On Being A Victim

by JT Ellison

Oh look. It’s a woman. She’s an idiot. We can take advantage of her.

I am full up with men trying to take advantage of me this week. Don’t worry, this isn’t an anti-male screed. I love men. I love my men in particular. My darling husband, my awesome dad, my brothers, my best guy friends. Love them all – and they all get a pass from this. But I am here to lay the truth on you.

Sometimes it absolutely sucks to be a woman.

I mean, really. There are days that I would trade in my girl card in an instant if it meant I would be able to say no without guilt, get an oil change that didn’t involve a laundry list of things that MUST be done to my car to allow it one more moment of life on the open road, get my tires rotated without someone trying to tack on $15 for a “brake test”, have a storm door installed without a huge pitch for rebuilding the doorjamb and buying yet another door, have to carry mace in my purse to defend myself against idiots, cook, clean, do laundry (cook, clean, do laundry, cook, clean, do laundry, cook, clean, do laundry) and in general try to exist in a male-oriented world.

Yeah. It can be hell out there. And it burns my butt to have it happen, because I’m lucky enough to recognize when I’m about to be takne advantage of, and I can call them on it. Men. Sometimes, why, I oughta…..

I know a lot of empowered women who thing God is a she – I must beg to differ. Take one look at the monthly gift. Monthly? Really? Only a devious male could have arranged for us to only be rational twenty-six weeks out of the year.

I’m not even getting into the professional stuff. Not even going there.

I know you’re smiling. I am too. But I’m going to wipe that smile right off your face, because we need to talk about something very serious. Something that happened to me last Saturday that scared the living hell out of me. Something that would never have happened to a man.

Normal Saturday. We were working around the house. Randy needed to power wash the deck. We dropped my truck to get the tires rotated, had a bacon date, stopped at Home Depot, the grocery store, and headed home. I had a bunch of work to do before football prep – we had friends coming over to watch the game and I needed to whip up some football-oriented masterpieces to feed them.

As always happens when you have these kinds of busy days, you forget something. We got home and realized we needed two pots for the mums I’d bought. And I needed to take a few things to Goodwill, and stop at the UPS store. I hopped into the same car we took Saturday morning and headed out. Radio blaring, smile on my face. Distracted.

I was at a stoplight when a man came running up to my driver side window, shouting at me. I could hear his words clearly through the glass.

“Your car is on fire!”

I immediately put the window down. Dark acrid smoke was billowing from my left rear tire. The guy was still talking, about a mile a minute, so I dragged my focus from the tire to him. He had a card in his hand.

“You’re wheel bearing caught on fire. It’s metal to metal back there.”

“Is it still on fire?”

“Yeah. Flames. I have a hot rod shop. I can fix that for you.”

Hands me the card.

“I can fix it now if you want. You can come right back to my place and I’ll fix it, or I can come to your house and do it. My shop is just up there.” He pointed vaguely up the road.

My mind was processing too many things at once. Mostly – FIRE.

I’m not a fan of cars on fire. When I was a kid, new to driving, I had a car that caught fire whilst I was crossing a bridge. So this particular situation caused an immediate flashback, and all I wanted to do was get the hell out of the car.

I rolled forward a bit, threw on my hazards and started to get out. The guy, still in my window talking a mile a minute said, “No, no, you have to get it out of the road. Pull it up around the curve.”

That led into a neighborhood. I did what he suggested. He followed in his car, and pulled onto the grass behind me. (Just FYI – I was still in the intersection. I only went twenty feet. I did not leave the original location. I just moved out of the way like you’d do with an accident.)

And suddenly it hit me.

JT, what the HELL are you thinking?

As he approached this time, on the passenger side, my heart rate sped up. I didn’t look at his face, I watched his hands. I was positive he was going to have a gun. I saw every freckle, the shape of his nails. For a so-called mechanic, they were awfully clean.

