Violence against women is usually ugly and senseless, but when young women are victims, it feels even uglier.
Chelsea King was a senior at a San Diego-area high school who innocently went for a run at a local park after school. Amber Dubois was a 15-year-old who was last seen by her family as she left to walk to school one morning over a year ago. Neither girl ever returned home. Chelsea's body was found late last week in a shallow grave not far from where she'd parked her car before her run. Amber's remains were found yesterday.
Right now, convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III is the prime suspect in Chelsea's murder. Police aren't saying yet if he can be connected to Amber's death, but, since girls were similar in body build and disappeared in similar ways, the speculation abounds.
It's more than a little scary that any child could leave for school one morning and never return. It truly is a parents' worst nightmare (and the main reason I didn't watch "The Lovely Bones" when it hit the cinemas - although the novel was amazing)...
So what do we need to do?
In my martial arts training, every sensei I've ever had has spoken first about two things: AWARENESS - as in knowing what is going on around you and AVOIDANCE - as in getting out of dodge the moment it seems like a situation could go south. Perhaps Chelsea and Amber might have been even more aware than they were had they not have been accosted doing something they did on a regular (and obviously felt safe doing). Maybe prevention has as much to do with how our children - particularly our girls - are socialized than anything else.
The reality is that little girls are encouraged to go with the flow, not make a scene, not be argumentative all while being compassionate/helpful to others in need. For so many, these traits have led to awful outcomes; evil doers who prey on women often play on these characteristics to gain their unsuspecting victims' trust. Remember bad guy Buffalo Bill in the movie "Silence of the Lambs" who convinced his last victim to help him load a couch into his van before abducting her? Serial killer Ted Bundy even walked with a limp to garner sympathy from women before he solicited their 'help." Our need to be helpful can be harmful, it seems.
Everyone - adult and child alike - should learn to trust their gut instincts. If a situation or conversation doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. But too often, we women talk ourselves out of thinking someone might be out to do us harm. Not saying that was the case with Chelsea or Amber, but it could be the case for anyone, martial artist or not.
And remember not to be passive if you ever do find yourself being accosted. According to a 1998 FBI criminal victimization survey, 62% of women who screamed, 81% of women who tried to run away and 68% of women who used some type of physical force were able to escape from their attackers. Doing SOMEthing - be it yelling, running away or hitting back - nets better odds than doing nothing. Tell your daughters, sisters, nieces and neighbors. Heck, tell your sons, brothers, nephews and male neighbors, too.
It's not enough to just pray that Chelsea and Amber will be the last girls who never return home from school. Talking to our kids about what to do if they are ever approached - a hard conversation to have, I know - might be even better.