VERSAILLES— A central Missouri sheriff has worked to institute a program aimed at helping children avoid being molested or abducted.
Morgan County Sheriff Jim Petty knew of the program called radKIDS (Resist Aggression Defensibly), a national education program that teaches children to fight back against people trying to hurt them.
Only, he couldn't afford it.
He started asking people to contribute, and soon the juvenile division of the 26th Judicial Circuit had the funds he needed to pay for the program.
"Honestly, I don't like asking people for money, but I'm passionate for this program," Petty said.
The juvenile division and the sheriff's department will start training next year.
RadKIDS has been taught in all but a few states, officials with the program said. The idea is to teach elementary school children how to respond if they're abducted, sexually attacked or bullied.
"We don't teach children how to fight," said Stephen Daley, founder and executive director of the nonprofit. "We teach them to escape when someone is fighting them."
Departments or organizations that buy the program pay for people to be trained. In Morgan County's case, program officials will train 20 people who then will take the message to children.
Though the cases of strangers abducting and abusing youngsters are relatively few, many children are hurt by people they know.
Petty and Morgan County Deputy Mike Nienhuis said radKIDS would give children the strength and knowledge to handle those situations.
"You're going to show them, straight out of the chute, to say no when they want to say no," Nienhuis said. "We'll tell them they have the power to say no."
Others in law enforcement understand the need for teaching children how to protect themselves and convincing them that it's OK to tell people if someone hurts them.
"They are the first line of defense for themselves," said Sgt. Gary Kilgore, who supervises the Jackson County sex offender registry. "We need to make sure they know what they can and cannot do. That's crucial in their safety. ... Education is about the only way to get that to them."
After seeing a presentation about the program at a national conference, Petty and one of his deputies were instant believers. They remember a 9-year-old girl who fought her would-be abductor and got away.
Nienhuis, who will receive the training, said he liked how the program made children stronger.
"The molester is never going to quit," Nienhuis said. "You can make 50 million laws against this and it's still going to happen. You have to educate potential victims so they know how to get out of it."