I told myself I was being silly. But I grabbed my phone and speed-dialed home.

He made a motion for me to put down the window. I left the car in gear, my foot on the accelerator, and put it down halfway. This time I did the talking.

“I’m calling my husband.”

And those were the magic words. He skedaddled. Got in his car, did a three-point turn, and took off.

I got out of the car. No more smoke. No flames. No sign of fire. Nothing.

I had to call a neighbor to get Randy out of the backyard and onto the phone. We both immediately agreed something felt… off.

We made a plan to take the car to Sears immediately and have it looked at. I was to drive, slowly, toward the shop, he would be right behind me.

And still I’m thinking – Jesus, the car is going to burst into flames any second. I was literally coasting.

We got it to the shop and told our mechanic the story. The look on his face said it all.

I had been scammed.

As best we can figure, the guy was behind me at the light, got out of his car, and as he went by, either tossed a smoke bomb under the car, or splashed WD-40 on the rotors. Transmission fluid will create the same illusion of fire, but that would ruin the bearing as well, and they didn’t find any traces of anything. Thank goodness. That would have cost a load.

It took a few more minutes before it all sank in.

I had just been a victim of a scam. A good one. One that if pulled on the right woman, could have resulted in this idiot making some cash.

Or, worse.

Once I really had time to gauge what had happened, my hands started to shake. That didn’t stop for a few hours.

How easy would it have been for him to actually put a gun in my window, get in the car, force me to drive somewhere, and do who knows what?

The moment our mechanic confirmed the wheel bearing was just fine, I called the police.

Because this brilliant criminal mastermind had given me his card.

With his name, email, and a website link. Plus I had his car make and model, a pretty solid description, and since I’d been scared half to death, a perfect recall of every moment of the event.

So after the police filed the report and went to talk to him, I did a little sleuthing of my own. Because there was no way we could know if the card he gave me was actually his.

Took me about fifteen minutes online before I found him.

It WAS the guy on the card.

I was off on his age-he looked younger in the baseball cap he was wearing-but I’d gotten everything else right on the money. Which settled my nerves, because I hardly think a sex offender is going to be running around town planting smoke bombs and telling lone women their car is on fire, then handing them his name and email to follow up.

Then again, anything is possible.

So, today, I want you to pick out the six things I did wrong during my little run-in on Saturday. It was a real eye opener for me, and I’m damn lucky it went the way it did. It could have been much worse. I’m not accustomed to feeling vulnerable in my car. Now that I’ve had a taste, I’m going to overreact, because I never want to have this happen again. Concealed carry permit, here I come.

If you correctly identify the six things I did wrong – I’ll send you a free book. Tonight I’ll post an addendum to this to show what I should have done. And if you’d been a victim, or someone tried to take advantage of you lately, please share so we can learn too.

And please, please, please, take some care out there. We’ve all seen the email chain letters that talk about a man disabling a woman’s car, following her to a remote location, and doing bad things. Snopes always says False, or Hoax, but I’m here to tell you – this happened to me. Me. Miss Paranoid. Miss Mystery Writer. Miss Does Research With The Cops. Trust me, the patrol officer who took the report gave me a piece of his mind, and he was right to do so.

Wine of the Week: I’m going with a comfort wine this week. One of the hallmarks of an excellent bottle of wine is it’s ability to recreate the experience over and over and pver. So today, we go with Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel. Brilliant, every time.

36 thoughts on “On Being A Victim

  1. Chuck

    Dang JT, that guy was a serious POS. Not sure if you know, but I have four sisters and don't cotton to men who think they can take advantage of women. I've several knuckle scars from past encounters…from teaching moments back in my younger days.

    Bringing this around to writing, one of my favorite creations is a strong female character–certainly a creation you know a little something about. Even that phrase, however, displays where the common mindset is. Sure we hear about strong protagonists, but how often do we hear someone say, "Boy that Harry Schmo knows how to create strong male characters."

