Teach Boys Not to Rape

Benny (4yo) and I were just wrestling and tickling. I had him pinned and was chewing on his leg when he giggled and screamed “Stop!”. The dog jumped up and barked, so I didn’t hear him. I started to give him a zerbert on his tummy (Benny, not the dog. That’s weird.) but he grabbed my hand and said very firmly, “MOM! I said stop an bren someone tells you to stop you breespect dem!”

I apologized and said he was right, I should have stopped horse playing the first time he said stop. I told him he always has the right to be the boss of his body, and that all kids have that right.

There is a national debate right now about the idea of teaching boys not to rape as a viable why to stop rape. That should be a full stop, not sure why there debate. This all coincides with the criminal trial in Ohio of two high school students accused of the heinous rape of a drugged and unconscious girl.

We teach boys not to rape by starting in our homes and starting when they are small. Scratch that, they don’t need to be small, just start talking. I’m not going to talk to my preschool aged son about rape and Rape Culture. Instead, I’m going to teach him a foundation of respect for himself and for others so that when the day comes that we do have that talk, he understands to his very core that every person has the right to expect respect for their body, and to trespass against that is entirely wrong.

 

I show him that I respect his control of his body by stopping horse play when he says enough, not forcing affection and not using physical force as punishment.

I teach him how to act respectfully by never condoning, never excusing brutish or aggressive behavior because “boys will be boys”. He will own up to his actions.

His father, grandfather, and uncles will set the example on how to treat the women in your life with love, equality and respect.

When he is older, I will sit him down and talk to him about how to respect a partner during sexual situations, that he always has the right to be respected during sexual encounters and the consequences for using his body as a weapon.

I will not grow him into a large boy, I will raise him to be an honorable man.

 

 

Other posts on this topic:

Raising Boys to Men by mum2beautifulboys

On Steubenville High School and Teaching Boys Not to Rape by Avital Normal Nathman

Steubenville: We’re Sick and Tired of Rape Being Treated Like an Unavoidable Joke by Soraya Chemaly

PETITION: National Federation of High School Associations: Educate High School Coaches About Sexual Assault

Tricky People, Tummy Voices, and Trusting Strangers

As many of you know, my family has spent the past 18 months in some drama-rama while we were stalked by a neighbor. The situation has been handled, with much thanks to our city’s police department and courthouse personnel. While it was going on, one of the things that scared my husband and I was that our kids knew our stalker – his name and where he lived (two doors down). He wasn’t a “stranger”, my kids saw him nearly every day. This was both a blessing and a curse, but it is exactly why I’ve never taught my children Stranger Danger.

During the entire ordeal, we called the suspect the “Creeper”. After the night he tried to break in, Benny changed the name to “Robberness Creeper”. Every time I spoke to the police (kids were almost always present, and it was many times) I referred to the suspect both by his name and by “Robberness Creeper”. I had my kids shake the police officer’s hand and talk directly to the police about what they saw and their “tummy voices” (intuition).
I consciously made the kids active participants in their safety, instead of victims of a crime. To their credit, the police were wonderfully wonderful with the kids. But in this situation, the police officers were strangers to my kids, and the Robberness Creeper was someone they had become familiar with.
While child abduction by a stranger are simultaneously horrific and sensationalized, they are rare. Very rare. We need to give our kids practical, smart safety guidelines to follow. I love what is covered in this blog post and the highlighted website (I agree with 98% of the website). I think these guidelines have a base rooted in critical thinking about personal safety that extends well beyond the childhood years.
I’ve been asked to explain what “tummy voices” are — It is a term Amelia came up with, but we talked about the feeling of knowing something or someone is unsafe. Like the feeling right before going down a really big slide for the first time, or swinging high on a swing and thinking about jumping off — that should I/shouldn’t I voice. Or taking a walk and thinking about a mean dog, just when a neighbor’s dog rushes to their fence and starts to bark, that is a “tummy voice”. She described it as her head feeling “fizzy” and her tummy having a voice — and when you think about the biophysical effects fear has on the body, she is spot on.
The word “intuition” or “instinct” doesn’t mean anything to a preschooler who pretty much lives day to day on instinct. But preschoolers have some of the strongest tummy voices around because they don’t rationalize like adults do, they just observe and feel.
In the end, we took our Robberness Creeper to court, got a restraining order, his family moved him out, and we haven’t seen him since. During all of this, the police officers, court clerks, bailiff, lawyer, and judge were all strangers to my children. And every single one of them had my children’s safety and best interest at heart. It was the man we knew who was a danger.

