In the annals of statistics abused by the press, there is one, true leader in the field, a number so lacking in context that it is tantamount to fraud to report it, and yet it is an undying staple of scare stories: I speak of the number of missing kids in the U.S. George Stephanopoulos spoke of it, too, on Good Morning America over the weekend. In a segment on Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped at the age of 11 and raped for 18 years, Stephanopoulos said,
“Jaycee, in some ways, is one of the lucky ones. She finally made it home. But more than 2,000 children are reported missing every day.”
As Lenore Skenazy, a one woman liberation movement for children oppressed by mindless adults, points out, if that’s your definition of luck, what did that mean for the other 2,000 – they’re still in captivity? Dead? The reality is that abductions like Jaycee’s are very rare. As Skenazy notes:
“Two thousand missing children a day is 730,000 kids a year. But the number of children who are actually kidnapped and held overnight by strangers is, according to FBI stats, 115“
That’s one child every three days. Roughly one child a week is killed. These are not comforting statistics, but they are not the epidemic reported by Good Morning America. One of the commentors on Skenazy’s post puts the social impact of this kind of reporting into an interesting perspective:
“Whenever I give these stats, people’s eyes bug out of their heads and either I hear, ‘Oh… huh.’ Or ‘Yeah but what if…’
The only one I didn’t hear that from? My sister the cop. Go figure. She grinned at me and was delighted to hear I knew the stats and delighted that my kids were outside playing and walking to school. She, of course, gave me tips on what predators **do** look for (like kids with old shoes, unbrushed hair – these two things mean kids aren’t cared for/kids wearing glasses, kids wearing coats – these are kids that are being watched over).
Now that’s useful information.