Experts share child safety tips as search for missing girls hits Day 13

Self-defense teachers stress tactics to escape abductors

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Concerns are still running high Wednesday, 13 days after two Black Hawk County girls went missing.

Lyric Cook, and her cousin, Elizabeth Collins, disappeared during a bike ride in Evansdale on Friday, July 13. Authorities now believe the two were abducted. The case has some Eastern Iowa organizations pushing messages of safety.

"We always think about it, whenever we see a situation like that," said Cedar Rapids Karate Institute head master Tim Taylor. "Does it cause us to increase our training? Absolutely. We're going to sit and say in that particular scenario is this something we could teach that maybe we missed or the kids should be aware of.”

Taylor said now is a good time to talk to your kids about safety. All year long, martial arts instructors teach young students basic self-defense moves for getting away from an abductor. Taylor said a big part of the message is prevention. Kids need to be aware of their surroundings and stay close to their parents.

"So we try to focus on developing their awareness, the ability to see a situation that might be dangerous, not to go places by themselves,” Taylor said.

Noor Azmeh, 11, of Cedar Rapids takes classes at the Karate Institute. She has heard of the missing girls from Black Hawk County. She said she thinks about the two girls, who are close to her in age, and knows she could defend herself if she’s ever in a scary situation.

"If somebody comes up and tries to hurt you or take you, and they say don't scream or else I'll kill somebody in your family or something. My master said don't worry about what they say, just scream, do anything to get anybody's attention,” Azmeh said.

Instructors said cases like the one in Evansdale always create a desire for them to do more and help kids stay safe. The martial arts leaders are looking into what happened to see if they can prevent other similar situations.

The Waterloo School district is also keeping kids’ health and safety in mind. Monday, the district held a counseling event for students to come talk about their missing friends. The district says more than 30 kids showed up to share their feelings.

Counselors focused on a few important tips for parents to consider when talking to concerned children. First, tell the child about the disappearance as soon as possible by being direct and honest. Monitor the child's access to the Internet, so they don't see disturbing material. Also, give the child examples of how the school and the community are keeping them safe.

Cedar Rapids therapist Jennifer Lee said it's also important to answer any questions your children may have. Parents should be on the lookout for tell-tale signs that a child is having trouble coping.

Lee said to watch for "general issues of difficulty sleeping, maybe their appetite has really fluctuated. They seem visibly nervous, their normal routine is a bit off, their behavior has changed a bit."

If any of these signs are present, Lee suggested taking that child to talk to a therapist. A representative of the Waterloo School District said they were considering another counseling event as the case unfolds.

Investigators continue to look into leads, and say they believe the two girls are still alive.

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