Here's a link to a free article in the Washington Post about the safe return of a young girl who was kidnapped at a state park in Upstate New York. My blog post below relates to her experience, as well as mine long ago. I will not use her name, so we'll call her Samantha.
I’m so delighted that "Samantha" is safe. But the trauma from her experience may haunt her for life. Being abducted, driven off by some weird man, then held inside a cabinet ... my God! Thankfully, the asshole kidnapper does not appear to have been a rapist.
However, he was rather stupid. Leaving his fingerprints on a ransom note, well, gosh. The "duh factor" did him in.
I don’t mean to misappropriate this young girl’s ordeal, but it did ignite some angry memories about an event long-ago. And the writer in me was compelled to express my wrath at Samantha's kidnapper — in fact any man who would take a little girl, either to gain money or for aberrant sex.
Wouldn't you like to go for a ride with me?
When I was two years younger than Samantha, I had one fear in life: being kidnapped. My parents were news junkies, so I heard them discuss the daily news over breakfast, and we watched the evening news. In those days, a number of key horrors were kidnapping children for ransom.
That seventh summer, my family took a road trip from San Antonio to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Along the way back, we stopped at the Judge Roy Bean Museum and gift shop in Langtry. Judge Bean was known as "the law west of the Pecos."
Just like Samantha at that New York state park, I was the type to head off by myself, so I went into a different room from where my family was. As I wandered, I looked up at a historical poster about Judge Bean, when suddenly, a man about 30 years old walked in front of me and said, “Well, aren’t you a pretty little thing. Wouldn't you like to go for a ride with me?”
Stunned, I said, “No,” but then he grabbed my arm and started pulling me toward the door. I was a tall and strong girl for my age and, luckily, he was not a large or very strong man. I pulled back hard, using the strength of my legs to hold my position, all the while hollering “No, No, No.”
He pulled. I resisted. I can still see the man’s eyes, a daring bright-blue contrast to his dark hair and tan skin. He kept pulling and I kept hollering, until thankfully some tourists walked in and looked curiously our way. The man glanced over and realized he had lost his chance to…what? Was this man truly going to take me for a ride, and then what, would he lock me in a cabinet like that New York kidnapper did to Samantha, or would he rape me, then panic and kill me?
Who knows what would have evolved?
At my age, I had no idea what a man might do sexually, but thanks to the wandering tourists, the man lessened his grip and I pulled away. But before he walked out, he gave me a look that said, “I’m going to get you later.” I gave him an angry glare back that said, "No you won't." Then I bolted back to my family and did not stray again.
For some reason I did not tell my parents or sister what had happened. I’m sure psychologists know why children don’t say anything after an event like this. Yes, I felt guilty because I had wandered off. But I didn’t think I had caused this man to try to kidnap me. I knew he was the problem, not me.
Looking back, what I felt was shock. And I remained in shock on our ride back to San Antonio. I also struggled with repressed emotions for years after. I was fearful that someone would break into my room at night. And frequent nightmares about someone chasing me often caused me to wake up in a sweat. I didn’t equate my nightmares with that blue-eyed man’s attempt to abduct me. But I still didn’t tell my parents. In fact, I can’t recall if I ever told them. But years later, I told someone, perhaps my sister or a close friend, and the nightmares ceased.
I was lucky. I was saved by wandering tourists. And I am so grateful that young Samantha was saved by dedicated law enforcement and forensic technologies.
I also hope Samantha's parents get her the psychological help she needs to manage this emotional trauma, because children don’t simply “get over it." From my experience, I think children absorb it. And it festers to haunt them night after night.
Sometimes I wonder what happened to that man in Texas. Did he try to kidnap another girl? Did he wind up in prison for something else? Both he and that kidnapper in New York—anyone who would take a child, take her for ransom, take her for sex—well, they should never be free.
Young girls should be able to ride their bikes around a park, or wander off at a museum without fearing that some man will try to abduct her.