Everything Was Fine Until It Wasn’t: What Happend at the Doctor

**Trigger Warning**

“No. No no no NO! Please! Please don’t do this to me! Please! No, I am too scared! NO!”
“Hold her still. I’ll rip her pants down and stick her.”
“NO NOOOO NO No NO NO NO NO NO.”
“Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me.”

Sometimes things happen so fast it doesn’t feel like there is time to think and when it is over, you stand there wondering if what just happened, happened. My hands were shaking and both of my children were crying, bordering on hysterical. It had happened.

Let me back up, to last Thursday when I took my children to the pediatrician to catch up on some shots we had missed. My daughter really hates getting shots, so I had spent the two days prior preparing her for the two shots she would be getting, and why she needed to get them. We talked about what would happen, we talked about some diseases being very serious and needing prevention, and we planned a special reward for when it was over. We arrive at the doctor’s office and the kids go bananas because the waiting room has been completely remodeled, there is a new fish tank to press noses against, and a circular leather couch the kids deem an air hole in the Arctic ice and they morph into whales. Next they notice a small set of carpeted stairs in the corner and turn it into a stage, singing something about cats while we waited for our turn. We don’t go to the doctor very often, so the kids hadn’t been in the office in eight months or so. A nurse or Medical Assistant we had never seen called us back and roomed us.

The patient rooms were also new, and the kids were still excited and exploring everything. When I made the appointment three weeks ago I mentioned that my daughter was very scared of getting shots and that this appointment needed to happen quickly. This nurse, or MA, asked me what we were here for, and I looked at her puzzled and told her the kids needed a couple of shots. She asked if I knew which ones, and I inquired into why she was not prepared, nor had our charts pulled. I asked her to open our chart on the computer, and she seemed annoyed by the request. She opened my son’s chart first, and said “Oh my God, he’s missing like everything. I’m not sure what to do. Do you want us to give him everything today?” No, I did not. I wrote down what I wanted for him. I asked her to pull up my daughter’s chart, and Amelia had quieted down and came to my side, eyes very wide. As I looked at her chart, I noticed vaccines listed on there I had not approved (we reduce and delay, a decision that is met with indifference at this office). I was pissed. I asked to see the doctor, and was told he was on vacation until next week. I tried to calm down since there was nothing I could do at that moment, and I wrote down what I wanted my daughter to have. The nurse asked if I wanted to speak to one of the other doctors, I declined.

She then said it would take her a few minutes “to get all these shots ready”. The nurse left the room, not once addressing or acknowledging either child. Freaking brilliant, I thought.

“What does she mean, ‘all these shots’?” asked five year old Amelia, her voice beginning to tremble.

“I don’t know why she said it that way, Honey. She needs to get two shots for you and two for Benny. It will be two quick little pokes in your leg, and then you are all done.” Me

“I don’t want shots. Mom, I’m really scared,” Amelia said, and the tears started to roll. I wrapped her up in a hug.

“I understand that you are scared, but shots are something we have to do so that we don’t get very sick with a bad disease that could put us in the hospital or kill us. The nurse will do it very quickly. It will just feel like a little pinch,” I tried reassuring her.

