Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 21, 2018

When your safety goes missing

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News | Jul 13, 2018

Because it’s Friday the 13th, I’m going to tell you a scary story. It’s a true story, but maybe a little more unnerving than scary. Nonetheless, this is the story of the time my safety went missing.

When your safety goes missing, your life begins to turn into the book, “If you give a Mouse a Cookie.” Everything becomes cause and effect. When you have a big dog like I do, you have to take her for works. But when the temperatures outside are nearing 90 degrees, the only time you can go is late at night or early in the morning.

If you’re a Cubs fan, like me, you know pulling yourself away from the game is nearly impossible so all of a sudden it’s nearing 9 p.m. on a Saturday night and you haven’t taken your dog for a walk yet. You decide you’ll just stick to the inside streets that all have street lamps and come back rather quickly, just enough for her to stretch her legs.

You put in your headphones and grab the dog’s leash, just as you have hundreds of times, and go for a walk. When you get to a corner that has a street lamp, you see three kids talking. Two are on bikes, facing one direction, one is walking around the yard, talking. When that kid turns to face you, and begins to walk toward you, you’ll think maybe he wants to pet your dog. You’ll explain to him that your dog is actually very afraid of strangers and to please not come nearer. However, he won’t listen.

Your heart will begin to race a little, but you’ll just assume he’s being silly because other kids are around. However, when the other two kids tell him to back off and he doesn’t listen, panic will begin to set in.

You’ll try to walk past him, not looking at him, trying to talk soothingly to your dog, but to no avail. Suddenly, he’ll look at you and his whole demeanor will change from calm to anxious. He will start calling you another girl’s name and pleading with you to follow him because people are after the two of you. He’ll reach for you and you’ll yell at him not to touch you. Your hands will shake so badly you can’t call the police, even if you wanted.

When he finally gets ahold of your shoulders, you’ll scream and try to get away. You’re ready to turn and run, but your dog has her shoulders down, legs flexed, ready to pounce. You can see the street you just came down and all you want to do is go home. But you can’t. Because two arms have wrapped around your middle. Skinny, but strong. You’ll begin screaming and kicking, biting, punching; anything to get him off you. A small wave of relief will wash over you when two police cars with lights flashing pull up. It feels like minutes, but in seconds they exit their vehicles and pull him off you.

You’ll scramble to the side of the building, trying to get away. The two kids from before, who don’t look older than eight, ask if you’re OK. They’ll explain they, too, were trying to go home when he started following them.

Your conversation will get interrupted as the attacker screams for you and you fight off the tears and will your hands to stop shaking. You’ll overhear the attacker tell the officers he’s 17 years old and has been doing acid. Then you’ll realize where his strength came from.

Almost immediately, the “I never should have been walking alone and so late in the first place” thoughts flood your brain. You begin to blame yourself because you should know better than to walk at night, even with a 60-pound dog by your side. When the officer comes over, he’ll ask you your name, where you live and for your phone number. He’ll ask for your side of the story and if you’re OK or if you need an ambulance. Then he’ll tell you to go home.

It will cross your mind to ask for a ride, but you’re less than a mile from home. There are no bruises or injuries they can see, just emotional and mental scarring. You’ll call to your dog and together you’ll walk down the sidewalk, past the houses where people have gathered on the front porches to watch some kid get arrested as you have to walk home, alone and in the dark. You’ll be just over a block away when you hear him screaming for you, from inside the police car. The safe cruiser that will transport him to his destination. Where someone will talk to him and ask him how he is and make sure he doesn’t get hurt. In his safe, comfortable, ride. And you walk home alone, in the dark, scared.

You’ll get home and realize you only closed your screen door, not the actual door, because you only thought you would be away for five minutes. More panic sets in as you cautiously walk inside.

You’ll grab your lacrosse stick and slowly walk through all of your rooms, your breath heavy and your hands shaking. You’ll attack your shower curtain with a vengeance in case someone is standing behind it. No one is.

You’ll spend the rest of your night sitting up, trying to calm your breathing and calling your parents to explain that you’re OK, but something just happened. The truth is, you won’t really be OK for a while.

The next day, Sunday, you’ll be sleep-deprived and still scared. You’ll look on Facebook and see the police report. The attacker has been released to the custody of his father and is now free. You’ll panic again, not feeling safe in your own home.

You realize you need to go to mass, but sitting still through an hour-long service just won’t seem doable. So instead, you’ll get dressed, put on a hat and go to any store in town that’s open because you need to be somewhere that isn’t your home; somewhere that people are that can help you if you need it.

The next day at work, your co-workers will be reading the call log and read yours aloud. You’ll slowly get out of your chair and say, “Want to know something about that? It happened to me.”

You’ll then slowly explain the entire story to the wide-eyed, shocked newsroom. You try to make light of it, saying it could have been worse. And the Cubs beat the Cardinals that night so that was a huge plus.

For the next couple of days, people will check on you, asking if there’s anything they can do. There isn’t. But a co-worker will give you pepper spray. But still, no word from the police. Just the Facebook post you saw. So you stop by the police station. The officer will explain he meant to call, but it’s been three days since a man on acid attacked you. You’ll be told there is a no-contact order in place and there’s nothing more you can do.

Since he’s a juvenile, there’s a slim chance you’ll have to appear in court. The officer will even tell you he’s met the kid since the attack and he seems ‘pretty normal’. This is meant to make you feel better, but it doesn’t.

You’ll just keep wondering why he’s defending him. First he gets a ride, then someone to watch over him, then someone to keep him in the loop, to tell him what’s going on so he doesn’t have to wait three days in fear. Suddenly you’re back to feeling like you’re the one doing wrong. Like you didn’t have any right to be on that street, even though you did. It’s a strange feeling, and you’ll carry it with you for a while.

It’s been about a month since this happened, but you still won’t feel that much better. It’ll take a few days, but you’ll be able to walk the dog again. Except now you’ll carry a flashlight and pepper spray and refuse to walk after dark. The thing about living in a small town is you never think bad things can or will happen. Sure, you acknowledge bad things happen, but who’s going to attack a girl walking a giant black dog? Apparently someone will. And if they do it again, you’ll hope the next person gets more reassurance than you. Because between being attacked and the officer protecting him more than you, your sense of safety has gone missing. And it’ll take time to get it back.

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