    Glad you didn't take the bait. 🙂

    Hope to see you guys soon.

  2. Reine

    JT, I am so glad you are okay.

    I'll try to guess the six:
    1. You were not focussed.
    2. You opened the window.
    3. You ignored the fact that if your car were really on fire, he wouldn't be handing you his card and chatting you up. He wouldn't be standing there.
    4. You started to get out of the car.
    5. You followed his instructions to drive to a more secluded spot.
    6. When he got out of his car, instead of stepping on the gas you sat there and talked to him some more. Even worse you told him you were telling your husband – a fact that might have prompted him to violence.

    I am REALLY glad you are okay.

  3. Karen

    A.)Mace in your purse. Mace will not work on people who are drunk or under the influence of drugs, or on animals. Since most offenders (especially blue-collar offenders) are drunk or under the influence, something more universal might be nice.

    B.) Mace in your purse. We do not carry weapons in our purse. Too far out of the way to be instantly useful, and too easy to take away. Same goes for cell-phone.

    And the ones I think you probably actually want me to name:

    1.)Distracted. Not aware of your surroundings.

    2.)Rolled down window for stranger.

    3.)Took card from stranger. Really? He's telling you your car is on fire, that you're in danger, that you have to do something RIGHT NOW, and he's handing you a business card? He saw smoke, and stopped to reach for a business card? You missed a sign something was off.

    4.)Panicked. If you're thinking about burning to a crisp, you're not thinking clearly.

    5). Let a stranger talk you into moving into a more secluded area. A mechanic can fix your car in a well-lit parking lot. He can fix your car in the police-station parking lot.

    6.)Got out of car without returning to safe(public) place.

    And a couple more, just for fun.

    C.) Not maintaining your car to the point that you can trust it. You and your husband are "hire a mechanic" people. You can't tell the difference between the various automotive smells and a smoke bomb. You need a mechanic you trust(and I like the guy you talked to after this incident.) and you need to do ALL of the preventative maintenance.

    D.) You still haven't changed from a victim mentality to thinking like someone who understands the risks, and does not expect her attacker to keep his word or play by the rules. "How easy would it have been for him to actually put a gun in my window, get in the car, force me to drive somewhere, and do who knows what?"???!!! You NEVER EVER, EVER do what someone says, just because he has a gun to your head. Yes, you might get shot. But what do you think an attacker needs privacy for? HE ALREADY HAS A GUN TO YOUR HEAD in the PUBLIC place. You have to decide. Risk getting shot, now, or give him the privacy (and the time) to do whatever he really wants, and then DIE, anyway.

    A better option would be to hit the gas, run the red light (even if there's a wreck) and then YOU choose where to go. Nearest police station would be a popular choice, although anyplace with lots of people would work.

  4. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    Wow, I'm glad you're OK. I second just about everything Karen and Reine have said.

    Can I just add that if your wheel bearing was so seized that it caught on fire, you would have been listening to it screeching for DAYS.

    So, one last piece of advice for everyone who drives a car. Take the first mile or so of each journey to listen to the sounds your vehicle is making.

    And if everything sounds OK, only THEN can you turn up the radio. A friend of mine didn't realise her brake pads were down to the metal backing plates until she happened to put her foot on the brake pedal at the same time as a pause in the music on her car stereo …

  5. PD Martin

    Definitely sounds like something from a book or movie. Of course, it COULD have been harmless (a stranger doing the right thing, which some strangers still do) but it could have been way, way worse.

    Glad to hear you're okay – albeit shaken and pissed.


  6. Adrienne

    I'm glad your internal alarms kicked in and that guy took off. I had a flat in a secluded area with kids in the car and had a strange man offer to help. My adrenaline was on overdrive the ENTIRE time he was changing the tire. He was incredibly nice, but you never know. On a side note, a bacon date? I must have one.