No luck. Amelia is an deeply emotional creature. She is very bright and very intense.  She is a wonderful little girl who is deathly afraid of shots. I’m deathly afraid of clowns. I get it. I respect her, and if the child is terrified, it is my personal experience having worked with children with deep fears of water and swimming, to wrap them in love and security and ease them through their fears to get them to a place of confidence and understanding.

The nurse came back with another nurse/MA, and again without looking at or addressing either child, she looks at me and asks, “Okay, so who’s first?” I asked where the nurses where going to give the shot, and where they wanted me.

I chose Benny to go first, scooped him up, and put him on the table. The room was small and crowded. Amelia scooted under the exam table. I could hear her crying softly.

I helped Benny undo his snap and wiggle down his pants. He laid down on the table and began to cry a little. I held his hands and the second nurse had her hands on his feet. I told him to give me Eskimo kisses as the shots went in. He cried from the pain, but was otherwise a trooper. I got him redressed and hugged him, handed him a book, wiped away his tears, and sat him in one of the chairs.

Amelia was at this point crying very loudly, and had plastered herself to the wall underneath the exam table. Because the room was so small and I had been dealing with Ben, I let her go there because it seemed to make her feel safe. Since neither one of the medical staff had even acknowledged her, I’m going to assume she didn’t feel secure in the hands of two strangers who had just made her little brother cry.

With Amelia crying hard, I reached under and pulled her hand to help her out. She did not come very willingly. I tried to pick her up from under her arm pits and plop her bottom on the table, but she bucked off, and began screaming “No” over and over again. I still had her under her arms, tummy to tummy. I had my face nuzzled into her hair, and was trying to tell her that she would be okay, I understood she was scared, and that I would hold her the entire time. I don’t think she heard any of it over the crying. I could feel the nurses getting tense. I understood their annoyance, but the kid was terrified. Terrified. Not acting like a brat, she was terrified. I was hoping one of them would say something to her, or try to distract her for a moment. They just stood there. Benny was still crying a bit, too, saying his legs really hurt. I was about to ask the nurses to leave and give us a minute to get collected, when it happened.

“No. No no no NO! Please! Please don’t do this to me! Please! No, I am too scared! NO!” Amelia.
“Hold her still. I’ll rip her pants down and stick her.” Nurse.

“NO!” screamed Amelia, and she began kicking when the nurse reached for the waistband of her pants.

“What?! NO!” I said very sharply, not wanting my child’s pants ripped off her body, nor her to have a needle jammed in her leg when her body wasn’t still.

But the words of the nurse and the pleas of my daughter did it. My head swirled like when you are about to pass out, and all of my rape memories came back to me. I don’t talk about it and I don’t think about it, but the words, and the cries of my daughter, it was just enough to trigger it all, I guess. I tried to say something to Amelia, but my mouth didn’t open. I wanted to punch the nurse in the face, but for obvious reasons, did not. I turned to look at Ben, and he sat there, his little three year old body in the big chair,he had tears streaming down his face as he said, “Nama, Nama,” his pet name for his big sister.

A nurse came on either side of Amelia, grabbed a leg and lifted her onto the table. I still had Amelia by the upper body, and I numbly moved along with them.

“Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me.” 

It was Amelia saying those words, but it had been me saying those words in my mind 15 years prior when I had been drugged and raped. I had been awake enough to know what was happening, too drugged to move or fight back. I tried to squash all of that down, and be present for my daughter, but she had stopped fighting at that point, she had given up. I wanted to weep. The nurses had backed off, and were standing at the end of the table. I just wanted this over and these women away from my children. I could not believe we were experiencing this.

“Amelia, I know you are scared. It is okay. Mommy is going to undo your button and I am going to wiggle your pants under your bum and you are going to get your shots.” Amelia’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was crying, but in a way that was more like moaning now. This is absolutely dreadful, I remember thinking. But this all took place in about 20-40 seconds. I was upset myself and I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell them to stop? That we’ll reschedule? There was no way I’d ever get Amelia back in here. The second nurse reached up and very gently helped Amelia wiggle down her pants, they very quickly gave her the shots and put Band Aids on, said a short “Okay then you’re all set” and left the room.

