I was alone with three kids in a parking lot to an outlet mall while their mother, my cousin, went to the Ranchero 99 Market across the way to get diapers for the baby.
Three athletic-looking youngish guys walked past, into Daiso.
Then some more men walked into Daiso.
An older guy in yellow was one of them, and he lingered outside before going inside. He came out about 30s later.
I was outside, back passenger door open, looking for the baby carrier. There was no way Charlise had taken it inside the house, but she couldn’t remember where she’d put it the other day.
The babies were crying, which drew a lot of unwanted attention to us. The almost 2yo shat herself and smelled sour, while the 3yo desperately needed a nap. The 6yo was just talkative.
I judged my safety based on the probability of me being able to take anyone on if I had to. But my back was also facing outward. I decided I was too vulnerable in an unfamiliar environment.
I felt dramatic, paranoid with pointless anxiety because society has conditioned me and other women to accept this as our reality.
But I went with my gut, trusted my intuition. I set the baby in the car seat and told her two sisters to hold on — we’d get out soon, but for right now, we needed to sit in the van.
This didn’t pacify them. The 3yo whined about wanting to go shopping.
I know they’re young, so they don’t understand. But I explained anyways that being alone in an unknown place, you have to be careful. “Strangers are not good people. You never know who might hurt you. So we’re waiting until [your] Mom gets back, and then we’ll go shopping.”
I shut the door and got in my seat, then locked the van completely.
The man in the yellow went back inside, hovered in front of the doors like he was waiting for someone in checkout, then came outside again.
Charlise returned, changed the two toddlers, and we went into Daiso.
It was Friday, and lots of young children — especially girls — and their mothers were there because school was out. Perfect day and destination for predatory creepers. 😒
The baby was on her back, in the carrier, the two older girls on foot.
I started browsing items in the store, but kept seeing the man in the yellow polo way too often. We went down every aisle, looking at what was available.
Briefly, I lingered in one aisle with the 3yo longer than Charlise, who was onto this next aisle perpendicular to mine.
I herded the 3yo ahead of me, to catch up with her mom.
The man in the yellow shirt started down that small aisle, like he was part of our group or with someone nearby. I slipped past him, excused myself and apologized out of habit, and saw only Charlise and the two girls on foot.
No one else was nearby on that kind of level.
I dismissed it as nothing. I think society conditions AFAB people to dismiss our intuition and gaslight ourselves into believing we are just being paranoid when actual danger is present — or this is the result of trauma and an example of just how much emotional abuse I’ve been exposed to.
We stood in line, and I felt off. I asked Charlise if I could go to the car with the girls, but only the baby went. I tried to get the two girls to come along, but made certain Charlise knew they were staying so she’d know to keep eyes on them both.
I only unlocked one door at a time, and I buckled the baby in quickly while being aware of my surroundings. I shut the van door and unlocked the rest of the van while I quickly climbed into it.
In hindsight, a better route to getting into the van would be through the sliding door. I totally could have climbed into the front from the back, without risk of an intruder.
The man in yellow walked out of Daiso as I locked the van.
I’d remembered watching this autistic chick on TikTok explain how male predators hate eye contact. They don’t want to be seen or acknowledged. I’d made eye contact with him in the store during our encounter.
I know from asset protection training that eye contact can deter shoplifter behaviors, but my intention was mostly unintentional autism masking and getting back to the group I was shopping with.
Little conscious attention was paid to him inside the store.
I watched him as he strolled down the sidewalk towards the other shop in the outlet, then back to stand in front Daiso. He went inside, then came outside.
Our eyes met, and he went inside again until he came out after Charlise and headed towards the parking lot.
I don’t know where he went after that, but it gave weird vibes and reminded me to stay aware of my surroundings.
Being autistic and HoH, I’m not always privy to dangers. I’m on higher alert when kids are involved, but am generally fearless in regard to bad things that could happen. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and downplay what harm they could do to me.
We went lots of places, all over, so highly doubt he followed us all the way back to the house. 🤷♀️
Charlise and I chatted about the weird, child trafficker/pedophilia vibes we felt while in the store. We both tried to hold the girls’ hands in the store and not let them out of our sight, but kids have a way of disappearing in an instant because they get distracted. 🥴
In the end, all of us were safe — just a story about what could have happened.
Have you ever experienced something similar, with or without kids? How did you respond?
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