(This essay originally appeared on the For the Lost blog.)
In 1983, Sally Abrahams published the book Children in the Crossfire - the Tragedy of Parental Kidnapping. It is unfortunately still one of the only comprehensive books on the subject. I wrote a brief review of it, which I will post below.
This book was written in 1983, but much of the information in it is still useable. It was the first nonfiction work to examine the problem of parental kidnapping, and it remains one of the few today. Abrahms tells the stories of families and their missing children, their searches and the lingering effects afterward. Those stories are simliar enough to many told today, and in a way that is the most heartbreaking part. Some of the advice is outdated, but most is still applicable. If you are in a family abduction situation today, or just want an overview of the problem, this is still the best book on the subject.
What I did not address in the review is the fact that many things have changed that the book addresses. What are those, and how many things are still the same?
The most obvious and pronounced difference is the reaction of law enforcement to family abduction cases. In 1983, a parent still had to do all the leg work to find a missing child. When the police did take a report (many did not as it was viewed as a family matter and not a crime) that was often it. Now law enforcement takes reports and enters them into the National Crime Information Center database right away. Parental abduction is a felony in almost all states, and kidnapping warrants are issued as soon as possible. The book also mentions at the time FBI Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrants were nearly impossible to obtain for this crime. Now not only are they regularly issued, but the FBI web page has one section strictly devoted to featured abductors.
The second change is in technology. Age-progression software has helped recover children missing for long periods of time. The Internet provides a quick resource for anyone who thinks that a child they know may have been abducted. Many stories now say that a person thought the situation was odd, went online and looked up missing children, and found said child. In the past, even if someone was suspicious there was no way to check if they were missing, which could lead to a successful recovery. The Amber Alert system that is activated for missing children who are believed to be in danger is another new advance that helps to recover children. The NCMEC had not been formed at the time of this book, and is now the resource for most or all of the technologies above.
Unfortunately, many things she addresses are still the same. International abduction is still a situation where children are rarely recovered. Most countries will not deport a citizen in an abduction case, and the Hague Treaty is often invoked but rarely put into effect. A father in the book states that short of actually chaining your kid to you, you can't prevent this, and this is still sadly the case. The motviations of the abductors are still the same, giving all sorts of reasons why their abduction was justified when in reality it is anything but. And the attitudes of others are often still that it can't be that bad if the kid is with a parent. Despite the recognition of parental abduction as child abuse, and legislation passed thereof, most people who are not in law enforcement refuse to see it as a problem. This is one reason why a new book on the subject is needed; Abrahms covers the problem well even for today, but much of it is out of date and the book itself is no longer in print. Hopefully someone will fill that need someday.
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