Would you know what to do?

Recently there was an incident not too far from our house where a man exposed himself to two nine year old girls. The girls ran for help, and were able to help the police and they identified the man, who was subsequently arrested.

When I was thirteen, something similar happened to me – in the underpass near the cinema in Hendon. Was a classic case of a man opening his rain coat and flashing us. At the time I thought it was hysterical – I was with a friend – and we totally laughed it off. I don’t even think we told our parents. We didn’t feel threatened or terrorized.

Looking back I know we should have reported it. But for some reason that did not occur to us. I guess we were too busy being giggly teenagers.

These nine year old girls knew enough to get help and that’s wonderful. I feel bad that they had to go through this but it made me wonder. Would you have known what to do, or would you have laughed it off like I did? Would your children know what to do – have you discussed this type of thing with them? How do you even bring up the subject without scaring the kids?

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5 responses to “Would you know what to do?

  1. I would not have known what to do at that age. If I had been alone I probably would have been scared, if I had been with a friend I probably would have laughed it off, as you did.

    I hope my kids would know what to do, which is to immediately tell a trusted adult.

    I have brought issues like this up at whatever time it seemed appropriate, starting with bath times when they were little – casually talking about what the term “private parts” means, and then age appropriately talking about what is okay, what isn’t, who is allowed to touch or look – and what to do about it if something doesn’t feel right or someone does something they shouldn’t. I think that if a running dialogue is started when kids are small, and when the time is appropriate, the children will not be scared because it isn’t something secretive or hushed up, it’s just something they need to be aware of (in the same vein as not touching a hot stove, or looking both ways before crossing the street.)

  2. Both reactions are correct in a way. Reporting is good to get the guy put away and for the girls to have a feeling of power over him. And if you and your friend laughed at him, that could be punishment, too, for him.

    • For kids, the only correct reaction is to report the incident to an adult as soon as possible.

      For adults, laughing might be an option.

  3. I had similar incidents like this occur to me three times throughout my teenage years.

    First time: I was with a friend and we saw a guy running around naked. We just laughed at him and made fun of him and I didn’t think much of it.

    Second time: I was on a bus-stop alone late at night when I noticed a man standing near the bus-stop doing some, uh, very interesting things, I was freaked out, and managed to scare him off by pointing out that the bus was coming down the road. He just mumbled that it wasn’t his bus and ran off. It was pretty gutsy I said anything to him, but I wasn’t really sure what else to do since there was no one in site and it’s not like I had a cell-phone back then.

    Third time: I had wizened up a bit. I was on a computer at one of the local public libraries when I noticed a guy doing google searched next to me for dirty words and quite openly touching himself. After confirming that what I thought I saw I was in fact seeing I went to one of the librarians and reported him…

    It’s a tough situation. In school we were taught in health class that if an adult touched us in a way that was inappropriate and made us uncomfortable – when should tell an adult we trust. But no one ever talked about these sort of situations. Without being told you might not know that you are being violated – although less extremely.

  4. Evan was playing with friends when a car stopped in the alley and the driver started talking to them. Evan ran home right away and then called 911. He was so mature and filed a report. I was so thrilled because I do worry that he would trust the wrong person. Recently in our community a 30 y/o mentally challenged woman was killed by a group of 6 individuals who “befriended” her. They are all, too, mentally challenged or mentally ill. Either way she trusted them, thought they were her friends and they killed her. It scares me to death especially given Evan’s issues.

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