Sally Abraham’s Children in the Crossfire – what has changed?

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 Some of the advice is outdated, but most is still applicable.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. this!

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Carlos said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 12:52 am

    I wish I could agree that parental child abductions are viewed as a crime today rather than a private family matter but I do not. Without a doubt improvement has been made and there are now laws on the books in every state and at the federal level which classify parental abduction as a crime but I speak from personal experience when I say that those laws are unevenly followed at best. The police would not even file a missing persons report for my son until I spent $2500 and hired a lawyer to file for emergency custody. I even opened the US State Dept website that cited that internationally abducted children must be immediately entered into the NCIC and showed it to the officer and still no report was filed. I called several different detectives and spoke with supervisors and no one would list my son as missing. After escalating through several ranks of police officers I was told that unless a warrant was issued for my wife it would be pointless to list him as missing since if he was found to be with his mother the only thing that would be done would be to remove him from the NCIC since he was found to be with his mother. To be clear, I am married to my son’s mother who lived with me and no custody orders had ever been issued, which under NC law means a de-facto shared custody. I have no history of domestic violence or any violence whatsoever. The police had never been called to our house and there was nothing to indicate that my wife may have fled an abusive environment or situation. Even after getting an emergency custody order stated that the police of this county or any other should immediately take my son into custody and return him to me the police officer who finally filed a missing persons report for my son did so reluctantly saying he wasn’t really sure if he was supposed to do so (though at that point it may have had more to do with the international dimension of the case rather than any uncertainty as to whether my son was legally missing).

  2. 2

    forthelost said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 7:49 am

    That is all true, but many things have indeed changed – witness the UFAP warrant difference.

  3. 3

    ChocDiamond said,

    January 7, 2015 @ 6:59 pm

    The United States does NOTHING for the stolen children of US Citizens.Nothing has changed and despite the precious handful of cases you have on your site most stolen children are not reported as missing because when parents go to the police they are not taken seriously. My daughter vanished from her babysitter’s age 4 in Spring Lake,NC snatched by my ex and taken via Charlotte abroad in 1998. She was born at Busan,South Korea when I was stationed there with the Army and her daddy was a university student with a Korean mother. I left Korea with her in 1996 when I was reassigned. I naturally assumed he had taken her back there but I was wrong. When I tried to report her missing I was brushed off and told “that’s what happens when you <> foreigners!”. With my own money I located my then 7 year old child in 2002. My ex’s mother was from North Korea and had defected and his father was from the Soviet Union. With a fake name and Kazakh Passport they had brought my child into mainland China. I took this information to the FBI who promised to look into this. In 2005 they informed me after much run around that my child would not be returned because she “has been there so long”, “doesn’t remember you”,and “belongs to the state”. From age 5 she had been enrolled in some kind of training school there in China and lived there most of the time. I did not see my child again until 2012 when she attempted to claim US Citizenship and a passport in order to enter the country for university. 7 months AFTER this when she had obtained her passport,arrived,and I had visited her in Colorado I recieved a letter from the FBI that my child had been located unharmed in Colorado. If I hadn’t known she was abroad in China from my OWN research they were going to act like she hadn’t even left the country!

  4. 4

    GenesisMamma said,

    March 19, 2015 @ 12:10 am

    Sorry but nothing has changed. Here is a list of children failed by the United States from my support group(Black Mamas Wronged By Foreign Lovers) alone:

    >Cairo&Mykah aged 6&8 illegally retained in Russia in 2001 subsequently taken to Israel the next year by father. Returned to United States of own free will in January 2015.

    > Eternity kidnapped from Fort Bragg North Carolina in 1998 aged almost 4 and taken back to Korea by father. Currently believed to be in China or Mongolia. Wants nothing to do with left behind mother.

    >Orion taken to Sweden in 1996 aged 2. Returned briefly to the United States between ages 17-19 before returning to Sweden for good and renouncing US Citizenship.

    > D.J. and L.J. kidnapped to Croatia in 2002 ages 8&10 as father escaped felony charges in the United States. Rescued by mercenaries in 2005.

    >Ashanti stolen to Argentina in 2001 aged 6 amidst allegations of abuse. Ordered to by Argentinian courts to remain in Argentina until at least age 18. Remains in Argentina refusing to have anything to do with mother till this very day.

    >Ember illegally retained in Quebec in 2004 aged 9. Returned briefly to the United States at her majority before returning to Canada permanently.

    >F.E.P&F.D.P held illegally in Puerto Rico since 1992 at age 5.

    > Layla,Gomel,& Ashrat retained in Afghanistan since 1997.

    > Messiah&Siobhan believed to be in Poland but possibly Lithuania.

    >D.H&A.H known to be in Sapporo Japan but refused every visit with their mother

    *None of these women were able to persuade law enforcement to fight for them. Their children were lost and cases written off. Their nation has betrayed them and their children.

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