Minnesota mom Kate-Madonna Hindes was on what she describes as a “fun shopping trip” at a local mall with her teen daughter last week when the unthinkable happened: as she sat alone in a food court eating with her mom just a few yards away in line for her own meal, Hindes’ daughter was repeatedly approached by a suspicious man. When Hindes returned to their table at the food court, her daughter told her mom what had happened and the suspect bolted. After reporting the man to mall security, Hindes was SO disturbed by what she learned about him that she took to social media to warn local parents. However, her post soon went viral, far beyond the local level, and it’s important information for ALL parents to have to protect their kids from traffickers. She says:
Today, at the mall something happened. It won’t make the news, because as I was told, “this happens all the time.” But something forever changed how I looked at the Burnsville Center and a fun shopping trip with my teen daughter.
We had three bags between us and my kiddo insisted we needed to eat an early dinner. She ate bourbon chicken from Asian Too and [I] waited in a long line for Subway. Peeking over often, she was happily devouring her meal within a very short distance from me.
Sandwich in its bag and drink in hand, I walked towards our table. “Mom,” she whispered, “there’s a guy that keeps coming over.” I looked around in confusion- there was only a guy who looked like he was indecisive about what food he was ordering on a work break. Clad in an untied, black barber’s apron, he looked over at me and very quickly took out his phone.
“NO.” I saw him mouth words as I asked my daughter what he looked like. “THAT’S HIM!” She pointed as he was now clear-across the food court, with me watching his every move. He stopped at a few places, completely pretending to order. “Is he looking at us?” I asked my daughter who had a clear view as my back was to him. “Yeah, mom. He’s still looking at me.”
I turned and he shot up the escalator to the second floor, still on his phone. “He was so creepy. He kept coming really close to me. So I took out my phone and I almost switched tables.”
I looked at my kid, clad in a pink sweatshirt and yoga pants while growing into a beautiful and capable human being, she looks exactly her age. There is no reason a grown man should be approaching her, or her space in any way- shape or form.
And we almost just left, because I was afraid of mislabeling the man– not to remain p.c., but because we live in a world where my testimony might be believed or acknowledged over his, simply because of the privilege of my skin.
Instead, we packed up our food and went to the security station. I explained what happened and the three security guards said, “We know exactly who you’re talking about.”
Mall Security went on to explain that “they think they finally had enough to get him” and they quickly went off to find him. One guard stayed behind to talk with us and exchange information. “You shouldn’t stick around, in case he retaliates.” They asked us if we wanted an escort and I said that we’d head out. He explained that “these guys never work alone.”
“If you know who he is, why is he still here? And does he work here, as he was wearing a uniform?” The guy shook his head. “Was there a logo on his uniform?” He asked me and I replied that it was absent of a logo. The guard explained that sometimes, the guy has another uniform on. And then, I got really, really, angry- because mall security explained they couldn’t do much but call the police, and this type of thing, “happens all the time.”
IT HAPPENS, ALL THE TIME.
Upon retelling the story to a family friend we were told, “In our training, the Burnsville Center is a ‘hot spot’ because it’s right next to the interstate.”
My teen watched TAKEN with me last year. As a fiery redhead, I wanted her to see and understand that “stranger danger” looks different in as we get older. We talked much about how people can “flatter” to grab our attention and how individuals can “groom” girls through text messaging, online activity and in-person.