The Rumor of Rapists Luring Victims With a Crying Child

A crying baby
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Several viral messages that have been circulating, through email and social media since 2005, claim that gang members in various parts of the world have begun using crying children. This claim surrounds the idea that they are pretending to be lost or in distress to lure female victims to secluded places to be assaulted.

Police have repeatedly stated that there is no evidence that such tactics are being used by rapists. This viral text and email rumor is considered false and includes several examples over the years, with versions from 2005, 2011, and 2014. See these versions below, review the analysis of the rumor, and learn how viral rape warnings can be misleading.

The 2014 Example As Shared on Facebook

If you walk from home, school, office or anywhere and you are alone and you come across a little boy crying holding a piece of paper with an address on it, DO NOT TAKE HIM THERE! Take him straight to the police station for this is the new 'gang' way of Kidnap and rape. The incident is getting worse. Warn your families and friends.
Repost this please!

The 2011 Example As Received Through Email

FW: Fox News Alert - Please Read!
This is from the County Sheriff Department please read this message very carefully.
This message is for any lady who goes to work, college or school or even driving or walking the streets alone.-
If you find a young person crying on the road showing you their address and is asking you to take them to that address... take that child to the POLICE STATION!! No matter what you do, DON'T go to that address. This is a new way for gang members to rape women. Please forward this message to all ladies & guys so that they can inform their sisters & friends. Please don't feel shy to forward this message. Our 1 message may save a life. Published by CNN & FOX NEWS (Please circulate)..

The 2005 Example As Delivered by Email

Subject: New Rape Case Tactic
Hi everyone, I am not sure when did this happen, but it is best to be careful and safety comes first.
She was just discharged from the hospital...
Today after office hours, I heard from my sister-in-law that there is a new way to rape women It happened to one of our good friends The girl left the office after working hours and saw a little child crying on the road Feeling pity for the child, she went and ask what happened The child said, "I am lost. Can you take me home please?" Then the child gave her a slip and tell the girl where the address is. And the girl, being an average kind person, didn't suspect anything and took the child there.
And there when it arrived the "child's home", she pressed the door bell, yet she was shocked as it the bell was wired with high voltage, and fainted. The next day when she woke up, she found herself in an empty house up in the hills, naked.
She has never even get to see the face of the attacker... That's why nowadays crimes are targeted on kind people
Next time if the same situation occurs, never bring the child to the intended place. If the child insist, then bring the child to the police station. Lost child are best to send to police stations.
Please send this to all your female friends.
(my extra note: guys, please tell your mom, your sister, your wife and your girlfriends too!)

Analysis of the Viral Message Rumors

Even though recent variants of this rumor have been shared under the guise of "police warnings" or "sheriff's department warnings," no reports have been found. This includes documented cases in which rapists actually used, or even attempted to use, crying children as bait to lure female victims.

Law enforcement officials have repeatedly denounced these warnings as hoaxes. The earliest version of the hoax was forwarded in 2005 by a reporter in Singapore who had already identified it as an urban legend. Within a month it had made its way to South Africa, and by May 2005 more copies began to circulate from readers in the United States. As of 2013, eight years later, law enforcement agencies were still fielding inquiries about it from El Paso to Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

Viral Rape Warnings Can Be Misleading and Dangerous

People sometimes defend viral warnings like these by arguing that, even if false in their particulars, they remind women to keep their wits about them and be careful and that it can't hurt.

What weakens that argument is that the false warnings are, in fact, specific. To the degree that potential victims are persuaded to focus their attention on a crying child as a sign that an attacker may be nearby, the more likely it is that they'll be inattentive to other cues, such as real cues, that they're in danger.