I thought about whether to write about this. I thought to myself, “you know, this is too personal. This should be between us as a family.”
But I realized, as a mom…a community advocate…a voice…it’s imperative that I share this because it may help protect your children. Or it may open your eyes…it certainly opened mine.
Something disturbing…something scary happened to us recently.
We flew back east for a summer vacation to see our family. By the time we made our way down to baggage claim, our 6-year-old son was dancing…he needed to use the restroom.
I waited with the girls while my husband took Nico.
Nico found a urinal and my husband stood back by the wall…only a few feet away.
My son still doesn’t understand the whole method of using a urinal so when it’s time to “go”…he pulls his shorts all the way down.
That’s when my husband saw it.
An older man was standing next to Nico and my husband caught him…bending his head down and leaning in towards my son’s private parts looking at them…as if he were examining them. The man then turned his attention to my son’s buttocks.
My husband then immediately started shouting and running toward the man…who darted out of the bathroom.
I saw my husband run out of the bathroom…pulling on my son’s hand.
In our 10 years of marriage, I have never seen my husband that angry or upset. “I want to kick his ***!!! Where is he?!! I am so sick to my stomach! What if I wasn’t in there? I didn’t know what to do!”
I remember saying, “what the hell happened?!!!”
Then he told me. I was numb. My face felt boiling hot but my body was cold. It was one of those moments where everything around me…all of the people and the sounds were blurry.
I went into journalist mode…peppering my husband with questions…one after the other. “What did you exactly see? Are you sure he wasn’t just looking down? Are you sure he was looking at him like THAT??”
My husband responded: “I know what I saw. I think I’m going to be sick.”
I knew at that moment just how serious it was. You have to understand, my husband is very calm, patient, understanding…he’s never one to jump to a conclusion too quickly.
I didn’t know what to do. We found police in the airport and reported the incident. “So he didn’t touch your son…he was only staring?”
I wanted to scream. THERE WAS A STRANGE MAN OOGLING OVER MY 6-YEAR-OLD SON’S PRIVATE PARTS!! I get it…there was no actual “crime” committed…but I kept thinking…what if my husband wasn’t in there? What if that man’s leaning-in stares led to something more sinister? What if that guy goes into another bathroom and finds another little boy? Will anyone stop him in there?
Some may think I am overreacting. Some may think that I am assuming the worst.
After years and years of covering crime scenes…reading police reports…talking to detectives…it’s not that I assume the worst…I just take off the rose-colored glasses and know that I can’t be naïve as a parent. I can’t sit behind my white picket fence and think that it won’t happen to us.
When I returned to work, I immediately talked to Glenda, the Sexual Abuse Prevention Coordinator. She’s in all of the schools talking to kids about child abuse and sexual abuse. As I was telling her what happened, she was nodding her head slowly…because she has heard stories like this…time and time again. She was very calm when she said, “You did exactly what you should have done. Just talk to Nico and tell him ‘now that you’re six, it’s time you use the urinal exactly like Daddy does’. Don’t panic…just keep talking to your kids…keep going into places like the restroom with them.”
And I am constantly struggling with that fine line of being protective and guarded with my children…and letting them experience certain things on their own without hovering.
I’m not even sure where that line is anymore.