  7. Sarah W

    I'm not even going to try—I'm just going to follow the comments, take notes, and be relieved you're okay (not in that exact order).

    When I was 7 months pregnant with my younger child, I was driving home from the evening shift at the library and stopped at a corner. I signaled a right turn, but the vehicle to my left blocked my view so I waited. The car behind me started honking his horn. I edged forward, but a kid on a bicycle flew through the intersection, and then a truck, so I stayed put.

    The light changed and I made my turn onto theone-way street, which was pretty much deserted, The guy behind me zoomed past, then cut me off sharply and stopped. I braked and grabbed my phone, but didn't dial. He drove on slowly, and switched lanes, but I trailed behind him and stopped when he did. Finally, he hung out of his window and started screaming about showing me road rage. I held up my phone and flipped it open, and he took off. I took the next left and went back home as quickly as I could.

    I still don't know why I didn't dial 911. His plate number was right there.

  8. Thomas Pluck

    I've been sharing this blog post on Facebook, G+ and twitter. Everyone needs to read this, but especially women.
    Situational Awareness will save your life.

    1) You were distracted. You were not aware of your surroundings or you may have seen him spray your wheel with WD40, or whatever he did.
    2) You put the window down for a stranger.
    3) You started to get out of the car. Also taking something from him was bad, if you did not have a seat belt on a strong man could have grabbed your arm and pulled you out of the car.
    4) You looked when he pointed. This is a classic distraction before a strike. More typically a stranger asks for the time and sucker punches you when you look at your watch… this works even when you're NOT wearing a wristwatch.
    5) You went away from a populated area with a stranger!!!
    6) You drove a car that was on fire. If anything you should have killed the engine and called 911 and exited the vehicle to a populated spot if possible. If you were alone out there it could have been a tough choice but you could initiate the 911 call from inside the car.

    Proper training and concealed carry are an excellent combination. It is important not to feel that the pistol is a protective talisman, and not to escalate a situation with it. I wish more states allowed it, even for women only.
    But in the end, Situational Awareness and a good pair of running shoes are your two best defensive bets.

  9. S.A. Newby

    1. Life happens; it's fast. But when you get behind the wheel you need to focus on the road and your surroundings. Because bad things can help in a matter of miliseconds and regardless of what our mothers told us, there ARE monsters out there (as well as POSs).
    2. Be especially alert at red lights and stop signs. Best places for car-jackings.
    3. A man hollering your car is on fire means it's time to call in the troops. When you see fire/smoke that means 911, then hubby.
    4. Never ever roll down the window for a strange man or woman. Again, warning bells should be going off.
    5. You started to get out of the car. (Sweet Jesus, girlfriend, you are very lucky it was a POS instead of a monster. Please, please, please never, ever do this again. Don't want to hear on Channel 2: Local author goes missing, car found running but empty at red light!!!!)
    6. You still have your window down and followed the guy's directions to pull off the main road and into a neighborhood. (Please read above parenthetical plea, ONCE More!!)
    7. Yes, you had a lot to do that day, a lot to get done. As a woman (and a single one at that), I can assure you the worst thing we all do is allow a multitude of distractions to dull our focus on our surroundings, usually at our most vulnerable moments: stopped at a stop sign or red light; getting out of our car in a parking garage; walking to and from the mall; the list goes on and on.
    Live in the moment, see what's going on around you. Walk with confidence, be vigilant. Let others see you being vigilant.
    But also remember the Girl Scout motto: BE PREPARED. Run scenarios like this and other horrendous events through your head, and make a PLAN on how you would handle it.
    Remember "trauma shock." There's a reason so few passengers make it out of an airplane on fire on the ground: Most who don't make it freeze in the "this can't really be happening" moment, while the survivors have already looked for exits and planned their actions should such an event occur., and are pretty much already out the door.
    And if the Bogey-Man does get close enough to grab you, self-defence classes (and Mace if you know which way the wind's blowing) do work wonders. Let me quote Sandra Bullock's character in "Miss Congeniality" — S-I-N-G.
    Hope the football bash went well!!

