Fortunately for my wife I’m able to share this story without any significant traumatizing memories associated with it. That’s not to take away from the real emotional fear she experienced the night of the event, but luckily she escaped victimhood. Unfortunately for many women out there this is not the case. While sometimes there is nothing you as the victim could have done to prevent the crime there are measure that you can take to minimize, identify, and negate potential risk. My intent is not to make a victim beat themselves up by the mistakes they may have made or potential missed opportunities. Unfortunately they do this themselves unnecessarily as no one ever always makes the perfect choice or works every outcome in their favor. They are a victim. It’s really that simple.
Regardless of how many opportunities they may or may not have missed the fault rests solely with the evil nature of the attacker. The hope for this article is that by sharing it others may potentially garner some lessons learned from Jennifer’s ordeal. Ideally those either directly benefit the reader or stage their mindset to recognize a yet to occur potentially threatening situation. Aided by the benefit of hindsight and the good fortune that this incident was not so life shattering that analyzing her actions would be inappropriate, we’ve sought to learn from that night. As you’ll see below, although Jennifer escaped becoming a victim that night both mistakes and good decisions were made. She learned from both and we hope you do as well.
In the early 2000’s, relatively early on in our relationship Jennifer received a pretty good career opportunity. She had applied for a job at the Post Office and had received an acceptance and invitation to take the Postal exam in Louisville, Ky. This was a few hours away from where we lived and my career with the Army would not allow me to attend with her. Slightly concerned about her traveling and spending the night alone in Louisville I encouraged her to take one of my pistols along and gave her my typical be careful and remain alert speeches.
After arriving at her hotel and checking in she called me to inform me of an incident that had occurred. During her check in process, a man meandering around the lobby drew her attention as he intently stared at her in an unnerving way. As
most of us have experienced at one time or another she picked up on the being undressed with his eyes look. While this alone may be mildly irritating the man’s hard stare and refusal to attempt any discretion was what unnerved her. After completing the check in process she exited the lobby to drive around to the area her room was located. To her unnerving surprise, the individual also exited the lobby, entered his vehicle and followed her around to the same location. Noting he had parked four spots away from her she decided to force his hand by waiting him out and remained in her car. After a thirty minute wait he proved his patience was greater. Finally she exited her car and unsurprisingly he did as well. This was a Red Roof Inn in which the rooms all had exterior entrances. The man proceeded to follow her and entered into the elevator with her. During the brief elevator ride neither spoke nor did she look in his direction, fearful that eye contact would invite conversation or realize the hidden terror playing through her mind.
Upon exiting the elevator she went one direction while the man went the other at a slow deliberate pace. A pace that she was sure to allow time to identify her room. She hurriedly went to her room, entered, shut and locked the door with the additional security lock common in hotel rooms and sat terrified by the eeriness of the encounter. It’s been many years since the encounter and I can’t honestly recall our initial conversation on this matter as the later events far outweigh it in the folds of my memory. Despite this lack of recall I suspect I consoled her, gently pointed out some errors in her handling (which I’ll address later) of the situation, and informed her to remain even more diligent during the remainder of the stay.
It’s relevant to note hear that Jennifer is not one to exaggerate a situation and a notably forthright and honest soul. Despite these qualities she is a relatively big chicken disguised as a beautiful woman. She simply does not like staying alone and allows her imagination to get the best of her at times. This coupled with my occupation which left her alone on more nights than not made for an interesting and mentally trying experience for her at times over the years.
I remember one phone conversation years later while we lived in a home with a basement when in mid-sentence she stopped and stated she thought she heard something in the basement. When I asked ‘what’? She said it sounded as if
someone were whispering in a creepy voice. Restraining the desire to chuckle at such a statement I informed her that it goes against most criminal practices to spookily call out to their intended victims in a creepy voice. I then informed her to grab her firearm and clear the basement for her peace of mind. That said, after having children she still remained a bit of a chicken her protective nature as a mother always overcame her fear.
Back to Louisville in 2002. Understanding Jennifer’s personality this initial conversation did not overly concern me, but it did raise a level of alertness. In particular the thirty minute car wait. I knew she would not exaggerate the incident, however I also recognized that her perception could potentially be skewed by a general fearful nature. I considered various options such as mere coincidence- not likely; hostile intent- not likely but a possibility; and an aggressive attraction with hope to spark conversation. The last seemed most probable, but as well seemed awkwardly implemented. Regardless, she had no need to leave the room for the night and was secure behind a locked door in a hotel. All in all I felt relatively comfortable with the situation and knowing she would remain vigilant we said goodbye.
