When we had our daughter thirteen years ago, the topmost worry on our minds was how to get through the day without collapsing from exhaustion. After that, it was teaching her to do her business in the toilet and to walk across the room without falling down.
The “teaching” moments we have with her now, thirteen years later, are oddly still about the proper ways to act as an adult and how to stay safe.
Before you jump to conclusions, this is not a post about feminism and what a raw deal women still get after all this time (although, on many fronts, I believe this is the case).
This isn’t a post about how my daughter needs to protect herself from men, although it’s highly likely that if she is a victim of a violent crime at some point in her life it will be at the hands of a man. The same would be true if she were a boy.
This is a post about the recent advice my husband and I gave her about how to protect herself from a very specific kind of harm.
My husband has been binge watching past episodes of Criminal Minds. Being the supportive wife I am, I’ve watched a few with him. In season eight’s episode 16, the “unsub,” played by Scott Grimes, approaches a woman in a grocery store parking lot, in the middle of the day with other people and cars around. He isn’t carrying a leash, asking for the woman’s help to find his lost puppy.
He asks her to sign a petition focused on cleaning up the Delaware River.
He makes a great case:
Did you know that the Delaware River is the fifth most polluted river in our country? Last year, they dumped more than 6.7 million pounds of toxic chemicals there and nobody’s doing anything about it…they won’t listen until we all speak up. The Clean Water Act is an unfulfilled promise and our children are the ones paying for it. Come on, it’s just a signature. I’ll even help you with your groceries.
Like most harried women in grocery store parking lots, wrestling with bags and keys, preoccupied with worries of being late to pick up her son, the woman isn’t having any of it. But he wears her down and she agrees to sign the petition.
The pen doesn’t work.
He apologizes, reaches for another one in his jacket and pulls out a gun instead. He tells her not to scream and not to run.
She follows his directions and, presumably, gets in a car with him. And well, you know how that usually turns out—the abductee is eventually killed, but not until she has been tortured or sexually assaulted, or both.
Watching that episode, the “behavioral analysis unit” switch flipped in my brain.
It occurred to me that people who abduct others don’t generally want to kill them immediately. That’s not how they get their kicks or reach their goal.
For instance, sometimes kidnapping is motivated by money. This is common in parts of Latin America where “professional” kidnappers abduct people for profit…although, in 2010, the U.S. held sixth place globally in “kidnapping-for-ransom” incidents. In those situations, about 95% of people are released alive. This makes sense since the abductors won’t get their money if they immediately kill the abductee—it’s not a smart investment strategy.
Other times the kidnappers are zealots, extremists or terrorists who pick their victims based upon such things as nationality, ethnicity or religion. We’ve seen plenty of recent examples of that type of abduction in the news.
The realization that in many situations a kidnapper wants to take their victim alive and keep her that way, at least initially, is what compelled my husband and I to give our daughter the following advice:
Run from the gun.
And in reading The Psychology of Kidnapping and Abduction by L. Scott Harrell, I was encouraged to see that our gut instincts and advice were spot on:
If you believe that you are the victim of a hate crime, a target of an extremist or are being moved to facilitate a violent sexual act against you, then you MUST fight with everything you’ve got. Your chances of survival after being moved under these circumstances are almost zero percent. Personally, I would rather die at that moment and location where I had a chance of survival than be drug away where I do not; the probability of an excruciatingly painful death is almost certain, too.
I agree with Harrell.
I hate that we had to have this conversation with our daughter.
I hate the fear we saw in her eyes when we explained why it’s so important she doesn’t get in a stranger’s car—that the odds are against her making it back to us alive if she does.
But I’d rather have this conversation now when she’s still young enough to value our advice, but old enough to know we’re not overreacting or being helicopter parents.