Years ago I went to a friend’s African-American church. The preacher told a story about the time he was running to catch the bus on Manhattan’s Central Park West — a beautiful avenue boasting our iconic park on one side, and million dollar condos on the other. As he sprinted up the street, a cop sprinted up behind him shouting.Â “Halt! What are you doing here?”
These were the days before Ferguson, and I was unaware of how common this was. But the churchgoers weren’t. They nodded along. They smiled ruefully. They’d all been there: Presumed guilty just for being black — and running — in a predominantly white neighborhood.
Which brings us to today’s story, of an “attempted zzdserkrth
teen luring”Â in Warren, NJ, last week. According to NJ.com:
At approximately 7:35 a.m., township police received a report that the teen was approached in his driveway by a man driving a grey 4-door sedan, possibly a Toyota or Nissan, according to a news release.
The man is described as light-brown skinned in his 50s wearing a light green-colored shirt, black jacket with eyeglasses and a thin mustache, it was stated in the release.
According to authorities, the man said to the student, “Your bus isn’t here, why don’t you get in my car?”
Well now it is a few days later and the whole story has come out. Turns out the guy’s kid had missed the bus and he was trying to locate it. He even had his kid WITH HIM in the car. You’d think that might make him look less like a stalker.
But no. Because he “stopped to ask the teen, who was waiting for the same bus, where the bus was at that point,” the teen immediately ran inside his home, presumably freaking out, and the cops were called.
“Driving while male” isn’t a trope yet. But considering the number of people who send me notices from their schools warning parents that, “An unfamiliar van drove by the bus stop today,” or, “An older man stopped some children to talk to them,” it may be soon. We are on red alert when it comes to any interaction between adult males — even teen males — and kids, even though stranger danger is the rarest of crimes. We are seeing the world through rape-colored glasses.
In the end:
Police said it has been determined that the man “intended no harm” and the investigation into the incident has been closed.
Except that now one more incident is lodged in parents’ brains: A man stopped his car and asked a teen for help. Why do these terrible things keep happening??? No child is safe! – L
My kids’ schools do this type of thing all the time and I call them out on it in the local paper and in social media whenever I catch it. Its ridiculous.
Aaaaggh, the stupid, it burns… we’re raising a generation of idiots.
I’m reminded of the teens I overheard at the mall, about 15 years ago… a pair of 16YOs had called mommy to ask if it was okay to use the bathrooms at the mall.
As a kid, I was encouraged to discern danger from non-danger.
Simply being approached by an adult was not considered a danger. If an adult male showed me his genitals, that was a danger. If an adult of either sex, who I didn’t know, stopped me on the street and offered me a ride on a sunny day, that was a danger.
If an adult saw me cold, or struggling, or getting rained on, and offered assistance, it was my call. It meant I had to really discern what my gut was telling me. It wasn’t a “one size fits all” world, and I would have to figure out what worked and what didn’t.
There were times I took a ride from someone. It was rare, but circumstances seemed right for it. To me. The child. I decided for myself.
These days, it seems if any child anywhere is “approached” by an adult, it’s immediately interpreted by the child as a HUGE DANGER. There is no discernment, simply, “I don’t know this person, they’re in a car / walking down the road / on a bicycle and they are asking me something. Anything. It’s not okay. I’m being abducted!”
Teach kids to discern. To listen to their guts. But don’t tell them the entire world and everyone in it is an opportunist looking for the perfect moment to do them harm. It’s just not true.
In warning people, a distinction would be made between pre-teen children-and teenage children.
Use more specific terms than “Youth”, “young people” , “children.
It is not accurate to refer to a teenager as a young man or young woman(A teen is NOT yet an adult.)
Michelle Goldberg wrote an interesting piece about this recently (in which Lenore was quoted) about how the burden of this absurd level of scrutiny of adult-child relationships falls disproportionately on people of color. Yet another reason we as a society need to stand down.
A few years ago, a woman on a local town’s Facebook page that I follow posted a warning to the other parents in town.
She said she and her son were unloading groceries. She went in the house but her son was still outside when a man in a car stopped and asked the boy what his name was. He then asked him if he knew where a certain address was, because he was lost. The man never got out of the car or asked the boy to get in the car.