I stood there in shock. Hurt and fury and shock. Amelia stood up, crying, fist clenched, and screamed in my face, “SHE HAD NO RIGHT TO TAKE DOWN MY PANTS!”. Amelia was righteously pissed.

Amelia should be. She has been taught since about the age of two what the rules of her body are. She knows the names of her private parts, of male private parts, and that no one should touch her nor ask her to touch them or somebody else. She knows whether it is a kid or an adult, a stranger or someone we know, whether it feels good or is scary, no one is to touch her body. She knows unless she is at the doctor and Mom is in the room, no one is to ask her to take her clothes off so that they can look at her. As she has gotten older, she has developed on her own an attack plan of what she would do if someone tried to touch her or steal her. We have talked to her about “tummy voices” and how to listen to her intuition. We have raised her to be aware and confident and not to be fearful. She knows she can ask me or my husband questions, or come to us if something occurs and that she won’t get in trouble. She has been taught this. She knows the rules of her body.

Years ago at her three year old check up, she sat in her Dora panties while the doctor examined her and felt her tummy, and when he pressed on her lower abdomen, she popped up, put her finger in the air and other hand on her hip and spouted off what we joke are her “Vagina Monologues”, which is a 90 second rant on private parts and who can and cannot touch her body. The doctor very respectfully put his hands together and backed off. Little girlfriend would have none of it.

And that is why last Thursday was so devastating for me. For Amelia. She had been taught and had embraced the idea that she was in control of her body. She knew what was right and what was wrong. She knew she had the right to say no. She knew her body was hers. Yet this nurse, in her demonstrated complete lack of respect for my daughter, was going to forcefully remove the child’s pants. Now, I’ve never worked as a nurse, but I have worked with kids consistently since I was twelve years old. That’s 21 years of kiddom. I can think of 4-5 things off the top of my head that the nurses could have done to gain the trust of my child and make the shots go more smoothly. Or they could have left the room and let me calm my terrified child down. My dogs have been shown more compassion by their vet.

Yesterday, when I spoke to the doctor, he said the nurses denied it happening and that he was unsure what to do. I said I wanted the nurse formally disciplined, and for his staff to be addressed on bedside manner to children, and having a little extra compassion for young children terrified of needles. He said he was so very sorry this had happened. I said I was furious that my husband and I had worked so hard to give Amelia a strong body image and know the rules of her body, and we come to the place whose sole purpose it is to safe guard her health, and that as the child is crying “No” all of it was undone by one nurse. The doctor said he doubts most kids would have reacted as strongly as Amelia, and that maybe that was a result of what we had taught her. He said it was usually best not to bargain and just get it over with. He said she wouldn’t need shots again until she was ten, so she would be okay and get over it. I felt completely patronized and judged. My daughter was terrified, and what happened to her was traumatic. We will not be returning to his care.

This would be a pertinent time to interject that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually molested or assaulted by the time they are 18 years old. For boys, 1 in 6. My children are taught the rules of their bodies. 1 in 4 teens will suffer violence in a dating relationship. 15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12 years old. My children know their bodies belong to them, and that they have the right to demand respect for their bodies. As a parent, I will not apologize to my doctor or to anyone for teaching them that natural born right. You’re damn straight my daughter reacted strongly.

Later that afternoon I had to go to Madison for a segment on the news. I let Amelia come to the studio with me. She had a tired and glazed look in her eye. She had stared out the window, not talking, for the 45 minute drive to Madison. She was withdrawn. In the parking lot, she asked if she could question the reporters about whales. I said we would try. After my segment the anchors called her over to the news desk, and she was shy at first as they lether ask her questions about news stories on whales. Amelia is obsessed with whales, and they were asking questions back and answering her questions and the light came back on in her eyes. She was Amelia again. Within ten minutes she was sitting on the lap of the anchor I had done the segment with, and was inviting all of them to her birthday party. They had taken the time to gain the trust of the child.

