Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Walking Near Men

I am nine years old.  There has been the same man lurking by the fairground gates every day this week as I walk to and from school.  His eyes follow me like schooling fish every time I pass- pirañas.  I walk slowly, as if to unflappably feign recognition.  But my insides are a mudslide, everything falling to my stomach, dense and churning.  

Some days I am with my brother, but today I am alone as I round the corner and see him there, despite so many wishes throughout the day- echoes of his catcalls resounding in the catacombs of my prattled mind. There is no place to cross to the other side of the bush-glutted road. This is the only passageway.  It binds the empty lots of the fairgrounds where hollow buildings, tired looking after summer concerts and the state fair, hunker down for the cold season. 

I am approaching where he leans against the gate post, his hands in his jean jacket pockets. Today I walk faster while making my arms fluid by my sides to lessen the obviousness of my fear. But I can't help it. I want to run, but he is like a dog that is waiting to give chase, grimacing and growling with a lowly timbre. 

I am a step or two past him when I see the steely glimmer from my periphery.  I have had nightmares about what he has in his pocket and now its blade is serrated reality as it moves from its sheath.  He is rallying now, behind me.  I think about telling him that I don't have anything.  I don't have anything that he wants-no money, no belongings. 

As he gives chase, I realize I do have something very pubescent and helpless that he wants. I know that what he wants is not something he will take the time to finesse, like my stepfather does.  This man will feed his need for power quickly and ruthlessly. Teach kids about Predator Safety

There is noise- piercing and prolonged- my lungs are pleading for air.  My feet punch the pavement as I sprint.  My arms are a windmill, creating enough balance to keep me upright as I make my escape.  I've lost him.  For now anyway.


My heart still beats hard just writing about this.  I obviously got away, physically unscathed.  I ran screaming- not because I was ever taught to protect myself, hold my head up high, avoid these kinds of situations- I acted in a visceral way and it happened to save me.  I wrote this because so many kids are not taught to be aware of their surroundings, walk with their heads up and tell someone they trust if they think there is danger (also see Another post about near abduction).  This happened to me in the 70's.  Kids still walked home from school alone at all ages and at all times of day and night.  There was very little awareness about much of anything.  I was a prime target- a tiny, shy little girl.  Predators just know when a child is broken enough to go afterPredator Awareness. It was pure luck that he didn't get a chance to follow through with his plan.  I have no idea what happened to him.  I just know that I never saw him again.  I peeked around the corner for the rest of my days living in that town before I carried on.  Even then, I knew fear like never before any time I had to go anywhere alone.

It is a hard call- how and what to teach your kids about safety.  No one wants to scare their children, but what is the alternative?  Here are some excellent resources about just that:

Another post here about near abduction
Educating Children about Child Predators
Great Blog


  1. I taught my girls to scream and to latch onto,, HUG the person trying to take them. the theory is that the person will panic and try to take back control. then once/if they drop them to the ground, to wrap themselves around their feet, the person again will try to get away. If you can't run and scream. HUG and scream, until you get another chance to get away. This reminds me to go over that again. It's been a long while since we went over it. Thank you.

  2. There are great books out there, as well, called "The Gift of Fear" and "Protecting The Gift" (for teaching your children) by Gavin De Becker. I had an incident back in the 70's as well but I was with my best friend. It again involved a van. Wasn't as traumatic as yours, by any means. You ARE so correct. Predators CAN tell who is vulnerable. We had that look.