Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Do As I Say...

Posted December 3, 2006
Updated January 3, 2007

Last week, I covered the story of three women who were attacked in a three-hour span by one suspect. Due to their descriptions, he was quickly arrested. Luckily, in each case the women were for the most part unharmed. But separately, each woman wanted to speak out to warn others about how surprised and unaware they were when they were attacked.

In the first situation, a 75-year-old woman was standing in a parking space to hold it for her husband as he circled the block. She was standing about a hundred yards from the door of a popular restaurant where they planned to eat. She even smiled and said hello to the attacker as he passed on the street. She sensed no danger. She was in Raleigh after all, it was just six in the evening, and her husband was coming around the block. She said she was in such shock when she was the man came from behind her and grabbed her that she didn't even scream at first. When she finally did scream and fall to the ground the man walked away.

She was mad at herself for not doing more, for not sensing the danger. But truthfully, it's not a situation any of us ever expect to find ourselves in. She was lucky. He was much bigger, much stronger, and could have seriously injured her.

Less than two hours later the second woman was walking her dog near Cameron Village. As women, it's been drilled into us that we should always walk with a friend or a dog, that a dog is a deterrent to criminals. Apparently, that was not the case in this situation. A car pulled up along side the woman. Again, she was in Raleigh, near Cameron Village of all places and she had a dog. She assumed he wanted directions and didn't sense the danger until he was about a foot from her. He grabbed her, pulled her jacket over her head, they struggled, she screamed. Again, he walked away. She was angry. She yelled at him and asked him why he was doing this. Before he got into his car and left he pointed at her and said: You're lucky you're not dead.

This second victim was a savvy young woman who had just moved here from a big city. She was no stranger to crime and taking precautions. She felt like many of us do that a dog was a sufficient deterrent to anyone who might approach her with bad intentions. She too was mad at herself for verbally lashing out at him thinking she might have put herself in more danger. But again, she reacted the way many of us would have in the same situation- fear gives way to rage.

Within an hour, he struck again. This time he was in the parking lot of a popular store in Garner. He tried to force his way into a woman's car. Thinking quickly, she backed up and hit him with the car door. He got into his car and left and was arrested a short time later after a Raleigh Police officer spotted his vehicle.

This woman e-mailed me the next day saying it was critical to her to get the word out to women that it's so important to be aware of your surroundings, especially during this hectic holiday season when it's so easy for us to get distracted.

She said: I would like everyone to learn from this horrific experience that I have been through. I would like everyone to know that "Always be aware of your surroundings, trust no one, and never think that it couldn't happen to you." I always thought that I would never be a victim, but now I am haunted by his face and the thoughts of "What if..."

I don't remember a case in my seventeen years in television when victims have been so forthcoming, and so concerned about warning others. In each case, the women reacted differently, but the results were the same. Their reactions caused the attacker to flee. The ultimate goal is to escape danger. None of us know how we would react if put in the same situation. I have personal experience with this. Two years ago, I was attacked on a public street in the middle of the day in front of a government building. I was on my cell phone and totally unaware of my surroundings. I was so shocked that I did nothing for the first few seconds. Finally, I screamed as loud as I could. Luckily, a passerby came to my aid and the man was quickly detained and arrested. I learned a lot from this situation, as I know these women did last week. Never let your guard down. Never take safety for granted, even in a place as idyllic as Raleigh, North Carolina.

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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.