Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.

Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.

COLUMN: Women are scared, and maybe they have a right to be

In the wake of women’s disappearances, women are arming themselves with knowledge and self defence

I’ve never told my mom this, but I was this close to being abducted as a child.

I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t want to lose my freedom at the young age of eight or nine. But I think you’d be proud of me, so here it goes.

I was standing at the bus stop in Richmond, just off Steveston Highway at Berry Road. I think I was probably heading to Diane’s, or maybe the library or the swimming pool. It was about 1984, in the summer, and yes, Clifford Olson was safely behind bars.

I was standing there minding my own business, waiting patiently, when a little sedan pulled up. A man rolled down his passenger window and leaned over. I’ll never forget what he said to me.

“I’m sorry but you missed your bus! I saw it go by a minute ago. Hop in and I’ll take you to the next stop.”

Thankfully I had been there a while, unbeknownst to this man. The bus had most definitely not gone by a minute ago. So red flags went up. Alarms went off. Whatever you taught me, Mom, it stuck in my head. I made up a lie, and made it up fast.

“No, thank you. I’m actually just waiting for my mom. And, oh, there she is,” I said, pointing into the distance. You were not there.

The man left very, very quickly. He didn’t say another word. He didn’t want to help me. He wanted me in his car. Thinking of what Richmond was like in that time, berry fields and undeveloped farm land and quick access to the highway, it’s not hard to imagine I would have disappeared nearly immediately.

I was just a pipsqueak then. A little girl by every definition. Knock-knees, long bangs in my eyes and dirt-covered jelly shoes. Innocent. I shudder to think what a middle-aged man saw in me.

With the recent disappearance of a young, local woman, I’ve been replaying this day over in my mind. It’s something I think of every single time a girl or woman goes missing. And we all know, this happens all too often. Each time, it hits me to the core.

And clearly I’m not alone. Women all over the Lower Mainland have been rallying online in quickly made Facebook groups. For the last few days, there was a fear that three females had been abducted in a short time frame. Some even believe there is a serial killer out there, or a group of men targeting women.

Thankfully at least one of these missing people, the youngest, has turned up safe and sound. But at the time of writing this column, two are still missing: Shaelene Bell of Chilliwack, and Trina Hunt of Port Moody.

We don’t know what has happened to either of these women, or if there really is an increased risk to women right now. But many feel this is not the time to be careless.

Don’t walk alone at night? That’s just the start of what women are telling each other online. They are sharing stories of near abductions, or tips they’ve learned in self defence classes. And they are asking questions about how they can legally arm themselves.

They don’t want to live in fear; they want to live their lives.

In just 24 hours, I’ve seen questions about legal blade sizes for public carrying purposes, and whether you can carry mace or bear spray, and where to buy personal body alarms. There are tips to gouge an attacker’s eyes out, rather than serving him a kick to the groin.

Women are sharing the best places to buy personal protection, and are reminding each other of the basics that all girls learn from a young age.

Yes, women are scared right now, and maybe rightly so. But they are also ready. Oh, so ready.

Whether it’s to lie to a man who offers a ride to a young girl, or to scream “fire!” instead of “help” because that’s what people care about, we are doing what we’ve been conditioned to do. And with the extra tool of social media, these specialized life lessons are being shared far and wide.

And here’s my contribution. Trust your gut. Whatever the danger is, reach out for help.

So, call 911 if you can.

Contact Ann Davis Transition Society for emergency help and support, at 604-792-2760.

Stay in touch with people who love you. And most of all, be safe and know you have a vast legion of women beside you.

READ MORE: Mother of missing Chilliwack woman makes public plea


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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