  10. Rachel Hughey

    Holy mother of crap! First off, glad you're okay. And second, hope they nail this creep's balls to the wall.

    When I still lived in Nashville, there was a rapist who used to break into cars and turn on the dome light so that his victim either went out to turn it off or when they got into their car the next time the engine was dead and he'd get them that way, so yes, this sorta crap is all too common. Luckily for me (or unluckily depending on your perspective) my father was a VERY paranoid cop. He told me when I was about 5 years old that any stranger that ever came up to me and tried to talk to me was really going to kidnap me, rape me and kill me. In those freaking words. To a five year old. So I pretty much lived in perpetual fear from that moment on. As I got older there were karate classes, then boxing (which was unnecessary seeing as I had an older brother) and eventually how to shoot guns.

    I did have a strange man approach my car door once when I was at a red light (he was genuinely lost) but I didn't roll my window down all the way and since we were in a crowded street I was reasonably sure he couldn't try anything I couldn't get away from, but knowing that I had a nice, sharp pointy thing right on my hip to jab him with definitely made me feel a bit more secure. Another helpful tip right from my dad: program the numbers for your local police into your phone so you can always have them w/you.

    But while I do sympathize w/the disadvantages of being a woman (they jacked on like 15 extra things the last time I went to get my oil changed) I don't think you should let it bother you for long. Do whatever you need to do to feel safer and let this experience make you stronger and smarter. For me that's a knife and the ability to fight back, for you that may be the aforementioned concealed weapon w/permit. But just because we're women doesn't make us victims, accepting the presumption of inferiority does.


  11. billie

    I was going NO NO the moment you put the window down. And when you drove to a more secluded place.

    One night a long time ago I left a club alone, earlier than usual, so there was no one in the parking lot. I got in my car and realized pretty quickly I was being followed – but the guy following me seemed slightly irrational – driving up beside me and motioning for me to stop, etc. At one point he tried to run me off the road. I got on a bigger, busier 4-lane which was unfortunately dead quiet that night, and he kept trying to push me over – so I sped up, faster than I would normally go, with him keeping up beside me, and at the last second I swerved onto a very tight exit ramp. He didn't have time to take it and I thought I was safe – until I heard the squeal of brakes and realized he'd stopped in the middle of the 4-lane and was backing up to follow me – now into a dark, even quieter, residential neighborhood.

    He followed me for about 20 minutes, getting bolder and more erratic in his driving and trying to force me with his vehicle to stop or hit the curb so I would have to stop. I was terrified. This was before cell phones and I didn't want to go to my apt. b/c I didn't want him to know where I lived. So I just kept driving. Finally it clicked to me that I could just drive into the police station – which had a huge parking deck and wasn't the safest place to be but on the other hand also had police officers going in and out. So that's what I did. He didn't follow me into the parking deck, but I had to wait awhile to make sure he'd left, and an officer followed me out and stayed behind me in his squad car for a few miles to make sure the guy wasn't around.

    It was scary. It later, about a year later, turned out to be a guy who had been "watching" me and supposedly, according to him, wanting to ask me out. At some point he knew someone who knew me and he got my name and phone number and called. The whole thing was just weird, but I agreed to meet him in a public parking lot mid-day so I could see what he looked like (I felt I needed to know so I could keep an eye out for him!) – and it was the same guy. He completely freaked out in the parking lot when I said I wasn't going out with him, so it was even more clear he was unstable and I told him not to contact me again. Thankfully, he didn't.

    Have you read Gavin De Becker's The Gift of Fear?