When we returned home that night, she was talking to my husband at the dinner table, and she pounded her little fist on the table as she said to my husband, “That nurse had no right to take my pants down.” My husband agreed with her, he assured her that he and I were very angry, and that we would be talking to that nurse’s boss and that what she did was very wrong. Luckily, several of our dear family friends are nurses, and we are going to schedule some time for Amelia to go in and see them at work and give them hugs and have an experience that allows her to see loving, respectful nurses at work. We took time over the next couple of days to talk with both kids about what happened, what was not right about it, and why. We talked about how Amelia could have acted differently, even though she was very very scared.

I asked Amelia if she wanted to write the nurse a letter, to tell her what she thought about what happened. She answered in true Amelia fashion.

“Smalls, I know you were so upset today. Maybe it would be a good idea to write the nurse who upset you a letter,” I suggested.

“Mom, my brain was telling me to relax but my heart was telling me to cry and I was so scared and my tummy was telling me to puke,” Amelia explained.

“I understand that. You were very upset and very scared. You won’t have to get shots for a long time, so we have lots of time to practice being calm. So do you want to write the nurse a letter?” I ask.

“No. But I do want to mail her a toad,”  Amelia says.

“What if she doesn’t understand what that means? What does that mean, by the way?” I wonder as I try to figure out where this is going.

“Oh. Oh-ho-ho-ho. Oh she’ll know what it means,” says Amelia, as she pushes away her chair and gets up to go play with the puppy.

Amelia seems to be okay, but I do not know what to expect the next time she has to go to the doctor. And now I have to find a new doctor. While I hate what happened to us last Thursday, I am thankful I was present when it happened, and can help her understand it. I am thankful beyond words it was not a more serious situation, say one of sexual molestation or assault. I don’t ever want that level of violation to happen to my cherished daughter’s body, to any child’s body. It is the right of the child to have their body pass through their childhood much loved and unharmed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s what I want parents to take away from this story:

1. Please, please get comfortable talking to your kids about their bodies, private parts, and sex. You might need to get honest with yourself and move past some issues you may have in order to have this ongoing and evolving conversation with your child. Do that.

2. Please, please teach your children about their bodies, the correct names of their body parts, what appropriate and inappropriate touches are, and their right to say no.

3. Please, please get honest about the fact that these inappropriate touches 90% of the time come from people the child will know and consider safe. Your child must know that he or she will never be in trouble for being honest with you.

4. When a situation happens that is uncomfortable to talk about, get uncomfortable and talk about it. Allow your kids to express their emotions, and ask questions about what happened. Help them interpret their actions and the actions of the others involved. Their being a child does not diminish their rights.

5. Take time to get to know the staff at your doctor’s office. If something doesn’t feel right to you, ask questions or even take a timeout to take a step back. Respect a doctor’s time spent in school and knowledge, but recognize that you are the boss of your child’s body and will have a say in their medical care.

6. Teach your child that medical professionals are there to help them, and that sometimes we have to do things at the doctor we don’t want to do, like eye drops or shots or a throat culture to protect our health. But it is possible for a nurse or doctor to step outside of the realm of professional appropriateness and your child always has the right to speak up when they don’t like what is happening to their body. If it helps, develop a code word with your child that is a signal that they are uncomfortable (also works with neighbors or coaches or extended family) and need to speak to you in private ASAP.

7. YOU are your child’s biggest advocate. You are their voice in situations they cannot fully understand. Children cry and act out when they cannot voice what is happening to them. Children see the world differently than we do. Show them respect and see things from their eye level. Use your voice to stand up for them. It may not change what happened, but it will teach your child they are worth fighting for, and that you speak up and speak out when something is unjust.

