Today I was driving on an underpass of I –75 and saw a young girl walking alone.
She was 13 or 14 and weighed less than 100 pounds. I was alarmed and wanted to stop and ask her, “Do you realize your life and well-being are in danger?”
This time I didn’t. You might be thinking that it’s none of my business, that she has a right to walk wherever she wants to walk.
And you might ask further, What were you so concerned about? It was mid-morning on a Friday. What could happen to her?
Of course, she has the right to walk on the sidewalk, but where was her mother or father in this picture?
She was wearing short shorts; she was listening to her iPod; she was wearing flip flops (Have you ever tried to run in flip flops?); she was paying no attention to much of anything.
The only positive thing I noticed about her was that she had her blonde hair in a bun, not down or in a ponytail which gives a predator something to hold on to.
Other than the hair, she fit the profile that predators want and there was an additional asset for them: she was walking close to a major highway where a kidnapper could have the option to drive north or south or east or west.
As cautious as I’ve been all my life, I was attacked in Barbourville by a service station mechanic on a Saturday morning. Another time, I was attacked on a college campus as I left a seminar. The man who attacked me was attending the same seminar. As a very young girl, I was threatened several times by men who were up to no good.
As women we must be on the alert, regardless of our age. As grandmothers and mothers, we are responsible for instilling in our daughters and granddaughters from the time they are very young the need to protect themselves from those who would harm them.
You start this process by teaching little girls about the parts of their bodies that are private and that if anyone invades those private spaces, they should immediately scream, run and tell a trusted adult.
As cute as you believe some clothes are, let your girls be children. Clothe them in such a way that they are free to run, to climb trees, to become confident in their physical strength. Predators look for compliant children, not children who project confidence.
And always look at your own behaviors. Are you modeling behaviors that will tell the young girls in your life that it’s all right to have a different man sleeping in your bed every two weeks or so? Are you implying by your inactions or perhaps by your words that regular attendance at school is really not that important? Are cigarettes, marijuana and booze a regular part of your life? Or what about those prescription pills that erase your cares and make you feel so good?
In spite of what we do or don’t do, sometimes our children get off the track. They, however, are less likely to if we put ourselves second and our children first.
I’ve taught writing and literature classes to female prison inmates, and my hope for them was always that there was hope for redemption, for changes in behavior so that they and their children could not only survive but also prosper.
And almost weekly, I hear stories from a few young mothers in the college classes I teach of the ways in which they had the “wake up” calls that turned them around. If you’re the mother, grandmother, or adult in your child’s life, when will your call come and will you answer?