While sleeping in the apartment alone suddenly my phone rang at approximately 2:00 A.M. I answered it to hear Jennifer in a state of desperate panic she informed me in a tearful voice that the individual had knocked on her door and upon no answer was messing with the door handle. She knew it to be the same man as she was able to glimpse him through a crack in the curtains. My initial first thought was why are you calling me instead of the police, but I did my best to remain calm and assess the situation. Talk about a feeling of helplessness. She had positioned herself in between her two hotel beds for the phone call. I asked if she had the firearm and she said yes. I calmly (though inside I was in a personal state of fearful panic) ran her through a short check of the weapon to ensure it was ready to deliver its intended payload should the intruder breach her door. I then instructed her to loudly proclaim that she had a gun and would kill the individual if they came through the door. I additionally told her to do just that as soon as the door gave in. As I was giving those instructions I called 911 on my cell phone and gave a very brief description and requested they assist in getting a dispatch to her hotel in Louisville. Due to our different geographical locations the 911 dispatcher had to facilitate a connection to the Louisville police and did an exceptional job at reacting to the unique situation. The Louisville police quickly dispatched an officer to the seen. They additionally called the Hotels front desk and informed them of the ongoing incident. During this time the potential intruder had given up on trying to get into the room and left.
The police arrived at her room, filed a report and with the help of the hotel staff transferred her to a room right next to the office. The rest of the evening went without event. The next day she described the assailant and informed her postal instructor of the incident. Upon finishing her event for the day she returned home. Upon her return for the second portion of the Postal training a few weeks later that same instructor asked her if she saw the news. She informed him that she hadn’t. He then went on to explain the following day (or potentially a couple days) the police arrested a serial rapist at the Red Roof Inn. The instructor was certain by her description and the face on the news that it was the same individual. I discovered the following from my own research. Daniel Cummings, the serial rapist was eventually tried on 53 charges that included 14 sexual assaults. He had been staying in the Red Roof Inn as the police were onto him at this point in his wave of terror. He was eventually caught by a detective convincing his mother to reveal his location in exchange for a hug with her son before they took him to jail. He was eventually sentenced to over 400 years in prison for his crimes, which later due to our greatly flawed justice sentence was reduced to 70. Either way it is not likely that he will see the world as a free man again.
For the conclusion of this piece I would like to bring attention to some decisions Jennifer made through the event that long ago day. At the end of the ordeal she was fortunate that all she suffered was a frightening experience rather than an actual assault that so many less fortunate women do. I suspect part of her good luck in this situation could likely be related to the fact the individual was staying in the hotel and therefore a little less bold due to restrictions on ability to make a clean
get-away. Whatever the reason fate played to her favor that day it is still prudent to examine actions and identify where improvements can be made going forward. We have long ago went through this process, and have decided to share those with you.
Before we move to improvements let me first focus on an overarching win for the night and one that I consider very important to harness. Intuition. That’s the name I’ll choose to call it here but it goes by many; sixth sense, weird feeling, Spidey sense and likely countless others. It’s that inner feeling that something isn’t right with a situation. Sometimes it’s hard to identify the ‘what’ or ‘why’, but something just doesn’t feel right. There has been much written on this topic and many theories behind its driving force such as spiritual, psychic, enlightenment and others. While some of those may be a part or contributor to intuition I believe that the underlying force is less fantastical. I believe it is simply your subconscious fighting (as a survival mechanism) for space in conscious thought. Without diving to deeply into subconscious theory it can best be understood (IMO) as the filter for the conscious mind. It processes everything from the slightest detail, sound, smell, expression, etc… And more manageable conscious thought arises. If this filter were not in place one would likely quickly go insane or find themselves helpless due to sensory overload. I imagine it to be similar to the infamous blue crash screen on a computer.
Over the course of our lives we learn a lot at the subconscious level. In time and with experience we differentiate a smile and a scowl by associated outcomes. Whether you are aware or not you are constantly taking in information and your subconscious processes that. I believe this intuition is often simply that the subconscious has registered a threat or trail of them that kicks in a survival mechanism. Regardless of the cause there are near uncountable cases of someone following their intuition and avoiding peril. Conversely there are numerous victim accounts that recall something just didn’t feel right. It is a reasonable measure to trust your instinct and allow intuition to guide you if it begs your attention.
