Stranger touching DS in station store - v v long, but seeking reassurance that IWNBU

(139 Posts)
GertrudeSlojinski Sun 14-Jul-13 03:01:04

After a looong day, DS (4yo) and I popped into a store at Victoria Station to pick up a piece of plastic tat little toy I had promised him. DS is standing right next to me looking at one stand, I was looking at the opposite stand. DS and I don't look very alike at all, so it is possible that anyone looking at us could have thought he was unaccompanied (other than the lady i.e. me! standing within 45cm of him!).

Suddenly, out of the blue, a man (white male, wearing glasses, 50s/60s, approx 5'10", wearing a casual suit but of slightly dishevelled appearance) appears/stands next to DS - he is looking higher up the same stand and, without removing his gaze from that higher level, puts his arm around DS and starts to touch/fondle DS's shoulder whilst appearing to pull DS closer to him as though to lead him away. Poor DS froze! It happened in a split second and was clearly deliberate!

I immediately pulled DS away and challenged the man, telling him to get his hands off my son and not deign to touch him again. The man looks at me as though in anger but says nothing. I don't know how to explain it but his reaction made me think that perhaps he was not NT. He offered no explanation/excuse at all (e.g. he thought DS was alone and was trying to help). He then looks over at the stand again in a bid (I assume) to ignore me. I challenge him again, telling him he had no right to approach or lay a finger on my son. He turns to me and his response (said in a low voice but which he deliberately intended me to hear) was, "And why shouldn't I?". This chilled me to the bone and I pointed out that there was a video camera trained directly at us and I would report the incident to the British Transport Police. I turn around to find a member of staff - whilst telling them what just happened and pointing the man out to them, the man slips past us, leaving the store.

At this point, I deliberately made a decision to follow him out of the store. My short-term memory is atrocious and, having been a victim of an assault a few years ago, I remembered how difficult it was to give an accurate eye-witness description of the perpetrators. I almost wanted to leave it be but, given his reaction on being challenged, all I could think was that the man was clearly a risk (be that to himself if he in fact was not NT, or others).

I found him standing in the station concourse staring at the display (without his glasses on), as though looking for a train to catch. I took my phone out and said to him that I was going to take a photo of him and send it on to the BTP (I know you can take photos of people in public areas without requesting their consent, but I wanted to avoid any possibility of my actions being accused as underhand/surreptitious). He appeared to take a step towards me and DS and I say again loudly that he is not to touch my child. I wanted to get as many people's attention as possible. I leave the man staring after DS and I, and we return to the store. I tell the staff again what just happened, that I had taken a photo of the man and that I was going to file a report with the BTP. They reassured me and told me that they would happily give up any CCTV to the BTP to assist. To try and regain some normalcy for DS and reassure him that he had done nothing wrong, DS and I continue browsing.

One of the store staff suddenly approached me and DS and asked if I would recognise the man. I said yes and asked why. Turns out the man had just come back into the store! He was approaching the children's section again but on seeing me and the member of staff looking at him, turns on his heel and leaves the store. He goes to sit on one of the public benches and proceeds to stare into the store.

At this point, I decide that I shouldn't wait to file a report with the BTP. I head back into the station (the man stares at me and DS, and I stared back to show I was not going to be cowed) and approach the ticket barriers and request that the guards contact the BTP. All the while, the man is still sitting on the same bench but, by this time, has turned around/changed his seat to face me and DS. I pick DS up and turn his face away so he can't see the man staring at us, and I explain to him what is going on. A member of the BTP finally turns up after what seems like ages. I look towards the bench but the man appears to have moved on shortly before.

After a brief walk-around, we never did find the man. Long story short, the BTP took a statement from me and I emailed them the pictures there and then. I was nervous that perhaps I had overreacted but they reassured me that I had done the right thing. They said that they would put his details out to the guards at the barriers to be on the look-out should he try to board a train.

Then, half an hour later, I receive a phone call from the Met who appear to imply that it is only worth their pursuing it if I thought there was any adverse intent to the man's actions. The officer I spoke to didn't use the word "sexual" at any point, but it seemed clear to me that that was what he meant. I told him that I could not say with all certainty what the man's intention was, but it clearly could not be positive if he made no attempt to offer any rational explanation about/for his behaviour. I was told they will contact me should anything come up.