 

When we discussed this on Facebook last week, I received some judgemental comments saying that Amelia’s behavior was inappropriate for a 5yo and that I had allowed my daughter to act in a way that was bratty and that I need more control as a parent. I want to make clear, this wasn’t Amelia being bratty, this was Amelia being terrified. There is a big difference, and the difference is an important one. I think telling a child to “Suck it up” when they are in a state of terror directly tells them their feelings are unimportant to what adults want to do with their bodies. I will not teach my children that, and if that makes me a bad parent, I’ll take it. I am stern with my children, but not in a way that disregards their feelings, especially when that feeling is terror. I try very hard, every day, to be present and parent from a place that is loving and respectful, not intimidating and dismissive. I respect them enough to not force my will on them, but rather have them come around to a decision because they understand the situation. At 5.5 yo and 3.5 yo and both extremely intelligent, they are capable of doing this.

Let’s please not turn the Comments into a vaccine debate. That is not the point of this post. We reduce and delay our shots, these were the last on my well-researched list, and we have family that lives abroad so it was important to get these in before we saw everyone at the holidays and my kids were exposed to things they normally would not be in this country.

To all of you who expressed love and concern for Amelia last week, my family thanks you.

I will thank you in advance for being respectful with your Comments.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

July 19, 2014 — I wanted to update this story with two things. One, after this incident took place we moved our care to a new pediatrician at a new office. Both our doctor and her nurses are outstanding and beyond respectful to me and my children. We love our new doctor’s office and while there are still some tears after getting shots the staff has worked so patiently with the children do diminish their fears. Amelia and Ben both still remember and talk about this incident, but as time has passed it has become less traumatic for all of us. The children use it as their benchmark for never being touched in ways they don’t like and for when adults are out of line with children.

Second, I wanted to share this video of a pediatrician who clearly is a master of his craft and clearly adores his small patients. This is what respect looks like in pediatric care, towards children and towards parents. This is how we teach children they are in control of their bodies and that mom/dad/doctor will look out for their health while including the child in that process as an active participant rather than a specimen.

I don’t know who this doctor is or where he is from, but he is amazing. What a lucky family to be in his care.

Thank you to PPBB Community Member Jill S for sending me this video.

A Noise at the Gate, My Gut, and 911

Tonight, I listened to that tiny voice in the back of my head that said, “There was a noise at the gate. There is no wind tonight.”

And again when it said, “There was a noise on the sidewalk by the gate.”

Again, “There is a noise at the gate.”

And finally, when the voice said to me, “That is the noise of a man’s shoe.”

Let me back up a minute. Last weekend we were out in the yard as a family working in the garden, my daughter and I by our back gate tying the climbing roses to the trellis, teaching them to grow over. She was chattering away and handing me the string while I was on the step ladder trying to avoid thorns. And a guy I’d never seen walked by. We live in a town of about 60,000 people, but you get to know the folks and faces of your neighborhood. I know all of my neighbors. And it is Wisconsin, so everyone smiles (with teeth showing) and greets each other with a “How are ya?”.

The guy I’d never seen before was dressed oddly for the weather. I noticed it, but that little voice in my head told me to pay attention to it. He looked at me, but didn’t smile. His face had an odd expression on it.  He was walking oddly, like he was paying a lot of attention to our yard with it trying to look like he wasn’t. That little voice in my head told me to pay attention to that, too. We have two large dogs who are not friendly to strangers, so I figured he’d head down the sidewalk and my dogs would bark at him as he walked the length of the fence. But then he doubled back and I watched him walk to the corner and look around. We have a bunch of young guys that just moved in next door. They were having a party and I figured this schmuck was just trying to figure out where their house was. Everything about him was odd. Off. A few minutes later he had returned to the side of my house and I could feel him looking at me. More importantly, I could feel him looking at my daughter. My hackles went up. I put on my bitchiest voice, looked him square in the eye, and addressed him.

“You looking for someone?” -Me

“Uh, no. I’m not lost. My car ran out of gas, so I thought I’d walk to the store before it rains.” -Him

“Doesn’t look like rain. Store is that way.” -Me, pointing in the direction he’d come, to the main thoroughfare we live off.