  12. Alaina

    Not reading anyone else's comments first, so I don't get spoiled or cheat somehow…

    1. Panic.
    2. The guy on the street saying 'Your Car is on Fire! Here's how I can fix it' rather than 'Your Car Is on Fire! GET THE CRUD OUT FOR SAFETY!' Warning sign.
    3. Pulling up to somewhere else with potentially firey car.
    4. Moving just on this guy's say-so.
    5. Hmmm. Going to reread that.Aha! You were distracted, and not paying attention, to begin with.
    6. Accepting said help without question.

    How'd I do, compared to other commenters?

    Ah. I missed 'opening the window' at all. I would've put in 'calling your husband' instead of driving away immediately, but if my thing was on fire I wouldn't have moved at ALL, so I'm giving this a pass.

    That was definitely a scary situation, though.

  13. Jeanne in MN

    Your post shows that you are a writer…I got scared just reading your account of the encounter.

    When I was in college (yes, there were colleges that long ago), I was walking to my home off campus late at night. A car pulled into a driveway that crossed the sidewalk and the driver tried to talk to me. I told him to go away. He finally did, but he turned right at the next corner, and I felt he was going to drive around the block and try again. While he was out of sight, I ran across the street and hid in the bushes. I watched him drive around the block 3 times, before he finally gave up and left the area. Then I ran the whole way home, and made sure I had someone to walk home with after that.

  14. JT Ellison

    This is great stuff, y'all. Just so you don't think I was too big an idiot, I was in the middle of a busy intersection, and when I moved the car all I did was roll forward twenty feet so I wasn't in the middle of the road. Did NOT leave the scene. but yes, most of you have hit on the things I did wrong. Pretty stupid of me, you know?

    One thing I'd love to hear from our experts-if the car was on fire, what should I have done differently?

  15. Rachel Hughey

    Not an expert in car-on-fire situations, but I'd assume turn off the engine, get out of the vehicle, and dial 911. Now while that might not help w/the creepy guy scenario, that's what logic would tell me to do if my car were on fire (after my brain stopped screaming Holy shit my car is on fire! Save me Jesus! that is.). lol

  16. Rachel Hughey

    Huh, I should totally remember that, shouldn't I? I'm sure that my dad and brother at the very least talked about that. But I remember the dome light thing b/c around that time my mom found that her engine was dead in the morning and that the dome light in her car was on and she hadn't left it on the night before. Not saying that it was that guy who did it, but we were all freaked when it happened.


  17. judy wirzberger

    Well are you bloody and bruised from beating yourself up. Bet your sigh of relief when you type The End at finishing a draft you acted like most people.

    I myself would have been in a panic. Car plus fire equals get out of there. I would have jumped out of the car immediately and called 911 (in my sane dreams) I would have probably been Cornelia yellng Shut the f up to him.

    One lesson every woman should know. NEVER NEVER go to a second place

    And every woman should learn car basics. Things to look for, how things work.

    The main outcome JT is that you survived. After the initial panic – and who wouldn't – you pulled out woman's best weapon…cell phone.

    I'm concerned about the gun because in a panic you might shoot someone innocent.

    Like flying a small plane…after the end of the trip, you walked away. And you learned.
    I adore your justified anger and the fact that you called the police. Can't wait to see this translated into a novel. Remember to give us updates and what happens to this creative scam artist.

  18. Louise Ure

    Jesus, JT. Like Judy, I'm just glad you survived this. There are no "what did I do right/what did I do wrong" answers. Anything that lets you walk away is the right thing to do.

  19. Allison Davis

    JT, wooser. I would have gotten my fire extinquisher out (what? You don't have a small one in the car??) sprayed the car and him. Handing you the card was the clue that all was not as it seemed.

    I think most got the five points. And what Louise said.

