A few years ago I read a Jodi Picoult novel about a suicidal young woman, a high schooler, who convinced her boyfriend to help her kill herself.
Though she never told her boyfriend the true reason she wanted to die, the novel revealed that her depression stemmed from being sexually abused by a stranger in a fast food restaurant public restroom as a child. She had never told anyone.
Though it was only fiction, that story has stayed with me, and I am very skittish about my kids and public restrooms. Even when my 14-year-old goes in one, I count the seconds until he re-appears. My younger two, eleven and seven, still go with me and not alone.
Never have I been so thankful for my public restroom fear that this morning, when I read this Facebook status from mom Misty McDavid. She describes a terrifying experience involving her son and a public restroom at a Michael’s craft store, of all places. Since she posted her status a little over twenty-four hours ago, Misty’s story has been shared over 2,000 times — and it needs to be shared many more! She says:
It has taken me a few days to decide whether or not to post this. For the protection of our babies, I’m going to.
Last Thursday Luke and I were in Michaels in JC. Luke has to go to the bathroom every time you turn around. So of course, “Mom, I’ve got to go pee.” I was in a hurry and thought “we are in Michaels, he should be fine.” I sent him on alone.
He returned in a few minutes with a horrible expression on his face. He said, “Mom I just got really scared the worst I have ever been.” I asked why. He said that a man tried to get in the bathroom with him. I asked maybe if the man was just pulling the door to see if the stall was open. He said, “No mom, he jerked and jerked on the door trying to get in.” I asked if Luke could identify him, did he see him through the cracks? He said, “I looked at his shoes and I know what he had on.” I began scanning the store for the black, muddy, work boots Luke had described. All of the sudden I was two feet from the punk who attempted to enter the stall with my son. I froze. I looked him dead in the eyes and just stared at him. He smirked, kind of laughed, ran his fingers through his black greasy hair, and walked off. He knew I knew. He knew there was nothing I could do. I was stunned. My mind played over and over how different the day could have ended. I thanked God for his protection. That was all I could say, “Thank you Lord.”
You know, in my mind I’ve rehearsed all the things I would do to someone in a similar situation. Not a word would come that day, only shock and fear. In the same respect, we have told Luke a million times, “If anyone ever tries to bother you, scream and act like someone is killing you.” In that moment do you know what he did? Silent. Dead silent. He was scared to death and stayed as quiet as he could.
There’s a real good chance you or your children won’t respond in the way you’ve been trained, but I still believe training needs to be given. Luke and I will enter self defense classes. I will not ever let him go to the bathroom alone again. It’s awkward to take a 10 year old to the ladies room. I don’t care. I have a friend who says she opens the door to the men’s room and stands in the doorway while her son goes. Do something.
Also this incident forced me to have to explain to my child how he could be raped. While that is a horrid conversation to have, it is necessary. Before that day, Luke didn’t really know why to fear. He didn’t really know what could happen. In order to understand why things have to be the way they are, our children need to know the evil in this crazy world.
Pray for your babies, pray over them, for God’s protection. I’m humbled and there are no words to describe how thankful I am for God’s protection that day.
I did not edit or break up McDavid’s statement, because I believe her raw, emotional words say it all. But there is one thing I want to underscore. Note that Misty says she has told her sons time and again to “scream and act like someone is killing you” if anyone ever tried to hurt them, but in the moment, her son froze and did nothing. I myself, as an adult, have frozen in a moment of panic despite knowing what to do when my stove caught on fire (I did not even THINK about the fact that we have a fire extinguisher until I had put the fire out by another, less safe means. I completely FROZE.), so I can understand a child not following what they’ve been told.
McDavid stated that she and her child will be taking self-defense classes, and I think that is super smart. I am seriously considering the same for me and my kids. Because, McDavid’s experience plus my own moment of panic have pretty much convinced me that we cannot properly respond to these situations without PRACTICE. That’s right, in this day and age, we need to DRILL for situations where we might be attacked if we really want to be prepared.
Also, I know it stinks for our 10-year-old boys to have to go in the women’s bathroom with mom, but getting abused or worse stinks MORE. If possible, use family restrooms with a lock. If that’s not possible, it’s into the public restroom with mom until he’s old enough and big enough to defend himself. Don’t not DO SOMETHING because it’s embarrassing. Any embarrassment is well worth suffering for our kids’ well-being.
Thank you to Misty for sharing — it is SO hard to expose yourself to the public ridicule that comes with these situations. But she has no doubt helped scores of parents with her transparency.
Be SMART and SAFE, my friends!