All in all Jennifer’s intuition and observation led her to recognize a potential threat that evening and likely saved her from a very traumatizing event. Had she been completely oblivious to the threat she very well may have made critical mistakes that produced a different outcome that evening. That said she went against her gut feeling a few times that should be addressed. There are many reasons that individuals place themselves at risk. A few of the more common ones that I believe worth
mentioning are as follows.
- Talk themselves down. This is where you feel
like somethings wrong but talk yourself out of a state of heightened awareness
and instead convince yourself you’re overreacting.
- Social Fear. This is when an individual goes
against their gut for fear of social perception. It may be fear as being
perceived racist; fear of coming across rude or eccentric, and numerous other issues
- Convenience. Often intuition encourages a change
of routine or plans. Essentially it is an unknown potential problem requesting
that you disrupt your activities due to an ambiguous feeling. Much like the
apocalyptic preacher on the corner warning of destruction ahead it is easier to
ignore such warning than to adjust course.
Jennifer undoubtedly had a combination of the above during her event that day. Let’s review some opportunities that she failed to capitalize on.
- The Lobby. It was initially in the lobby during checkout that Jennifer first
felt uncomfortable. It’s likely that social fear came into play here and
resulted in inactivity. Rather than merely paying better attention she could
have taken some proactive steps toward calling attention to the potential
threat. This could have been as simple as pointing out to the staff that she
felt uncomfortable and request an escort to her room. It could have been
something as simple as explaining the fear to the staff and requesting they ask
if he needs assistance while she waited. Granted at this stage in the incident
such request may be perceived as unwarranted fear, but who cares. You can live
with wrong impressions, however certain errors in judgment are not so
- The Car.
After becoming keenly aware that the threat followed her out of the lobby
Jennifer continued to her vehicle and then to her room. This could have been
better handled in a few ways. Through her actions she provided the threat with
knowledge of her vehicle as well as the general vicinity of her room. The
simplest thing to have done in this situation would have been to immediately
turn around and go back into the lobby and address the situation with the
staff. From there a resolution could likely have been found and if nothing else
it would’ve shown to the individual not only was she aware of a threat, but
staff were now also aware. Moving past this, upon realizing the individual was
following her to her parking spot she could’ve done a number of things. She could
have called the staff from her car and informed them of the situation and
waited while they sent security to address the situation.
After waiting 30
minutes and having her fears proven true as he exited the car as soon as she
did she did not heed her gut. Rather than recognizing things are not working in
her favor, and rather than correct course, she like many so often do committed
to an unfavorable path.
- The Elevator. This is a relatively straight forward situation. Bottom line is
she should not have gotten on the elevator with the individual. This may have
meant getting immediately off and cursing yourself as if you’ve forgotten
something, or simply leaving the foyer as soon as you realize the threat
intends to ride along with you. There is no reason to willingly enter into a
confined closed off space with a potential threat. He could have forced the
door on the elevator (stalling the elevator without sounding alarm) and raped
her right then. This was probably the most vulnerable she was throughout the ordeal.
- Disclosing her room location. If you are aware or suspicious you are being observed for nefarious reasons you should avoid providing any useful information to the observed. Your room number definitely fits this description. It would have been
better to avoid going to her room while under observation. If she had not
realized until it was too late that she had disclosed her room there are still
options. The simplest of which is calling the front desk and requesting a room
- Actions in the room. Obviously calling me rather than 911 was not the best
decision, however it worked out in the end. To her credit she did attempt to
call the hotel security first (it was a hot button on the phone). After they
failed to answer and in a state of panic she called me. This was an easy error
for her to identify after the nerves have settled, but is an excellent
demonstration of a stress reaction rather than a practiced one. If you follow
my writings (I run a civilian side blog) you know that I’m a huge advocate of
predetermined reactions. Without diving in this topic and derailing the article
it is essentially the practice of brainstorming scenarios, determining
optimized reactions, rehearsing those (mentally and physically when
appropriate). This practice acts as a buffer to high stress situations by providing
a reference to fall back to, rather than winging it in the moment.
This is simply one story that turned out favorably in the end. You likely have stories similar, in that your intuition, situational awareness, and a little luck worked out well for you. You likely also have situations that you’ve ignored that intuition and paid the consequences of complacency. As humans we will continue to err. One of our greatest threats often being other human’s predictability is often elusive, even so this only serves to highlight the importance of intuition. Nonetheless, if we continue to learn along the journey and implement those lessons we will surely fair better than the willfully blind.
Do you have a story to share or something to add? Please share it with us in the comments below.