When I was 14, I attended a Catholic High School in Minnesota. That’s right, I was a Catholic schoolgirl. I wore the uniform and all. Think Britney Spears in Baby One More Time, but instead of dancing and an exposed midriff, there was acne, pale skin and a fully buttoned shirt.
Each day I rode the bus to and from school. My house was about a mile from my bus stop, which felt like 10 miles when walking in penny loafers. About a month into the school year, I was walking home from the bus stop when about half way into my walk; I could hear a car driving slowly down the street behind me. I turned around to see who it was. In the car was a man I didn’t know. He appeared to be in his late 50’s or early 60’s. He was a heavier man with a full head of grey hair. After I looked at him, he sped up and circled the block a few times. As a street-smart kid who was always aware of my surroundings, I became worried.
From a young age, my uncle, who was a homicide detective, gave me an education in Kidnapping 101. This education included lessons like:
- Walk with your keys in your dominant hand. Place a key between your first two fingers in case you have to punch a would-be attacker.
- If someone grabs you, go for the eyes. Sure, we as women have been told that if we are being attacked by a guy, we are to go for the nuts. However, according to my uncle, the eyes are even better. Why? Because the natural reaction to getting poked in the eye(s), is to bring your hands up to your face. Also, impairing their vision is always a plus.
- Lock your car doors immediately upon entering. This gives possible attackers less time to hop in your car.
- When walking alone in public, make eye contact with those walking by you. Also, walk tall and with a purpose. Apparently many would-be assailants look for women who appear to be preoccupied and not present. These “bad guys” have admitted to police that they tend to steer clear of women who walk tall, with purpose and make eye contact. 1. Because you appear as though you’ll put up a fight. 2. Because now you’ve seen them and could identify them in a lineup. They hate that.
- Whenever he, she or they tell you that if you cooperate, they’ll let you go. Don’t. Fight. Always fight. Most plan to kill you anyway so why make it easier for them.
I realize some of these tips can be anxiety inducing, especially for kids, but it’s these tips that I think saved my life that day.
I was about to cross the street, when from the corner of my eye, I saw him driving toward me for a third time. He sped up, turned his car in front of me, swung his car door open and reached his arm out. Luckily, he wasn’t close enough to get ahold of me. He then reached back in his car, threw something at my feet and sped off. I looked down at what he had just thrown and it was about 4-5 pornographic magazines. Sitting on top of my penny loafers, were pictures of women and men involved in sex acts. I froze. In all my Kidnapping 101 training, I never expected anyone to do this.
I then heard the sound of tires screeching and saw that the man had made a U-turn and was heading back toward me. I kicked the magazines off my feet and began running. I ran faster than I knew I could. I was running in and out of people’s yards, alleys and in between houses. My mind was moving even faster than my legs as I realized that if I ran to my house, I’d be alone. My parents worked full-time so I was a latchkey kid. Something I liked up until that day.
I also couldn’t run home because then he’d know where I lived. Then he could come back and get me tomorrow. I decided I’d run to my neighbor’s house instead.
My neighbor, Norb was a retired man who lived across the street from my house. He was the kind of neighbor who watched out for everyone in the neighborhood. Most importantly, he was always home.
When I got to Norb’s house, I started banging on his door and screaming. There was no answer. The old man pulled up in front of the house, exited his car while it was still running and headed toward me. I banged harder and screamed louder. Suddenly Norb opened the door and I literally fell into his arms. He was confused and I was in shock. “Joleen, what’s wrong?” he asked. “He’s trying to kidnap me,” I yelled as I turned and pointed to the man who was now quickly retreating to his car.
The old man was able to successfully get into his car and drive away. Norb ran after the man’s car in an attempt to get his license plate number. Unfortunately, he was only able to get the first part of it.
We called 911 and explained to the dispatcher what the man looked like, the make/model/color of the vehicle, the first part of the license plate number and the direction he was headed. It took the police 3 hours to arrive “on the scene” only to tell my parents that there was nothing they could do. It didn’t seem to be a priority to them. They explained that there are a lot of sickos out there, but that we could call if I saw him again. I thought, “If I saw him again?” If I saw him again, I’d be dead.
Twenty years later, I don’t think about what happened to me very often, but the memories flooded my mind after I heard the audio of Donald Trump bragging that as a rich/famous man he kisses beautiful women without their consent and can just walk up and “grab em by the pussy” if he feels so inclined. His words sadden and scare me, but they don’t surprise me. What does surprise me, are the people who are justifying his words and actions. They dismiss the entire situation by claiming that we’re all just being melodramatic.
I’ve seen too many Trump sympathizers saying that what he’s said and done shouldn’t be a big deal because he’s not the first politician to do so. To which I say, Duh, but that still doesn’t make it right. Besides, he’s the one running for President of the United States today. Those making this argument are basically saying, “It’s not fair that they (Insert politician’s name) got to verbally and physically assault women and we can’t.” This isn’t the argument we should be having. Instead, we should take this opportunity to stand together as Americans and say that we will no longer support any politician (regardless of their party affiliation) who behaves like this. We deserve better.
Another popular defense of Trump is, “They’re just words” or “All guys do stuff like that.” Or as Donald put it, “It’s just locker room talk.” These reactions are all too similar to how dismissive the police were in my situation. According to their lack of response, sickos will be sickos and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Donald Trump’s words and actions are important because they perpetuate the belief that power and status trump morality, safety and the law. And if we accept that from a presidential candidate, where else will we accept it?
In my situation, the man who attempted to kidnap me was using his power and status to get what he wanted too. He has power and status, you may ask. Yes. This man was older and stronger than me, and therein lies his power and status. And if we accept this, then we have to accept that it was okay for that old man to reach out and grab me, a 14-year-old girl, because it’s what he wanted. It’s just what guys like him do.
They never caught the man who tried to abduct me. My hope is that he spontaneously combusted right after the incident. This belief helps me sleep at night. However, if that didn’t happen, I hope (sarcasm alert) that just like how Trump now claims to have grown from his infamous trip with Billy Bush on the Access Hollywood Bus, the man who threw porno at me has grown as well. I mean both my attacker and Trump were just young (old) guys in their late 50’s and early 60’s who didn’t know any better. And just like Trump now claims to respect women, I’m sure the pedophile who chased me now respects little girls. I mean, boys will be boys, sex offenders will be sex offenders and pedophiles will be pedophiles, right? And there’s nothing we can do about it. (Sarcasm over) Wrong.