OPINION: I've had to tell my teenage daughter to watch out for all men

Ruth Davies says she has had to tell her teenage daughter to be on guard of all men after a recent incident

Ruth Davies says she has had to tell her teenage daughter to be on guard of all men after a recent incident - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We introduce children to fear, teaching them how to keep themselves safe, on a need-to-know basis.

Early on we show them how to turn around going downstairs, that ovens are “hot, hot, hot” and as we strap them into car seats we explain why.

Later it’s how to safely cross a road then further on we talk about stranger danger. Something which gets progressively more worrying the older they get, when the information they need to know is far more frightening than we want for our children. But it’s necessary.

The independence of being at high school and out into the world, has been huge for my eldest daughter Florence.

She’s loving it, but, at the same time it’s so frightening to think of her on her own. When she was a baby I remember asking my mum when I could stop worrying and she told me never.

In fact, she said, “the worrying just gets worse”. When she’s 15 and you don’t know where she is, that’s the crescendo and then, just when you think she’s grown up, settled down and worrying a little less again, she will have a baby of her own and you’ll be worrying double.”

She was right, it does indeed get worse and while I try to impress upon Florence how dangerous other people can be, we think we are invincible when young. I think she’s often not grasped my words of the wise. Perhaps it’s only when we make our own mistakes we really learn lessons.

She left school via a different exit to usual one afternoon last week, scenario I hadn’t considered.

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When she found herself alone, in an unfamiliar place while the light was fading, a man approached her and tried to stop her from walking past him. God knows why? At best he wanted to steal her phone or scare her, perhaps he got some sort of perverse kick out of that? At worst… Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

She was already scared having discovered she didn’t know where she was, then this unwelcome encounter made her heart race with a fear she’d previously been unaware could exist.

Even though I’d warned her. I’d also told her what to do if she ever found herself here. Run, scream, shout for help.

And I’ve told her about situations I have been in. Sadly, as woman, we all will have similar stories. A follow, a leer, an unwelcome touch. I’ve told her some of mine.

One when I was a little older than her, squashed into the Tube in my school uniform when a man rubbed his groin against my leg while grinning at me.

I shouted, loudly, telling everyone on the train what was happening. It was the 90s, no one did a thing, but at least the man shuffled off down the carriage, despite it being packed to the brim.

Florence, unlike me, is not quite so demonstrative. She’s timid at times, won’t ask for a bill in a restaurant for example and though her confidence is through the roof for other things, sometimes she just crumbles.

When during this horrid experience a car pulled up beside her, wound the window down so that the driver could loudly ask if she was OK and if the man was bothering her, she didn’t know what to do.

The man, at this part of the story, disappeared proving he was there for no good and Florence was far too frightened to say anything other than that she was OK. I’ve since told her she should have asked them to call the police and kept walking, not gone anywhere near the car but definitely said no, she was NOT ok!

Next she phoned me in floods of tears with a “Mummy, I don’t know where I am, I’m scared”. I wanted to run to her, I knew exactly where she was as I have her on Google track, a very undesirable part of  Norwich and not anywhere you’d want your child to be but I was seven miles away without, as bad luck had it, a car that day.

Daddy was unreachable in a meeting but thankfully my mother-in-law got to her quickly

That day, despite speaking with her, telling her, warning of the dangers, Florence learned her own lesson with, thankfully, no dire consequence.

It was hard to let her go off to school the next day, even though we’d spoken again about making sure she was always in safe places. She would have been entirely forgiven for wanting my offered lift but instead, with her fearlessness of adolescence, she wanted to go it alone. And good for her. A horrid encounter but a little more streetwise for it, a little better at safe-guarding herself for the future.

She’s learned what it’s like to be a woman out on her own.

Isn’t it horrific she has to?

Not just once, but over, and over again, always hoping the end result, the consequences of walking into a dark street or simply just getting into a cab, won’t be too awful to see.

The world would be better if men just learned to not go around frightening and harming women but… They don’t. So, women have to fear all men, even the good ones, even those who stop their cars to see if we’re alright.

Fearing all of them is what keeps us safest. I remind Florence of this hoping she won’t make silly decisions, hoping she won’t accidentally walk the wrong way again.

Always be on your guard I tell her, always be prepared. And I think, horrible as that moment was for her, it means she will be more mindful.

I’m looking forward to the dreary winter light brightening into spring, then summer. I will worry less when Florence leaves school in daylight but my mum was right, the worry is never going to end!

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk