Safety for children

We had just finished a wonderful evening with new friends, and we were waiting for the train to take us back to our condo. Tigger was being himself and bouncing around the station when suddenly my Daddy sense went off.

My kiddo was fine, so I scanned the area. There were only 3 other people besides our group. That’s when I spotted the source of my discomfort.

A man was standing there leering at my child.

safety for children

I’m used to my son eliciting stares. For starters, he’s blonde, and we’re in a country where the predominant hair color is black. He’s also fairly entertaining. When people spend any time with us walking around, they quickly realize how he earned his nickname. People sometimes watch him just because it’s amusing. I love to watch him hopping and bouncing around because I think childhood should be just like that—carefree and fun.

This was not one of those looks.

He was a foreigner, and there was obvious desire in this man’s expression. I’ve seen that look before. Even when people have attractions that I don’t understand, I can deal with their looks because I also know there is no imminent danger.

I lacked that assurance this time. In fact, this is the first time I’ve seen that look aimed at my son.

Tigger came bounding over to me, and I managed to keep him close to me. I had to be nonchalant. I didn’t want to arouse his anxiety needlessly.

On the train the man sat next to him. Tigger, without me saying anything, came over and sat next to me on the other side. I was in the process of motioning for him to move over already, so I was relieved. The man would not take his eyes off my son.

Adrenaline surged through my body. As my pulse rate quickened, former martial arts training kicked in, and I caught myself reviewing the stranger’s weak spots. I knew exactly where I would hit him first if needed.

I am not a violent person and believe that violence is always the absolute last resort. That doesn’t mean I won’t be prepared for it in case it’s needed, though.

Things became more tense when the man stayed seated until he saw us stand up to depart.

When we got off the train, I didn’t like my prospects. I quickly identified all the closest exits, and there weren’t a lot of options. I noted possible alternate routes, as well as structures I could slam this guy into if needed, as we headed to the escalator. I forced myself to stay calm and remained with the crowd of people who were moving in the same direction.

The escalator ride was the longest of my life. He stood a mere meter from us. I fought every desire to simply step up to him and punch him in the throat. I watched his hands and body language closely for any signs that he was going to make a move.

We finally reached the landing and continued on our way. Again, I identified the exits. We were changing trains, and I knew that meant two more escalator rides once we were past the nexus of the token machines and the official station exits.

When the guy slowed down at the confluence of exits and brazenly stood there while watching to see which one we would take, our eyes finally made contact. I summoned every ounce of nonverbal “I will seriously hurt you” I could muster and blasted him with it.


We continued walking, and I spotted security guards. If he was behind me, there was about to be a scene the likes of which I’m sure most Malay have never witnessed.

He was still standing by the hub of exits. Since we still had multiple escalators with different platforms, he wouldn’t know where we were headed. To make matters more tense, we had only 3-4 minutes left to catch this train, and it was the last one for the night.

The way up the remaining moving stairs, I kept checking for him. I was ready. If he decided to follow, it was going to get ugly. To be that pervasive and predatory. . . a simple, “Hey guy, back off!” wasn’t going to be enough, although I would try the verbal route first.

He never showed up. I watched the escalators eagerly while looking back at the LED screen counting down how long of a wait before the next train arrived. When we boarded the train at last, I breathed a sigh of relief.

It would still take two hours before I was calm enough to attempt going to sleep once we arrived safely at home.

I wrestled with whether or not I should write about this experience. Safety for children is a big thing. Traveling can add some different potential complications, and I don’t want people to see this as validation for continuing to feed their fears.

The fact is this could’ve happened anywhere. And, ultimately, everything and everyone was okay. Tigger remains oblivious.

Here’s all the things that went right and what any person can do for their own safety, as well as for their child, no matter where you live or travel.