I'm not hopeful that the man will be found. I am still shaking and seething about the whole thing. I have, in the past, given DS the "talk" several times about what to do if he is approached by anyone, strangers or not, and that he is to tell them in a loud voice to leave him alone and immediately shout for/come and get me or his father, but my poor 4yo just froze in shock/fear. I feel like I failed to protect DS, and worse, may even have put him at further risk by going after the man to take a photo. All I could think the whole time was that I wanted to hit the man for touching my baby and make sure he doesn't get the chance to do that to someone else's child. Now finding it hard to sleep as I keep replaying the incident in my head. I know in my heart of hearts that my actions were probably not unreasonable, but some reassurance would be much appreciated.

welshfirsttimemummy Sun 14-Jul-13 03:09:15

YADNBU. His response to you was just chilling! He shouldn't touch your DS because he is YOUR DS and he clearly does not know him!shock

And you did protect him, you immediately challenged he man and contacted the police. smile

McGeeDiNozzo Sun 14-Jul-13 03:15:07

Absolutely not unreasonable.

If that happened to our DD we'd have been to the BTP's office with lightning speed too.

AgentZigzag Sun 14-Jul-13 03:16:17

YANBU to feel a bit shaken up, you were there and read the situation, if it wasn't creepy as fuck why would you have gone to so much trouble to not let it drop?

Although it's not nice your DS was in this, it's reassuring he froze and felt uncomfortable. That means he knew it wasn't right and didn't automatically comply, that's good IMO.

And you shouldn't feel guilty for following the man to take photos, you were doing it to stop the him from potentially doing anything to anyone else.

He might have been harmless and socially inept, but there are some who get an extra kick from doing whatever it is they're doing in plain sight.

There are tiny little nuances to a situation that you can read like a book. You maybe can't put your finger on exactly what it is, but you just know it doesn't add up.

The risk of ignoring those thoughts and brushing it off as 'he didn't actually do anything' is too much of a risk considering what the possible outcomes can be.

I don't give a monkeys how sad it might make other people to think society's going to the dogs because I'm suspicious of unusual behaviour around my children, you're there to protect your children, and today you did a bloody good job.

NatashaBee Sun 14-Jul-13 03:26:30

YANBU. I hope they track the guy down.

ravenAK Sun 14-Jul-13 03:27:31

What other posters have said - you acted entirely sensibly.

AgentZigzag is spot on about the nuances; the man may be entirely harmless &/or in need of support himself, but his behaviour & demeanour came across as threatening & triggered your instinctive alarm system - it's there for a reason & should be listened to.

Rummikub Sun 14-Jul-13 03:29:53

It's the why shouldn't I that chills me. Hope you and ds are ok.

CheungFun Sun 14-Jul-13 03:37:33

<shudders> that's sounds scary OP, I think anyone else would have reported the man and should have like you did. It's the 'why shouldn't I' it's so scornful and arrogant.

I hope you and your DS are ok.

When I first saw the title i thought maybe it was someone patting him on the head or something. I have had a few old men (60's/70's) pat DS on the head and one old man on the bus held his hand out to DS to hold hands with him, but all these occasions have been innocent, you just know if something is right or wrong.

MammaTJ Sun 14-Jul-13 04:36:36

Oh my goodness, that sounds awful.

I remember how scared I was when a man took my DD in to the bushes in our local gardens. I posted a thread on her about it. It was about a year ago and I am still shaken. I also challenged the man and his reaction was just 'off' too. I also contacted the police and they were wonderful. I was lucky though, in that this is a smallish town and he was local. The police assured me he meant no harm but I still think about it.

I do think the man in your case probably did mean harm though. I hope the police actually look at the CCTV.

harborhaze Sun 14-Jul-13 05:06:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I think you reacted perfectly and you demonstrated to your son exactly how to react to such a strange situation. You loudly challenged him and contacted both store staff and the police. You protected your child from a scary situation for both of you.

GoodMorningMoon Sun 14-Jul-13 06:13:32

YADNU. How terrifying. ..I can only hope I'd be as brave as you in that situation.

Agree, you showed your son to stand up for himself and that you will protect him. Hope you're both alright x

Chottie Sun 14-Jul-13 06:23:37

Well done! you did the right thing and were really brave to challenge this man. His picture and details are on file now.

This is definitely spooky, who would just go and put their arm around anyone else's child?

