The Elizabeth Smart story has been on the news a lot lately, as we're coming upon 10 years since her ordeal and the release of her new book. Personally, I am captivated by it. I remember when she was kidnapped and remember how happy I was, though I had no personal connection to her, when she was rescued. It's wonderful to see someone who has gone through such horrible events to be doing so well, so poised and strong.
Of course, against my better judgment yet again, I read the comments following a story. People are awful. "Why didn't she speak up? This story sounds fishy." Seriously? She was 14, threatened with her life and her family's lives. She was petrified. She was held captive for months, raped mercilessly and people are questioning this?
I came across a comment by one person who said that when they were 10 they were accosted by a man outside their school. She and her sister got away but the police brought him to their home to identify him, and they never recovered from seeing this horrible person in their home. And immediately it brought me back to an awful memory of my own.
It is easy to say what you would do in a certain situation, even if the situation involves a child. But unless you have been in a dangerous situation you do not know how you'd react. I was 11 years old when I underwent a situation similar to this commenter. On a summer afternoon, my best friend and I rode our bikes to our local elementary school to play on their playground. We dropped our bikes near the school parking lot and headed to the playground. Not too longer after that a man in a black car pulled up, took my bike and started wheeling it away to a cornered entrance to the school. I thought "oh no, my parents will kill me if I lose my bike." So I went after him to get it back.
He knew what he was doing by bringing that bike into a blocked-in area. Once I was there and tried to pick the bike up off the ground, he cornered me. I somewhat remember what he looked like - disheveled dirty blond hair, maybe 40 years old, wearing a ratty t-shirt and boxers. He pulled out pepper spray and asked if I knew what this was. I immediately turned away and began to cry. My friend had biked off at that point to get help, and honestly I'm not sure if it was me crying or something he saw that spooked him, but that was as far as it got. I remember him saying "I wasn't trying to scare you. I was just trying to teach you that you shouldn't just lay your bike like that and leave it." And he was gone. Like I said, I have no idea why he left. I've always thought it was because I started crying, but I don't know. The more I type this I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that something spooked him and he left. God knows what could have happened. I could have just as easily become another statistic out there. That scares the hell out of me, but there must have been someone looking out for me because I was lucky.
We called the police when we got home, and they came to the house but I'm not sure where it went from there. I've never really asked my parents but I couldn't begin to imagine what they thought. All I was worried about at that moment when it happened was losing my bike and getting in trouble. In hindsight as an adult, that bike is not even close to being worth it. A new bike can always be bought. A life is irreplaceable.
This ironically wasn't the first time something like this had happened but this one was too close. The first incident was when I was much younger playing in our yard with my sister and our babysitter when a man in a car drove up looking for a barber shop. The babysitter started to walk towards him when she saw he had no pants on. We ran inside, and I just remember my dad drove around and around the neighborhood looking for the car. I can imagine what he would want to do if he found the man. I probably was six, maybe younger then.
It scares me now that I'm a mom. I don't know what I'd do if something happened to Aubrey. It happens so easily, too. When Aubrey was a baby, I took her to Kroger by myself, and I remember turning my back for one second and when I turned around this lady was in her face touching her. After that I made T come with me so that one of us could be watching her at all times. Never again would I make that mistake.
I don't want to raise my daughter to be scared of everyone who talks to her, but she already has no fear. Where is that fine line? How do you teach your children what to do in these situations without making them completely paranoid? And honestly, is that enough? Because if something did happen, like it happened to me and on a 100 times worse scale to Elizabeth, fear takes over. Would she feel strong enough to scream, run, do whatever she could to leave?
It's a scary world out there. And it's unfortunate, too, that there are so many people out there who would say the things that I read in those comments. She was a child, for God's sake. She could have been your child, people.