  • This was the absolute first time I’ve had an experience like this anywhere. Most people that are up to no good back off right away once they’ve been spotted or realize that you suspect something. Although, when we did finally make eye contact, he did decide to cease and desist. There were multiple variables that could have affected his decision, however.
  • Yes, there are scum in this world, but there is a far greater number of truly wonderful, amazing people. Don’t let the idiots like this one ruin it for you. Again, I’ve been involved in some form of parenting for at least a couple of decades, and Tigger has traveled with me to 14 different countries (some of them multiple times) without incident and without having this happen before.
  • I was aware and paying attention. In public, you should always be aware. Things happen when you aren’t paying attention. Potential thieves or whatever generally prey on those who seem to be unaware. You don’t have to be scanning the crowd like a Secret Service agent. Just be aware of your surroundings.
  • Pay attention to your gut. You have this sense for a reason. Listen to it! I’ve staved off all kinds of problems, (not even related to safety) simply because I pay attention to that inner guide.
  • I remained calm (no easy task!) and stayed with a crowd. There is safety in numbers. People are much less likely to do something stupid when they’re in a group of potential witnesses and interferers.
  • I was prepared to make a scene. Just like I’ve told Tigger before, if something happens like this, be as loud and obnoxious as possible. I once thwarted a mugger simply by yelling “NO! I WON’T GIVE YOU MY WALLET!” at the top of my lungs, therefore drawing lots of unwanted attention. (Note: I’m not encouraging you to resist would-be muggers. Most law enforcement will advise you to not resist. You have to make your own decision based on the situation, prior self-defense training, etc.).
  • Had we not been catching another train, I would’ve immediately alerted security or made a scene rather than exiting the terminal. Even if I was dead wrong about my hunch, I’d rather be seen as the crazy Westerner than to lament later. You’re definitely safer in the middle of a public place than on a dark street outside at midnight.

safety for children, malaysia, kuala lumpur

By and large, the world is a safe place. But sometimes you do have to be prepared for the relatively few A-holes. Don’t let fear stop you from enjoying your life.

What other tips do you have for safety for children and adults, especially when traveling?

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  1. Wow that’s pretty intense, I would not have been able to restrain myself. But you did good, I hope this guy gets locked up.

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    • Well, I hope he doesn’t do anything more than what he did with us. It was definitely a very creepy experience, and one I’m glad is pretty rare.

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  2. Getting caught up! I totally agree with what Patti said, but it’s a shame it has to be that way. I was tense just reading it. It really does make you think how complacent we are most times. Safe travels, T.

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    • It is truly a shame. So important to not be complacent wherever you are in the world, especially at home.

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  3. That’s a terrible experience. I’m glad nothing happened and you both are safe. I’m always checking what’s happening around my kids. Almost 10 years ago two ladies wanted to grab my one month baby boy while I was changing his diaper in a Convent bathroom in Mexico while visiting that tourist place. My mom was near so I called her really loud and the ladies went off. Another situation happened in a restaurant, so I never stop being alert.

    We definitely need to enjoy but always need to pay attention, no matter where you are.
    I agree about phones too!

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  4. I’m glad everything worked out okay. Sketchy people are the worst and the after affects are often worse because you’re left thinking about what could have happened hours after the fact.

    Also, great safety list. Do you mind if I add one piece of advice to your list? Damn iphones. I know how addictive it can be to be connected 24/7, but the amount of people walking around with their heads bowed down into their phones these days is just incredible and dangerous. If you’re not paying attention to your surroundings in certain places, especially in public transport, it can be very dangerous.

    I never have my phone out in public when traveling unless I’m completely lost and need a quick glance at a map. (This happens often.) But, even then, I step off to the side and try to do it quickly. If you’re not paying attention to someone who is paying attention to you, you’re advertising your vulnerability as a tourist or an “outsider”.

    Put the phones down…and pay attention! (Man, I sound old, right? 🙂

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    • I’ve included smart phones in other posts. I see so many people doing just what you describe, and all I can think is “You’re asking for it.” I do the same as you. If I HAVE to use it, I duck into a cafe, bathroom, or some place where I’m not easily seen. No need to scream “Hey! I have something expensive you might like right here!”

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  5. Wow… that was absolutely gripping. My heart was racing just reading your post. I’m so glad nothing happened… and glad you shared your experience – it’s a great wakeup call. Yet, surely that could have happened anywhere…

    As you say, fear of something like that happening is definitely not a reason to give up on your travel dreams… overcoming fear is such a huge part of getting up the guts to go traveling, especially full-time, in the first place!! I’ve been on the road for six years with my hubby, but we take our homes with us (an RV and a sailboat), which is a little different…

    I have total admiration for you living this adventure with your son…

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    • One of these days we may join you in the RV and sailboat thing. First, I’ll need to learn to sail, though. 🙂

      Definitely can’t let fear stop you from living. Imagine where we’d be if we all did that!

