It is every parent’s nightmare–your child goes out on Saturday night and vanishes off the face of the earth.It is also, sadly, something that happens far too often–a sensible and independent young woman who thinks she knows how to take care of herself crosses paths with a predator. The bad guy doesn’t look evil. He is charming, charismatic; lively, and fun. It is only when he has his victim along that his true self–his violent, explosive, self-indulgent and remorseless side–emerges. Suddenly, a lifetime of striving toward maturity and self-awareness, of good decisions and generous acts, is changed by one bad choice. This is one of those stories.
On Saturday night, October 20, 2001, a lovely blonde woman with a generous heart and a happy disposition set out to show a new acquaintance from Florida the nightlife in the Old Port area of Portland, Maine. After an evening shooting pool and dancing, twenty-five-year-old Amy St. Laurent disappeared.
It isn’t fiction. It’s true. And a dozen years later, there are many people who stop in the course of their own lives to remember Amy. On her birthday. On the day she disappeared and during the many weeks when her fate was unknown. On the day she was laid to rest. When they hear that heartbreaking and haunting tune she so loved by singer Loreena McKennett, Dante’s Prayer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iBCZQezA3E. She is remembered when someone who knew her almost sees her on the street, across a room, in a crowd. When she doesn’t get to be the mother she longed to be or the aunt she now would be. When there are moments to be shared with her, when things happen that would have brought her beautiful smile or touched her heart.
So today, as we follow the news of another young girl, Abigail Hernandez, who has disappeared, I am reprinting for our daughters, our nieces, our granddaughters, our loved ones, the advice from Lisa Beecher, police chief at the University of Southern Maine, about staying safe:
Steps You Can Take to Avoid Being a Victim:
- Statistics show that most sexual assaults involve alcohol and drugs. Ingestion of even a small amount can alter your perceptions and lower your defenses. Avoid excessive use of these substances.
- Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you feel uneasy, leave.
- If you go to a club or party, go with friends. Have an understanding that you will watch out for each other.
- Never leave your drink unattended. It only takes a few seconds for someone to add a debilitating substance, commonly known as a date rape drug, to your beverage.
- Never accept a drink from someone you don’t know well. Bartenders and wait persons are the only strangers you should accept a drink from.
- Never drink anything that looks or smells strange.
- If you feel very drunk after having only a small amount of alcohol, don’t take any chances. Tell your friend, the bartender, or waitperson that you think you may have been drugged.
- Women are often conditioned to be “nice,” trusting and to spare other people’s feelings. If someone is interested in you and you don’t feel the same way, be straightforward. Don’t make excuses or try to spare their feelings. Just tell them you are not interested.
- Be cautious about giving out your personal information or that of others. The less information a stranger or casual acquaintance has about you, the better your chances of not becoming a victim.
- If you think you are being stalked, contact local law enforcement immediately.
- People are not always honest about themselves. Always keep this in mind.
- Don’t get into a vehicle with someone you don’t know well, because you become a prisoner if that person has negative intentions.
- Avoid drinking from punch bowls.
- If you suspect that you or someone else has ingested a date rape drug or sedative-like substance, get help immediately. Call 911 or have a friend help you get to a hospital. Tell medical staff what you suspect, so the appropriate tests and samples can be taken for evidence purposes and proper treatment. Date rape drugs do not stay in the body for long and delay may mean the loss of valuable evidence.
- If you a partying at a private location, remember that video cameras or tape recorders may be set up and operating even if you can’t see them.
- Don’t hesitate to call the police for help. Don’t feel you would be bothering them, or that your situation is not serious enough. They would much rather prevent a tragedy than respond to one.
Links to Internet Safety Tips provided by J.A. Hitchcock, author of : Net Crimes and Misdemeanors:
For kids/teens http://www.haltabusektd.org/resources/online.shtml
IM, blog and chat safety tips
Donations in Amy’s memory can be made to the Amy St. Laurent Foundation, which supports RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) programs in Maine to help keep women safer.
“The mission of the R.A.D. Systems is to establish an accessible, constantly
improving and internationally respected alliance of dedicated Instructors. These
Instructors in turn, will provide educational opportunities for women, children, men
and seniors to create a safer future for themselves. In doing this, we challenge society
to evolve into an existence where violence is not an acceptable part of daily life.”
More information about the foundation and a donation link can be found at: http://www.amystlaurentfoundation.com/