According to this woman, she came out of the house, found out what was going on, and immediately started screaming at the man to stop talking to her son and how dare he ask her son what his name was. According to the mom, the man then asked HER if she could tell him where the street he was looking for was. She was so angry that he didn’t instead apologize for speaking to the boy, that she said she started swearing at the man and asking him, again, why he spoke to her son. The man then drove off. She kept an eye out for his return, figuring that if he were really lost she would still see him driving around the neighborhood, but since he never reappeared, he must have been a predator so she called the cops and took to Facebook with a description of the car and of the man. So now her vigilante neighbors could turn him in for simply asking for directions. Oh, and he had a heavy accent so that REALLY made it ‘suspicious.’
Meanwhile, I’m thinking, yeah, you screamed and swore at him (in front of your kid no less.) Did you expect him to return to your neighborhood? And maybe, judging from the heavy accent, he’s from another country where paranoid nut-job sanctimommies aren’t as prevalent and it’s ok to ask a child for directions.
I dunno about this one. If the kid KNEW the other kid, then ok…but I wouldn’t want my kids to get into a car when a man/woman said that to them. If there was more to what he said, perhaps someone can share it?
This isn’t about getting into the car. This is about the difference between a teen saying no thank you, and running panicked into the house to have mom call the police.
The “approached” teen: what a whiney little douchebag.
Barring some other foreboding clues, answer the question and move on with life.
“Come, Johnnie. That man sitting on the porch waved at you.” Yes, I actually had this happen in front of my home in California.
I see these stories and their subsequent retractions so frequently that I AM alarmed. I’m alarmed that so many children cannot differentiate what a real LURE is and what is actually a lost driver asking for directions or asking questions pertaining to a bus. We have so many young people who suffer from White Van or Strange Male Direction Asking Syndrome. It seems to be like a virus with the more stories reported of cars and drivers to be on the look out for. There are so many white vans out there to fear.
People need to start crying sexism at this nonsense. Once cities start facing lawsuits for disparaging the character of citizens who have done nothing wrong, they’ll be more inclined to leave folks alone.
OT, but this local story as it played out on social media truly disturbed me:
When a child is *wronged* and the angry mom’s version of events are believed, very bad things can happen.
What is wrong with telling a child they can’t listen to loud music in a restaurant?
There’s so much to hate about this story, but the mom stating that it’s never OK to talk to a child, only the parent, is the worst.
“People need to start crying sexism at this nonsense.”
You don’t want to do this.
There is no end to the scorn waiting for you if you claim sexism against menfolk. And no, it being true doesn’t make a whit of difference, no matter how obvious.
You can expect a litany of every crime, hostile action, or slight ever committed by a male person against a female person.as justification. A favorite is how many sex criminals are men (the ratio is changing, as more and more women actually get charged with sex crimes, but still irrelevant… 100% of sex criminals are human beings (except possibly for the bear in the promos for “The Revenant”) but this is not evidence that a human being is therefore a sex criminal. But that kid of rational thought is out the window by that point.
Hey, if we can’t jump to conclusions, there are people who wouldn’t get any exercise at all.
“”Hey, if we canâ€™t jump to conclusions, there are people who wouldnâ€™t get any exercise at all.””
See? The exercise situation is being addressed. Don’t let your kids outside and teach them to be paranoid.
When I was about 6 years old, I was walking home from school in the rain, without an umbrella, when a car pulled up and the man who I didn’t recognize asked me if I wanted a ride. I remember having that alarmed feeling you get when you suddenly realize you might be in a dangerous situation, but I had been told what to do if I was offered a ride from somebody I didn’t know, and I said, “No thanks!” and moved further in from the road and kept on walking. The car drove off. I didn’t notice that one of my classmates was in the car, but even if I had, I probably wouldn’t have assumed the guy was his father because my alarm bells were already going off. But the guy WAS his father, and unbeknownst to me, they lived just down the street from us and knew my parents. Later that evening, the guy dropped by the house and told my parents the story. They all had a good chuckle and agreed that my parents had taught me well. My parents thanked him for trying to keep me dry.
Point being, at 6 years old I handled this situation better than the teenager in this story. And come to think of it, although the incident alarmed me, I don’t believe I even told my parents about it. Even at 6 years old my thought process was “I had a scary incident, but I did what I was told to do in that situation, and everything is fine now.” I had probably forgotten about it by the time I got home.
That was about 39 years ago. Nowadays, if someone sees a 6 year old walking home in the rain with no umbrella, no ride will be offered, but 911 will be called, and the parents will be arrested and prosecuted for neglect.