    The only time I ever got mugged I was surprised at my reaction. A kid (like a gang initiation we though later) grabbed some silver chains/necklaces around my neck and yanked, pulling them off as I was walking home from the BART. I turned, grabbed his arm (I had a briefcase in the other) pulled the chains out of his hand while looking at his face, he pulled away and I gave chase. In a Latin neighborhood, in my suit and heels and swearing like a truck driver in Spanish and English. I was pissed. He ran like the wind and like some crazy woman was chasing him. He led me into one dark street and then into an alley and I stopped (it was about 10 p.m.) and thought this wasn't so smart. I went back to the main street and dialed 911. The operator said, "we've been getting calls about you the last five minutes, the gang task force meet you there in a minute." A bunch of undercover cops then pulled up laughing. They said my swearing had people calling 911…they took a description but didn't think they'd get the guy. They said they were glad I didn't catch him, they'd have a homicide on their hands (I was really angry). So I get mad. I'm not sure that's all that safe either.

    Glad you figured it out — you did you know, and you did the right things when you needed to.
    And even more, you busted his butt. Most would have forgotten about it, thrown the card away and not remembered anything enough about the incident. Good work.

  20. Debbie

    Allison, just wanted to say that I loved your pursuit. Not the safest response, but I picture it so comically. JT, your bravest moment was posting the incident and asking for criticism. I do plan to pass along the story. I'm sorry that it happened to you but knowing the right things to do and responding properly when the adrenaline and shock are governing your actions are most often very different.

  21. Shizuka


    I'm so relieved you listened to your instincts and that you're unharmed. And big points to you for researching the guy and reporting him!
    I'm not that knowledgeable about personal security so these are just guesses. And I think some of them contradict each other.

    1) Pulling the window down to a guy you didn't know (esp. since you could hear him through the window)

    2) Panicking.

    3) Taking the time to talk to this guy when your car might be on fire.

    4) Moving your car at his instructions.

    5) But then again, your car might have been on fire, so maybe you should have checked for yourself so you could call 911. WIth mace and cell phone in hand.

    6) Not driving away when things felt suspicious. (the point you call your husband)

    I don't deal with the car thing since I don't drive, but sometimes I get that creepy feeling when I'm
    walking home from the subway. I've made real and fake phone calls, checked to see if someone was following me using a mirror and store windows, and when I really thought someone was following me, talked to myself and acted crazy.


  22. Reine

    Ditto on Allison's comment.

    And – wow – Allison. So impressed. Anger is highly underrated.

    My mother was driving through L.A. one day, in the time before cellular. Two guys pulled up behind the car. One had a gun in his hand resting on the dash pointed at her. My mother saw this and pretended she hadn't. She kept on driving. On main roads. I asked her where she was going. She was going where she was going. They followed us down Hollywood Blvd. to Cahuenga and up to Franklin. Over to Highland and down to Sunset. I envied the kids at Hollywood High as we drove on to Fairfax then back down Fountain. Why couldn't I be playing tennis in Plummer Park. LaBrea to Melrose and over to Wesern. Over and over.

    About her. Say what I say. Know what I know. Feel what I feel. My mother was the coolest bitch ever. The guys gave up and took off down Western.

    "So you want an Orange Julius?" she said.

    "And a chili dog."

  23. JT Ellison

    Thanks, y'all, for all the input. I have to wonder, if the car was on fire, the guy was a good Samaritan, and I immediately got out and sprayed him with mace, couldn't he have ME arrested for assault???

    Louise, thank you. I keep reminding myself of that.

    And let me say again, I DID NOT leave the scene at this guys direction, just rolled the car out of the middle of the intersection to the side of the road. Even I, panicked and possibly on fire, am not that dumb.

  24. MJ

    Ugh, JT – so sorry you had that POS encounter but glad that you are alive!

    Lots of scary stories here. I don't have one, but now I look back at the times I walked around Ann Arbor alone and think "what the hell was I thinking walking there alone????"

    Allison, you are awesome. Any woman who can run in heels and have the gang squad come out to greet her is my hero. Reine, your mom was pretty dang cool. Nice manoeuvre.

