My view of the world through words & photos
On my Facebook News Feed, a friend shared a copy of a newsletter supposedly sent out by the Miami Dade County Sheriff’s Department. It was a picture of a page with highlighted text. The text was about women who found young people outside and crying. When the women asked if they could help, the young person showed them a piece of paper with an address on it that was supposed to be their home address. When the woman arrived at the address, she was taken in the building and raped by gang members.
Because this story sounded like so many others that I had seen over the years on Facebook “shares” and through forwarded e-mails, I did my journalistic thing and proceeded to research this story. One of my favorite resources for verifying this type of story is snopes.com. According to Snopes, this is a false story that has been spreading since 2005.
Now I’m not sharing this story to make my friend look bad. I know she shared it from someone else because she is a very caring person and wouldn’t want anyone to fall victim to such a horrible crime. And that is why these types of stories, or urban myths, get passed on through social media, e-mails and personal conversations. They are told and retold because people want to help and they find it hard to believe that someone would have “created” such stories.
What the originators’ reasons are behind fabricating these stories is beyond me. I can’t understand why obviously intelligent, computer-savvy people create viruses, spam and other things to make our lives miserable when the rest of us simply want to use our technology in peace. If they have that much time on their hands, imagine what they could do if they donated their time and talent to the many, many technology-starved not-for-profits out there!
It’s not like these types of stories haven’t be around for decades. Remember that story you heard when you were at a sleep over or at sleep-away camp about the escaped murderer who attacked people on lover’s lane? I’ve lived all over the country and it amazes me how many communities have escaped convicts roaming their back woods.
I think there are two main reasons we find these stories so easy to believe:
1) They have a grain of truth to them. Bad people find all sorts of ways to scam, swindle and hurt innocent people; we hear about it every day in the news.
2) We want to help others but don’t have much time; forwarding an e-mail or sharing a post is such a quick and easy want to pass on safety information.
Years ago, when I was a TV producer, we did a story with a cop who was committed to helping women protect themselves. Most of the things he said were common sense actions that we had heard for years (keep your purse closed and near your body, park close to the stores you are shopping at, lock your doors in all neighborhoods).
The one that stuck in my brain all these years later is the one about trusting your gut. He said it was OK and even necessary to listen to that little voice that’s telling you something isn’t right and to act on it. If you don’t feel comfortable on the elevator alone with the man who’s riding it with you, press the button for the next floor and get off. If you start to walk out to the parking lot and get unnerved, ask someone from the store to escort you to your car. He said he had heard repeatedly from female victims of attacks that they had felt a funny feeling prior to the attack but brushed it off, and now regretted it. He wasn’t blaming the victims, he was encouraging people to listen to their instinct about bad situations. You have an instinct for a reason.
When I was telling a friend about this cop’s advice, she said, “But if I get off the elevator at a floor that I obviously wasn’t going to, won’t that man take offense?” My response was, “What if he does? Who cares?” If he was going to harm you, you are safe. If he wasn’t going to harm you, you are safe and just slightly inconvenienced by delaying your arrival on your proper floor. If he takes offense, oh well. He hasn’t been harmed and he’ll probably forget about it quickly. The cop’s point was that we need to put ourselves and our own safety first. The reality is that there are people out there who are looking to harm us. We have been given a natural instinct to help protect us and we should use it.
The other night, I heard a news report that a young mother had been found in the trunk of her car. Her baby had been found earlier in the week, alive but apparently abandoned at an apartment complex. From what her family has said, she was a trusting person. I can’t imagine the mixed emotions her family and friends are feeling – joy that the baby is fine but pain over the loss of this young woman.
And if you still aren’t convinced because you were brought up to respect and think the best of others, maybe you just need to be told it’s OK. You have permission to trust your gut and be safe!
If you’re going to pass on a posting, please pass this one on. I’m not looking for any glory here. I simply hope that my words help someone stay out of a bad situation.