Monday, August 13, 2012

Pondering Abductions That Failed

by Julia Buckley

A girl in my town was abducted a couple of years ago. She was in her back yard playing, and a man came to the fence and asked if she'd like to see a puppy. He told her that her mom had said it was okay. The girl, who was six, agreed. He lifted her over the fence and put her into the back of his car, where he buckled her into a child seat. He drove her several miles into a different town before he pulled over and told her to get out. For whatever reason, the abduction had gone awry. The frightened girl went to a mail carrier and said she needed to get home. 

Her parents had a couple of bad hours, but their story had a very happy ending.

My female students have harrowing stories, every year, about the people who follow them when they walk to school, when they get off the bus, when they're out with friends. Luckily they are all smart enough and old enough to know a suspicious character when they see one. 

But I've been reflecting lately about how many abductions ALMOST happen. This had me thinking back to my own childhood. I still remember sitting with my dog in the parkway in front of my house, as a child of about ten or eleven, and watching a man stop his car and get out. He walked up to me and asked me about my dog: what breed she was, when we got her, whether I liked to pet her. He said he loved dogs and he just had to ask. At no point did I think he was anything but a dog lover. Eventually my mother's face appeared in the window; the man waved, got into his car, and drove away.

In retrospect, there is much that I suspect about that man's motives. It makes me wonder how close I came to the sort of nightmare many children endure.

There were other incidents, as well: people who offered me rides when I walked to school as a teenager. Because I was vain and wouldn't wear my glasses, I sometimes went close to the cars, thinking it was a friend who had pulled over. And then I'd run away when I realized it was a stranger--a supposedly well-meaning stranger.

Generally people don't attempt to abduct women in their forties, but last year a man who must have been seventy pulled up next to me as I walked to the store.

"Would you like a ride?" he asked.

I almost laughed. "No."

"It seems we're going in the same direction," he persisted. "I just thought I'd save you the trip."

"I don't know you," I said. 

And then, to my utter shock, he moved up the block and began talking to another woman. I didn't even know what to make of that situation. Can that sort of thing ever be "innocent?" Was I to believe that he was just a friendly man looking to give another adult a ride?

In retrospect, the world seems full of shadows and near misses for which I suppose we must be grateful.

Does everyone have a near miss story?

(Note: this is a re-posting of a piece I wrote in 2009, but I thought it was still timely.)


Sheila Connolly said...

Recently I was thinking about the suburban neighborhood where I lived when I was between three and five. It was a cul de sac, and there were few enough houses that everyone knew everyone else. Even at that tender age I know I wandered the neighborhood, collecting friends along the way so we could play together. I think it's safe to say that no parent could have said exactly where we were at any given time, but there was never any question that we were safe.

A few years later (when I was a few years later) I roamed even further--literally miles--and again, no one (adult) knew where I was. The only "bogeyman" we ever heard about was the infamous "escaped convict" who popped up occasionally (I have no idea if we lived anywhere near a prison).

Are there more abductions these days, or were we just hopelessly naive back then?

The Cat Bastet said...

I wonder the same thing, Sheila. Like Julia, I look back and wonder at some events and am thankful I was smart enough not to talk to strangers.

Cathy AJ

Julia Buckley said...

I've asked that question, too. I think of, say, The Civil War Era, and how there must have been all sorts of terrible crimes perpetrated on adults and children alike, and no one would hear of it. But it does make me wonder--at various points in history,how many children just disappeared? And would there be a way to even know it?

In terms of our childhood versus our children's--I'm still not sure. It's not like pedophiles were just invented in the last 20 years.

Barb Goffman said...

I've posted about my near-abduction here before (on the day a few months ago that you posted about that abduction gone awry). I generally think that the number of abductions has likely remained static over the years; we just hear about them more because the public is so much more attuned and the media is everywhere.

Julia Buckley said...

Interesting, Barb. That makes sense.

Jeri Westerson said...

Holy cow! You've had far too many encounters, girl.

Julia Buckley said...

Not in adulthood. But I think if you ask any teenage girl, she'll have stories to tell you.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

My 80 year old mom and I would walk 3 miles up and back on the highway. On day it poured rain and we were still about a mile from home. A man stopped in a truck and asked if we wanted a ride. I said "Sure." Mom said, "Do you know him?" I said, "No, but we're riding with him."

We put our dripping selves into the truck and he drove us right to our front door.

Julia Buckley said...

Marilyn, at least that had a happy ending. I've heard some chilling stories with the same set-up that did not end well. Also there's a famous story about the killers known as The Hillside Strangler and the way they picked up girls walking on the road.