Police, self-defense experts discuss safety after series of assaults on young girls heading to school

Posted at 10:09 PM, Feb 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-15 00:09:07-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The latest sexual assault case in Salt Lake City marked the third assault involving a young girl on her way to school in just over a week.

Police said now is a good time to have a talk with your kids about stranger danger.

It's scary to think, but the harsh reality is that we live in a world with child predators, and police said most of them look like your everyday citizen. FOX 13 News went to a place where some Utah parents take their kids to learn about self-defense.

"I've been doing it for 3 years," said Audrey, who is talking about self-defense classes.

The 10 year old is just one of dozens of kids learning how to protect themselves.

"I think it's great for the kids," said Teri Johnston, the program manager at Karate for Kids in Salt Lake City.

She said the classes help build confidence and also give students a chance to learn how to handle real-life situations.

"It’s a program that gets the kids, if they are ever confronted by someone they don't know, it gives them something to work with, something they can rely on if they're in need or in danger,” Johnston said.

Leeah, an 11-year-old who takes self-defense classes, spoke about her tactics.

"The number one thing that you would want to do is you want to distract them, so you would want to kick them or hit them," she said. "And the next thing you want to do is yell ‘fire’ or ‘you're not my mom, you're not my dad’ to get people's attention to come and help you."

"It’s unusual that we get this many cases in such a short amount of time, two in one day," said Detective Cody Lougy, who is referring to the sexual assault of a teenage girlon her way to school in Rose Park Thursday morning and the attempted abduction of an elementary school student in Magna, which also occurred that morning.

It marks the third recent incident; the first was in Orem last week, when a young girl was sexually assaulted on her way to school. Police said given the recent incidents, it's important to have the tough talk with your kids about what to do if a stranger approaches them.

"The very first and most important thing is to have an open dialogue with your kids, talk to them about what their plan is going to be when someone approaches them, have a game plan already in mind, in fact, do scenarios with them," Lougy said.

Lougy stresses that it's important parents have recent pictures of their kids and know their current weight and height. He said parents should also teach children to memorize their home address and important phone numbers. He said the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to walk to school in a group. Police said there's strength in numbers.