@James Pollock: From a certain portion of the populace, yes, but the police could be held accountable for using gender as justification for suspicion.
Even on some of the more radical left-wing forums I post on, they acknowledge that discrimination against men is absolutely real in certain specific scenarios. It’s only the loony MRAs that throw around their theories on “feminist conspiracies” and the inherent deceptiveness of women that (rightfully) get piled on.
Right now, there’s an unprecedented pushback against the notion that men of color are criminal by default. If we approach this situation with the same level of righteous indignation, it’ll be impossible for the paranoid frenzy to continue.
The stalker had his ‘own’ child with him. How do we know that this child wasn’t his first victim and that he’s not trying to get another one?
“Even on some of the more radical left-wing forums I post on, they acknowledge that discrimination against men is absolutely real in certain specific scenarios.”
I don’t spend a lot of time on wing forums, of either variety. That said, there IS a disparity in child custody awards and related court procedures. Other than that, I’m not sure what scenarios the more radical left-wing types would say were real.
And, in the courts, you have a combination of A) fathers who don’t fight for their kids, for whatever reason (they’re so sure they’re going to lose, they don’t bother, or they honestly think the kids are better off with mom, etc.) and B) legitimate factors that work against dad. By “legitimate”, I mean “not unfair”, although they have a cumulative effect that works against dads. They are 1) a reluctance to separate breastfeeding babies from mothers, 2) a reluctance to break siblings into different households, and 3) a reluctance to alter custody arrangements, once set. Of course, there’s still C) conscious and unconscious bias towards the mother.
Heck, this “eek! a man!” might actually work out for dads’ benefit… surely the kids are safer with dad, who only brings women around, than they are with mom, brings men around. Nah, that’s too logical.
I read the CA child luring law a short while back, and was surprised how broad it was. On the other hand, one can apparently only lure someone under 14. I’m shocked no one has closed that “loophole” yet.
Anyway, luring in CA is basically persuading, or attempting to persuade, a child under 14, or someone you believe to be under 14 (like a perv role-playing cop on Craigslist), to be anywhere other than where their parent believes them to be, for any reason.
So, there doesn’t need to be a sexual gratification motive, or any motive at all, apparently. If a kid’s mom thinks he’s on the bus, but you’ve offered to give him a ride to school, which he politely declined, you’re guilty!
That is an ironically disheartening statement, …’seeing the world they rape-colored glasses’. I wish that sentence NEVER had to be uttered in our society (or any society for that matter). But in America it seems that is how ‘everyone’ views ‘everyone else’. It makes me sick that in less than 50 years, we have gone from a society of ‘be home by the time the streetlights come on’ to one of ‘don’t talk to/touch/look at/sneeze on/cough near or anything else innocently child-like or we’ll be sued/ostracized/or stoned to death’ it’s sad. Very, very sad
“This isnâ€™t about getting into the car. This is about the difference between a teen saying no thank you, and running panicked into the house to have mom call the police.”
When I was in elementary school, my cousins and I were walking down the street near our grandfather’s house when a car with 2 people in it stopped and asked us for directions. We “knew” that we weren’t supposed to talk to strangers, of course. My oldest cousin said, “Sorry, I’m not from here.” Which was true for her, but not for the rest of us. We let the half-truth stand as it was the easiest way to avoid talking to the strangers more than was necessary; they drove away and we went on our way. We didn’t turn back to the house; I doubt we ever mentioned it to our parents. We just declined to engage without making a thing of it. I remember feeling bad for not giving them directions, though I also knew that I was never good with directions, and, outside of my immediate neighborhood, there was about a 50-50 shot I’d have sent them in the wrong direction anyway.
Even with stranger danger drilled into us, we understood that we weren’t supposed to talk to stranger because someone COULD be interested in hurting us. There was not this panic-stricken assumption that every stranger actually IS out to do harm.
Referring to Shannon’s story: it’s not like people who get lost while driving just spend the time going around in circles.
A pretty awful incident happened yesterday in a city a hundred or so miles away from me. A man pulled up beside three sisters (8,7 and 5, I think) walking together to school and without saying a word, picked up the youngest and threw her into his car. The others tried to fight him off, screaming blue murder, but he was obviously too strong for them. He took off with the child and kept her for three hours….neighbours heard the others screaming called the police etc.