He was acting weird, just….off. My dogs were snarling at the gate, and for the first time all day Amelia had stopped talking. I held my ground and continued staring him in the eye, but by now my stomach had ice in it. That little voice in my head? Was screaming at me “Remember him!”. I memorized his face. I used to be an investigator, I was good at this stuff back in the day.

“You’ll want to walk that way for the store. And you’ll want to walk that way now.” -Me. I felt like a bad ass. Like some cheesy Clint Eastwood line.

My husband had heard the tone in my voice, and he came to the gate. He’s Texan. He doesn’t take kindly to people on his property. “Fella, you need something?” -Husband

And the guy left. Amelia said something about him being weird, and I just gave my husband a look. A bit later when the kids were occupied I told my husband how creepy the guy was, and that my head was telling me there was something not right.

Fast forward to tonight — My husband and I were up late talking about family stuff and folding laundry. It was a cool summer evening and the midnight breeze was welcome through all of the open windows in our home. He went up to bed, and I went into the the bathroom. I thought I heard a noise at the gate, but I dismissed it. I was looking at my eyebrow in the mirror when I heard the same noise again. There was that little voice again, saying “Oh Darling, why don’t we pay attention to that. There’s no wind tonight and the gate is moving.” So I was listening, but I wanted to brush my teeth. Another noise, another whisper from my little voice. I was about to sit down to pee, when I heard a shoe scuff on the sidewalk and my little voice was no longer quiet. It screamed at me, “Go to the window! Now!”.

I pulled back the curtain, and there was that same man, standing with his hand on my back gate. He was already looking directly at me when my eyes focused on him. He was already looking at me. Wait, had he been watching me? I was terrified. Not just scared. I was terrified. His hand was on the gate. He had been trying to open it. The gate is hard to open. He was ten, maybe twelve feet from my baby son’s bedroom window. Had my husband left the window open? He had left the window open the night before and I yelled at him, telling him never to leave first floor windows open.

He was already looking at me. I was instantly terrified. I was barely breathing. He was ten feet from my son’s window. I took a deep breath, and said as loudly as I could,

“You need something, A**hole?” -Me. Apparently I’m foul mouthed when I’m terrified.

“Actually, no.” -Him

“Then f*cking scram” -Me. Taking a photograph of his face with my mind. He backed up a few steps, but this I will remember always – he had no emotion on his face. He wasn’t surprised, angry, startled, scared, embarrassed. Nothing. This was the same man from last weekend. He had been standing there, watching me.

Oh. God. The back door was still open. Unlocked. Where were the dogs? They were rushing into the kitchen. I heard my husband get out of bed upstairs. I ran for the phone. 911. I ran to the kitchen, knowing the knife block would be there as soon as I walked in. Closer to me than him, should he be coming through the door or window. I’d put up a fight. My children were sleeping in their beds. I’d take his face off with my teeth. I was scared, but quickly transitioning into full Mama Bear mode.

The 911 operator asked for my address, asked if I could still see the man. Holy Jeezus I was terrified.  The dogs were at my side, agitated, but not going crazy. The big one had his hackles up. I slammed shut the window, slipped the lock on the door. I could hear my husband’s feet on the stairs. My brain took over, calmly telling the operator the man’s description. It was the same man as the other weekend.

The police arrived within two mintues. The operator asked if I felt safe. Yes, my husband was here, I was okay. The operator said an officer would come talk to us after they searched the neighborhood. I told my husband it was the same man, and I saw anger flash in his eyes. He grabbed a Mag Light and headed outside with one of the dogs. The officer came to our front door after a while. He listened carefully and wrote down everything I said.

I stood in the middle of my home, our big dog at my feet, with my hand on my belly. Adrenaline was swirling in my head, but with my eyes closed, I said a little prayer of thanks. Thankful that I had listened to my gut. Thankful that the shoe scuff that had made me go to the window had stayed on the outside of my gate. Thankful my children were still safely asleep in their beds.

