A close friend called me the other day; she was extremely troubled. Her teenage daughter had come home crying. She had taken the light rail and had an unpleasant experience. She told her mother that the train was very crowded and a man was pressed up against her in an all to intimate way. She kept trying to move, but as she did, he kept moving towards her and got even closer. She was locked in with nowhere to go and felt helpless. Despite being clearly upset, the daughter gave the man the benefit of the doubt by saying that maybe it was unintentional. After further questioning she said, “I don’t think it was on purpose, he was Chareidi”. In her mind’s eye someone dressed the part of a man devoted to G-d and religion would never do such a thing intentionally.
I hesitated to include that final tidbit of information because the last thing I want to do is spread more hatred towards the Chareidim; however, It is crucial in learning an important lesson. Children have very specific ideas and trust levels based on categories of people they deem to be “safe” . We need to explain to our children to always have their antennae up. If something seems/ feels wrong, it probably is. Seemingly trustworthy individuals such as teachers, peers and even family members can be capable of doing bad things. It is hard to balance between informing your child how to protect themselves and causing paranoia; however, we must try.
After speaking to her I spoke to other friends about this issue. It seems everyone I know related a similar story. It appears to be a problem on buses and specifically on the light rail. Predators will oftentimes take advantage of rush hour when they believe they can get away with it.
My daughters take the buses and light rail quite often and I wanted to prepare them with a proper plan of action should they find themselves in such a situation.
I planned to call Magen, a child protection service, to ask them what I should tell my daughters if this happens to them. I felt uneasy about calling so I pushed it off for a few days. I worried that my questions were small potatoes compared to issues they deal with and felt awkward about the call. Then it occurred to me that many victims of abuse feel that way and they shrug off incidents as insignificant. Before they know it the situation escalates into a big problem. This gave me the strength to place the call. The man who received my call was very warm, polite, and helpful. He told me to tell my girls three things to do in a situation like this:
- Say words that mean no. No, Stop It., etc.
- Get away from the person.
- Tell a grown-up.
- Don’t physically respond with violence except as an absolute LAST resort.
Although these might seem obvious to us, it needs to be taught to our children and we should have them repeat it back to us. He also told me to act out three different scenarios with three different types of people and what they would do in response to something inappropriate. Having prepared for different cases will ensure that children don’t freeze and will give them a knee jerk response of how to react. Logic will tell you as research has shown that children prepared will fair much better should the time arise.
Please talk to your daughters and inform them of the potential problems that exist (without scaring them) so they are prepared and don’t, Heaven forbid, come home crying.
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