There were a couple of positives to the story however. The first being that the abductor dropped the girl off on the side of the road a few hours later, traumatized but physically not too bad. The other was the reason why I wanted to share this otherwise sad tale. She was found by a ninety one year old gentleman, who thought it was a little odd that a wee girl was by herself in the middle of the school day. She seemed confused, and when she couldn’t tell him exactly where she lived, he popped her in his car and drove slowly around the streets to see if they could find her house.
In the end, they couldn’t, and he took her back to his neighbour’s place where they called the police but I just thought it was lovely to think that there are still men out there who don’t hesitate to get involved with kids who need help, and secondly, there’s been no negative comments about an elderly man driving around with a strange child in his car ….
Since the mass hysteria over child sex abuse was started and spread by feminists, I wonder if the current result was what the man-haters of the 1960s and 70s were actually hoping for.
Absolutely use the word “sexist”!!! That’s what this attitude toward men is, and more so that many instances to which that word is often applied. Whenever anyone mentions these stories, call the spade a spade and even if doable, ask if they want their husband/son/father/brother/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend to be treated that way. “Of course not! But other people are different!” will be the response. Guess what- someone else probably thinks the same thing.
@Donald: How do you know he’s not just a loving father and compassionate human being, trying to help another human being? Your’s is the kind of paranoia thinking that is causing the mental instability of adults today, at least when it comes to “stranger danger”. In fact, it’s that mentality that has brought on “stranger danger”.
Sure it’s possible. ANYTHING is possible. He could be a billionaire on a hidden camera game show, that he would give a million dollars to the first person that gets into his car, to test the idea of stranger danger in people’s minds. But not everything is probable. The mentality should not be fear, it should be being smart. Knowing how to spot dangers (or non-dangers), how to react to them, and to learn from interacting with our environment. Not ignorantly running away from them, thinking “what if”. If you had the right mentality growing up, you’d be accustomed to seeing things for “what it is”. THIS is how we protect our kids, by teaching them to use their heads, and protecting themselves. It’s not a once size fits all world. Different people, different circumstances, different methods. And most times, strangers are just like you and I. Unless of course you’re a pedophile lurking in forums to gather information about how to lure kids into your car.
Lol. See how easy that was to just paint you in to the role you are afraid of? After all your an unknown male. 😉
Like my pops used to tell me, “We’re always learning”. No matter how old we get, we are always learning”. And it’s true, even as adults, we often forget about the simple things growing up. And we often re-learn them from our own children. Sometimes, some adults even learn the wrong things. ie. fearing “stranger danger” just because everyone else is, and everyone else is telling you, “you should too”.
When I walk or park near a school I get insults hurled at me by the “children”, screaming that I’m a pedophile.
Never mind that the neighbourhood supermarket is next door to their school, and the school itself doubles as a polling station in elections, plus it’s right in the middle of a dense residential area so even if there were hordes of single white men trying to lure children from schools there’d be a very legitimate reason for me and people like me to be there.
It’s led to groups of them trying to kick in my front door, throwing rocks and eggs at my house, slashing the tyres of my car 20 times, and destroying my garden fence. Call the cops about it and you get brushed off with “it’s just kids playing, ignore it”. $30k+ damages from those “playing kids” which the insurance won’t cover unless there’s a police report which they refuse to take down.
That’s what all the constant impressions of “white man near school means pedophile” have come to.
I was just out of college and had flown into NYC to meet up with my boyfriend who was flying into another NYC airport. I navigated my way by subway to a large bus depot in Jamaica, Queens. Somehow I missed my bus or miscalculated and they were locking up the train station as I sat there and waited, all the while it was getting darker and darker. This is early 00’s so no cell phone or way to look up info. I had worked with kids from inner city NYC for years and I was acutely aware this was not a place I wanted to be wandering around at night, especially with my giant backpack on. I finally asked the last bus driver that dropped off passengers where I could find a bus to the airport. He told me to wait there and he would pick me up. Not sure what he meant or what to do, I waited. He pulled back up in his own car and told me to get it. Clearly having no other option and saying a prayer, I hopped in. What do you know, the gentleman drove me all the way to the airport on his own dime, and after a long day of work. I was so very grateful and touched by his kindness and I’ve been much more trusting if the generosity of strangers ever since, even males
I have felt the panic (as a female!) of being stopped by an unknown child.
