems, and pay attention to their behavior in and out of school. Find out if they are talking about strangers or people you don’t know. Ask for details about who these people are, and let them know that you must know where they are at all times for their safety and that you will never get angry if they tell you the truth. Most importantly, educate your children about these dangers and remind them of your unconditional love and support.