Take a moment to think about one of the first things you notice while stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic - bumper stickers. Think about the stick figure families, the proudly displayed honor roll recognition, the “Baby on Board” decals. At first glance, bumper stickers can be seen as a wholesome way to think about your family or a small chance at showing the world a part of your personality and life. The unforeseen downside of having personalized bumper stickers displayed on your car is that it creates an avenue of vulnerability by exposing private information to potential predators.
Sexual abuse is often perpetrated by the strategic manipulation of trust. Abusers will analyze your home life and family dynamic to take advantage of any vulnerabilities which will allow them with the opportunity to sexually abuse someone you know and love. Bumper stickers give abusers insight into your everyday activities and personal details such as the school your child attends, what type of extracurricular activities they are involved in, and your presence in a family environment.
For example, if you have a 26.2 bumper sticker on your car, that gives an abuser the specific detail that you or someone in your family enjoys running marathons. This can be used as an abuse access point, as they may share they enjoy participating in running competitions and use that as an excuse to begin training for a future run together. As innocent as this may initially seem, it allows the abuser to strategically begin creating a closer connection with you and your family through spending more time together, developing greater trust, and using that trust to groom your child for sexual abuse.
The stage of building trust during the grooming process towards sexual abuse also includes giving special gifts and attention to a prospective victim. Many stick figure family bumper stickers have the option to add personalizations such as sports equipment like footballs or skateboards, pets, and hobby accessories like camping tents or music instruments. This acts as a traveling advertisement of your child’s interests and involvement for potential abusers to use to their advantage. By using that type of information to provide personalized gifts like highly coveted basketball sneakers or providing access to a dog or cat that is not allowed by parents inside the house, perpetrators will slowly move one step closer to abuse.
Bumper stickers can be a fun way to add some personality to your car! The key to safety is keeping them on a general information level. Personal information about your family dynamic and life story remains safer within your circle of trust, not in the hands of potential abusers.