They began preying on me when I was about 10 or 11; men who were old enough to father me and of course those a little younger. Either way, they were too old to be approaching me. I was a pretty quiet kid for the most part. I wasn’t one of those grown little girls who was up in a man’s face every opportunity I got. My mother was a firm believer in dressing children age appropriately so attire wasn’t the issue. I used to blame it on the fact that I was more developed than most of the girls my age. “They probably just think I’m older than what I actually am,” I’d always think to myself, inwardly hating the fact that I had such a womanly shape at such a young age. Now that I reflect on those days, all I can say is, “Ain’t no way.” There’s no way that these men didn’t know how young I was. Since transitioning into adulthood my common sense tells me differently. I don’t care how much her breasts protrude or how curvy her hips are, a child is easily spotted and those who can’t tell simply by looking at her, can tell once she opens her mouth. The truth is they don’t care.
Back then I never took them up on their advances. I’d quickly make my way home from school with my head held down, eyes glued to the pavement trying to block out the derogatory cat calls that were being hurled my way by grown men. I was disgusted by their advances, they made me feel tainted. I couldn’t understand why anyone would be flattered or consider their words compliments.
By the time I hit 16, I thought I was grown. I had a car and my junior license, you couldn’t tell me nothing. At that age having a “boo” was the thing to do so I followed suit. His name was Rodney*. It was my summer job that allowed us to cross paths. My company and his rented office space in the same building. He approached me in the lobby one afternoon. We exchanged small talk. I told him I was 16, he told me he was 20. I looked at him strangely. He seemed a little mature for 20, but I was young and gullible enough to believe just about anything. He eventually asked for my phone number, I obliged.
As time progressed we graduated from phone conversations and late night texting to hanging out in his uncle’s basement. He’d always “try” me and I would decline his advances. One day I guess he decided that “playtime” was over because this was the day he tried to force himself on me. With the exception of my best friend, I never told anyone about that experience. That night when I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. I don’t know what prompted me to do it, but I took to the web and did a search on him. I was able to locate him on a social network, which is where I found out that he had actually lied about his age. He was 30, not 20.
The company that he worked for happened to relocate shortly after the incident. I never saw him again. What bothers me the most is to see that the cycle still continues. Grown men are still out there going after little girls. They know these girls are underage and still pursue them anyway. Why? Because they’re young, naive and easily manipulated.
We all know that predators are out there, but what can we do to protect our children? The first thing I always encourage parents to do is keep the lines of communication open. You’ll be surprised how much your kids will talk if they feel that they can come to you. Secondly, know where your children are. If you need to confirm, do it. Safe is always better than sorry. One of the most important things that can’t be stressed enough is to know who your kids are talking to as well. And don’t take, “Oh, I’m just talking to my friend,” as an answer. Get all up in their business, especially those teens. Check those cell phones and social networks occasionally.
I was always a pretty good kid. My parents trusted me, but my one lapse in judgement could’ve cost me so much more than being shaken up and having hurt feelings. Protecting your daughter from men such as the one I encountered begins simply with opening the lines of communication.