May09Bump Sun 14-Jul-13 06:40:42

God that is chilling - well done for going to that extent to report him. Hope you and your son are OK.

I did a similar thing - my LO was not touched. We were playing near a playground in the park, when I noticed someone sneeking about in the bushes - it was a guy taking pictures of kids in the playground. Now it was hot and some kids were playing naked in the sprinklers, he saw that I had noticed him and he appeared to fix himself / zip up at the same time.

I reported him immediate to the park keepers and they called the police. The guy had disappeared. He reappeared later, again reported him.
I spoke to the police and they were aware of this "character" but had nothing on him. I followed it up to say did they look at cctv, did a visit etc . But said cctv had nothing - there were 8 cameras in the area ffs and no visit as I could not definitely say he was handling himself.

All I could do in the end was report it and speak to the parents in the park whose kids were naked (ideally nothing wrong with this - but I would want the option of covering up in light of above).

It is sickening, I couldn't hold my son close enough. So, know a little of how you are feeling. Make sure you have some hot sweet tea, as you will be in shock and probably be running on adrenaline.

People go on about being over the top about these predators and kids should still have freedom, but you hear about this and often are touched by it. I don't care - I'm keeping my kids as close as possible.

May09Bump Sun 14-Jul-13 06:41:38

Thanks for posting - we often go through this station, and I'll certainly be on higher alert

HokeyCokeyPigInAPokey Sun 14-Jul-13 06:50:12

Bloody hell, you must be so shaken up.

Well done for being having such presence of mind and not letting him walk off.

Me and my dd's are always in that station and in WHSmith, it's like our first stop for snacks.

Thank you for sharing i will be even more alert now.

ghosteditor Sun 14-Jul-13 07:08:08

Well done OP - sounds like you reacted rationally and appropriately despite your panic - and you absolutely did protect your DS.

Sounds like a man with severe social dysfunction, or on a power trip.

Hold your DS close today.

HooverFairy Sun 14-Jul-13 07:16:45

Definitely NBU, you did exactly the right thing, you acted on your instinct that something wasn't right. This man sounds like a creep. I hope you are both feeling better soon.

Burmobasher Sun 14-Jul-13 07:34:11

Yanbu, his reaction was all wrong when you challenged him. Well done op and I hope your ds is ok

AnneNonimous Sun 14-Jul-13 07:36:40

You were not at all unreasonable and acted in a much more well thought out manner than I would have! Well done for doing the right thing, and well done for showing your DS you will always do what you should to keep him safe.

How scary, I hope you and DS are both ok x

JambalayaCodfishPie Sun 14-Jul-13 07:40:01

Last year, a man tried to expose himself, masturbating, to my eight year old daughter. Luckily, I saw him first, and was able to manipulate the situation so she didn't notice a thing.

I was incredibly shaken up though, and after posting here, was told by another MNer what I am going to tell you.

You were a great Mum yesterday. You protected your child. You did your job.

katydid02 Sun 14-Jul-13 07:46:40

YWNBU. Well done for doing as you did and for taking the photos, now they are on file in case he tries anything else.
I hope that you are both OK.

Yanbu!!! It sounds perfect what you did, especially taking a picture of him, I don't think if have dared to do that, I would have been to scared of making a fuss but it sounds like exactly the right thing to do. I don't think you out DS at risk doing that, and it was worth doing.

Do you have a contact for the police who called you? I would chase it up and say you really do want it pursuing. It is horrible if they are suggesting you should have waited to find out what his intentions were. As if your evidence will only be of use when he gets arrested for doing something worse and you see it on the news sad
Can you be a bit firmer that you do think he was trying to lead your son away?

perplexedpirate Sun 14-Jul-13 08:00:22

Well done! Quick thinking and brave. Was this Manchester Victoria?

SteepApproach Sun 14-Jul-13 08:05:05

YANBU. Indeed, you wouldn't have been unreasonable to call 999 on the spot. If you can do that in stations, I'm not sure! I wouldn't have managed to think of the transport police myself.

You've said you previously talked to your son about "stranger danger" and what to do. I presume you reassured him it was ok to freeze? It's a completely normal reaction, adults do it too. However, you had the presence of mind to follow the man and take his picture. You did an unquestionably great job yesterday, both in protecting your son and, potentially, other children.

I hope you'll both be ok.

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