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  6. Good for you for publishing this. With nothing more than instinct sometimes we blame ourselves for thinking the worst of someone in case we’re wrong, but we really should trust our instincts in something like this. So often it may be too late if we don’t. Well done for not alerting Tigger too. That must have been so hard. I’m tempted to say that a woman may have to handle that differently, and alert the child because she might not be physically strong enough, or feel that she is, to feel as confident as you did about dealing with it. The thing which really amazes me is that this guy was so blatant about it when Tigger was with you, really, I have no idea how tall you are, but in photos you definitely look like someone who can take care of himself – and others!

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    • Thanks, Linda. That’s what really bothered me, too. I’m not a small guy in either dimension. With most people that seem to be sizing up candidates, once I give them a look or whatever, it’s all it takes. I don’t even have to do that most of the time. The way I carry myself, and the fact that I’m fairly stocky, are usually enough to keep troublesome people at a distance. To be SO bold was just amazing to me, and greatly concerned me because those are the idiots who will try something.

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  7. WOW – good for you. I am so glad my husband is observant – i am usually looking down bc it is so hard for me to walk anywhere. UGH. people are something else.

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  8. I absolutely love reading your stuff Talon. You always pepper your articles about the challenges you have faced with sound, rational, no drama, advice for avoiding the same. Really glad that both Tigger and you are safe. Even more glad that he has a level headed Dad who knows how to stay calm and handle a potentially bad situation. Thanks for sharing, as always!

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    • Thanks, Jenni. I always feel like it isn’t very helpful if someone shares an experience and doesn’t also share how they did it, dealt with, lessons learned, etc. If it isn’t helpful or entertaining, it’s just fluff IMO. 😀

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  9. Bravo! You did great.. I’m calm 90% of the time but I once lost a friend visiting me at school, in a crowd with a guy I didn’t trust and had that feeling as well. Luckily I was able to track her and save her before it got too far but she was shook up and I lifted him off her by his pants and threw him out of the room; but I had an group with me otherwise he might have tried to fight back. The rage boiled my blood for a good three hours so I showered, cleaned my room an anything else I could to keep my hands busy. It’s a horrible feeling but your right it can’t keep us from meeting all the good people and enjoying the world. You’re an inspiration to future nomads.

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  10. Love how you handled this!!!!

    I, being a girl, and sometimes, being a girl who looks way younger than she is, have been followed a few times, and even had (more than) one guy – after i (lied) said I was in 16 (to get half priced train tickets) switch seats and start rubbing my UPPER THIGH.

    I cannot agree with you more about making a scene!

    Let me tell you how quick people back off when you yell at them (call them a child molester) at the top of your lungs in a crowd. It’s the best thing I think . Most would be whatevers dont want a hundred or even 10 witnesses. And yea, creepy. Glad your daddy-senses went off and everyone was fine!

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    • Exactly! They have a high degree of self preservation. They don’t want to get caught. You draw that much attention to yourself, and they will usually get as far away from you as possible.

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  11. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes I think we need just a hint of scare to wake us up a bit. It’s too easy to become complacent. I’m not saying you are by any means, but it’s human nature to sometimes let our guard down. And it’s the best advice to stay aware of your circumstances/surroundings. I see so many travelers standing in the middle of a sidewalk, room, train platform, etc., looking completely bewildered and I always think they might as well put a big red bulls eye on their backs!

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    • Precisely! And really, you need to do the same even in your own hometown. Accidents, etc., are often the result of feeling to secure and in control and not paying as much attention as we need. Gotta do that anywhere.

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  12. You showed a lot more restraint than I would have. I am not violent at all. I’ve never been in a fight nor do I have any training. But I would have been a bit more vocal than you were. People like this, assuming he was a child perv, are the worst human beings on earth.

    Glad this worked out well but I would have been just as upset as you (possibly more).

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    • I almost said something on the escalator, but at that point I just wanted to be rid of him. Had he continued on, there’s no way I would’ve remained silent. You want to give people the benefit of a doubt, but his behavior at the exit showed his motives.

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  13. Yikes!

    You handled it just great, but I have to wonder if the next parent with a cute blond son to cross that animal’s path is now mourning a terrible loss. Not much you can do about that.

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