We’ve heard it before, about that little voice that at first whispers to you, then gets louder and louder until finally a piano needs to be dropped on your head. Oprah Winfrey talked about this a lot. I think it is valuable advice for parents, especially women. We are intuitive creatures. As mothers, even more so. But many times we discredit ourselves, and we so often want to please others. Many women don’t like to appear brash or rude. We don’t want to seem like a bitch. We want to be liked, we don’t want to rock the boat.

Whether it is a little whisper about your child’s playmate, a story from school, a parent or coach you are uneasy about, a route you are walking and you suddenly feel unsafe….don’t dismiss what that little voice is saying to you. That little voice is meant to protect you.

Do not be fearful, but always be listening.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Update: I wanted to thank you all for your concern for myself and my family. We are well and we are safe. I also wanted to post an update that this past Sunday, I again called the police because I saw this man in a yard two doors down from my home. It was his residence, and I rather enjoyed watching him get frisked in his front yard and driven away in a squad car. That matter has been taken care of, and I am certain we will not have any future problems with this individual.

And again, I ask that you ALWAYS listen to that voice that is quietly speaking to you that something isn’t right, something doesn’t add up. Always be listening.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Updated Update: 10/18/11 I was wrong. Super wrong. We are still having problems with this individual. We remain vigilant and in contact with the police.

Listen to your gut. Trust your intuition. Keep your family safe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Update to the Updated Update: 7/14/12 My family has continued to have to call the police on this neighbor, and other neighbors continue to watch out for our family. We had a new neighbor move in across the street two weeks ago, directly corresponding with our Creeper’s behavior escalating. Last night my six year old daughter listened to her intuition and didn’t ignore the feeling that she was being watched. She looked out the door to see the man standing on the sidewalk, staring in at us. She alerted me immediately. He walked past our house, very very slowly four more times, at which point I went outside and had a few words with him. He left, but a few minutes later I saw him casing our house by car. I called the police, who arrived within minutes. Luckily it was an officer we have worked with before on this issue. Amelia did an awesome job of giving her report to the officer, and I had both kids practice telling the officer their names, birthdays, and phone number. I am very grateful to the Janesville Police Department for their concern and professionalism while handing this case. I also love that the officer acknowledged that she thought my Mama Bear instincts were right on this one, and told my kids so. She then went over with my kids what to do should this man ever approach or try to touch them or talk to them. Amelia told the officer she always listens to her “tummy voice”, and the officer said she is a very smart girl.

While the officer went to talk to the Creeper, our new neighbor came over to check on us. He was concerned when he saw the squad car outside and knew it had to do with the living next to him. He said he sees this guy staring at and walking past our house all of the time. We chatted, introduced him to the kids, exchanged numbers, and he promised to keep on the lookout. My husband wasn’t home, so he waited with me until the officer came back, and then gave her his statement of what he has seen the Creeper doing.

The good news is the officer came back, and long story short, at this stage the case has gotten to the point that our next interaction with this guy will be cause to have him arrested for stalking. It is great news for a sucky situation.

The moral of my story is LISTEN to your gut. LISTEN to the voice in your head trying to protect you. Be loud when you have to. Get to know your neighbors so that they aren’t strangers and can help you when you need it. And teach your kids to do the same.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep, so I walked around the house checking locks and windows. Then I pulled “The Gift of Fear” and “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin de Becker and started reading them again. Please, please read those books.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Lord Let This Be the Last Update 8/23/12: Last week we had a hearing for a Restraining Order against our neighbor. The judged and attorneys involved were awesome, and our family is now protected (as much as a Restraining Order can). The neighbor has some mental health issues, and it seems this has finally woken up his family that perhaps he should not be living on his own. The better news is that we saw the neighbor’s family moving his possessions out of the house, and it seems he will be leaving the neighborhood. I am finally able to sleep again for the first time in a long time. Let’s hope this is the end of this story!