  25. JT Ellison

    Karen, you got it all first – so you get the book. Send me your email – jtellison @ jtellison dot com

    And bravo, guys. Thanks for helping a sister out today!

  26. Jake Nantz

    No JT, thank you for your story. You helped a husband out today. I showed this to my wife, who took it all in, then told her mom and asked her to tell her grandmother. This is scary shit, and I'm glad to know about it and make sure my wife does as well. Very cool.

  27. Kerry

    First, I'm so glad you are safe. Second, though, I'm going to turn your question on its head just a bit. By asking what you did WRONG you are doing two things. First, you are minimizing the fact that you did enough RIGHT to get out of the situation safely AND to nail the perp. That means YOU WON! Second, in thinking about what you "should have" done you are implying that you are somehow at fault for how things unfolded. In other words, you are blaming yourself as the victim. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Hindsight is always 20-20, and it's definitely useful to think through the situation and identify alternatives. But DAMN, you did GREAT!

    So, please, no more "what did I do wrong." Even if it means no book for me 🙂

  28. Karen

    Kerry—I don't think she was blaming herself for what happened. I think she's asking herself "what will I do differently, next time?"

    Not blaming the victim can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it really isn't her fault. On the other hand, "it's not your fault" can easily snowball into "There's nothing you could have done to prevent it, and there's nothing you can do to prevent being victimized again." That's one heck of a scary world to live in.

    Thanks, but no thanks. If I have to choose, I'll pick the world where I have the power to do something differently, and change the outcome.

    And thank you, JT for letting us dissect your adventure to give us all a better chance at a positive outcome!

  29. Reine

    Well yeah, Karen, we are all hugely relieved that JT is safe, but after her comment, "And let me say again, I DID NOT leave the scene at this guys direction, just rolled the car out of the middle of the intersection to the side of the road. Even I, panicked and possibly on fire, am not that dumb," I feel like a complete asshole for misinterpreting what she said.

  30. Kerry

    Karen, I know she's not blaming herself. But I've spent a lot of time learning and teaching about self-defense, and when you start adding "would have/should have/could have" to the equation, you wander into territory in which any negative outcome is the victim's fault because s/he didn't do something (avoid dark streets/dress more conservatively/watch her drink/say no/fight back). The only person to blame is the person who perpetrates the fraud/assault/whatever.

    I don't think anything in that stance suggests that a target is powerless – and you're absolutely right that stories like this are powerful teaching tools that allow us to identify all the things JT did to keep herself safe and to think about other things we might be able to do in other circumstances. But I (and the self-defense teachers I've trained with) would frame that discussion in terms of possibilities and options rather than "things done wrong", if that makes sense.

  31. Gar Haywood


    Late to the party as always. So very glad you're okay, above all else.

    I notice I seem to be the only male member of the Murderati crew to respond so far. Maybe this is because we're all so embarrassed to be of the male persuasion after this?

    The ass-clown you describe was nothing less than a predator, whether he intended to do you physical harm or not. Let's hope the authorities take him off the street for a good long while.

  32. Tammy Cravit

    Late to the party (family visiting, and MacBook's been offline for repair) but I thought I'd add my 2 cents. Others have more than covered the "what to do better next time" list, but let me say that I think you did one HUGE thing right: you listened to that prickle of intuition, that little voice telling you "something doesn't feel right here". As Gavin De Becker writes, our intuition may respond to the wrong things, or may respond inappropriately to things, but it NEVER responds to nothing. When we feel that tingle of unease, we should always stop and figure out what's triggered it.

    Your experience was a sobering reminder that even those who know as much as crime writers and readers do can still become a victim if we let our guard down. My daughter and I were followed a while ago walking home from the mechanics' shop, and I have little doubt (from his catcalls) what the man had in mind if he'd caught us. I'd been aware of both his presence and of possible escape routes before he made his move, and so was able to get out of danger when the situation escalated, but if I'd been upset or distracted that day, it would have been so easy to become a victim.

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