While walking to the store one fine summer’s day, I heard “Hi! My name is Jay. What’s yours?”
I froze, scared half to death that someone was going to think that I was attempting to lure a child. My first impulse was to put both my hands and arms around my head, so that no one would think I was trying to touch or grab the kid I didn’t do that. Instead, with my face frozen into a rictus some might consider a smile, I looked around frantically trying to determine where this pre-schooler’s parents were. I finally located them on a nearby porch. I waved and smiled. They waved and smiled. I finally looked directly at the child, not wanting to frighten him, and gave him my name. I didn’t tell him much, not wanting to give the impression I might be encouraging him to visit without parents, but I admired his toys and as soon as I politely could, I continued my walk to the store.
I returned home via a different route. I can’t even imagine how paranoid a man must be about talking to strange children these days.
“I love the dear hearts and gentle people
Who live in my home town…”
Why can’t we just play nice?
Give our fellow human beings the benefit of the doubt?
Whine, whine, whine.
Drama, drama, drama.
When did so many of us have our development arrested at middle school idiot level?
The headline of this article should be a Cards Against Humanity card.
>>I have felt the panic (as a female!) of being stopped by an unknown child.
While walking to the store one fine summerâ€™s day, I heard â€œHi! My name is Jay. Whatâ€™s yours?â€
I froze, scared half to death that someone was going to think that I was attempting to lure a child. My first impulse was to put both my hands and arms around my head, so that no one would think I was trying to touch or grab the kid I didnâ€™t do that. Instead, with my face frozen into a rictus some might consider a smile, I looked around frantically trying to determine where this pre-schoolerâ€™s parents were. I finally located them on a nearby porch. I waved and smiled. They waved and smiled. I finally looked directly at the child, not wanting to frighten him, and gave him my name. I didnâ€™t tell him much, not wanting to give the impression I might be encouraging him to visit without parents, but I admired his toys and as soon as I politely could, I continued my walk to the store.
I returned home via a different route. I canâ€™t even imagine how paranoid a man must be about talking to strange children these days.<<
As awful as this whole culture of fear and paranoia is for adults, it's probably incredibly confusing for children as well. We encourage kids to be friendly and social, but freak out when they act friendly and social with adults, or even kids much older or younger. We divide kids into age groups of one or two years in school, in sports, and in Scouts or Guides. Our society puts so much effort and energy into making sure kids only interact with "approved" people, and this "approval" is often determined on completely arbitrary factors–age, sex (because, we don't want our children to be exposed to MEN), race, socioeconomic bracket, et cetera. But, that's not how real life works–when you go out in public, you're going to encounter all different kinds of people, and that by itself isn't "dangerous."
I homeschool and have long believed in free range before I even knew the term. A few years ago when my son was 16( so very old to do this in my opinion) One of his weekly assignments was to catch the metro into DC and visit a museum or historical site and write about it. He researched and found some rather out of the ordinary places but had FUN! On day he was approached on the street corner for sex. It was a little unnerving for him but he said “no” and walked away to the Metro and decided that neighborhood was more sketchy that he thought. He also tried out food trucks and had a great time most weeks. ( he was miserable also on a February one when he went to the zoo, but neither he nor I do well with cold)Fast forward three years and he traveled across the country on his own, rented and apartment, bought a car, started a part-time job so he could do a film internship. He lives in a sketchy neighborhood( internship does not pay anything) but he is thriving. He knows he can handle life because he has already had practice while at home.
You know, we have that trope in American culture that “men will never stop to ask for directions.” Maybe it’s because if they stop and try to talk to someone while in a vehicle people think the man wants to rape and/or kidnap and/or murder them….Just some speculation
I haven’t read all the comments, but I believe that this is an example of ‘low hanging fruit.’ People can APPEAR as though they are really good parents, teachers, citizens, etc. if they freak out when a ‘stranger’ does something considered these days to be suspect. They often won’t take the time (and sometimes don’t have the time) to research and implement healthy meals, help with homework, volunteering in their communities, take their children camping, etc. To relieve their stress at not accomplishing more things – they appease their sense of guilt by being hyper-vigilant when it comes to ‘stranger danger.’ Ultimately, we all lose because the inappropriate stance of figuring all Americans who we ‘don’t know’ are highly likely to want to hurt us makes it very close to impossible to create any sense of inclusive community.