As per the law, kidnapping is defined as the taking away of a person by force, threat or deceit with intent to detain the individual’s against his or her will. The practice of kidnapping, in the wider and not strictly legal sense, has been known since the beginning of history.
In ancient times, it served as a common method for procuring slaves and it has also been employed by brigands and revolutionaries to obtain money through ransom or to hold hostages, whose safe release was dependent on the freeing of political prisoners.
The motive behind the act of kidnapping could ransom, political or other reasons. At times, a parent whose legal rights to custody of a child have been revoked can even resort to this crime for taking the child. Under common law, kidnapping was only a misdemeanor, but in most states of the United States it is now punishable by death or life imprisonment, if there are no underlying justified circumstances. The kidnapping and murder of the son of Charles A. Lindbergh in 1932 led to a federal statute prescribing severe penalties for transporting the victims of kidnapping across state or national boundaries.
According to facts furnished by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the FBI and the US Department of Justice; the number of missing children has risen in the last 18 years with the increase amounting to 500 percent since 1988. Missing-person experts estimate that in the past 50 years, the bodies of 40,000 to 50,000 unidentified children have been found by the police. Shockingly, 42 percent of all unidentified bodies found in the US are found in California, even though the state represents only 12 percent of the nation’s population. The FBI receives more than 2,000 missing child reports every day. In the United States, about half of the kidnapped children fall in the age group of 4 to 11 years, out of which 74 percent are girls.
Justice Department statistics of kidnapped children in America signify that the risk of abduction by a stranger is relatively low for preschoolers, but increases through elementary school and peaks at age 15. Teenage girls are considered most vulnerable. It has been evaluated that of all the kidnapping cases, 24 percent are crimes committed by strangers, 49 percent indicate family kidnappings and 27 percent fall in the bracket of acquaintance kidnappings.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children highlights that 3,000 to 5,000 child abduction cases each year involve non-family members, most of which are sexually motivated. About 200 to 300 cases take a serious turn involving murder. However, it has also been observed that 98 percent of all child molestation and sexual abuse cases start within the family. A review on the ratio of heterosexual-to-homosexual molestation of children reveals that at least a third of all the reported child molestations involve homosexual acts, while girls account for about two-thirds of children victimized. Those who practice homosexual acts are at least 12 times more likely to molest a child sexually, whereas bisexuals are at least 16 times more liable to molest a child. It has also been authenticated that there is 90 to 100 times more probability of homosexual school teachers to establish sexual relationships with their students than teachers who confine themselves to heterosexual acts.
Prostitution is another linked motive to kidnapping. Studies demonstrate that a very large number of runaway children are forced into prostitution. 300,000 to 600,000 juveniles are actively involved in prostitution in the United States. However, The US Department of Justice estimates the numbers to be between 100,000 and 3 million. These figures include children involved in prostitution, child pornography and those who have been trafficked into the United States from other countries. No matter whether the motivation is ransom or molestation, kidnapping still stands to be a heinous crime.
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