What to Do When You Think You're Going to Be Abducted

The fear of being “taken” was instilled in me at a young age.  I remember being 11 reading about Jaycee Dugard, who had been kidnapped when she too was 11 years old and kept in captivity before being released in 2009, 18 years later. I was inundated by media, movies and countless gut-wrenching news stories about these girls who were drugged, knocked out, abducted, and forced to live in captivity for days, months, or years.  It was, and is, an active fear of mine.  However, it always felt like a far-away fear, something that would probably never come to pass, like getting in a plane crash or nuclear fallout. It could happen, but that didn't mean it would.

Until the day it did.

I had been traveling alone all weekend.  After a successful Easter Sunday catching up with my Irish friend in Limerick, I flew to Amsterdam.  I became flustered rather quickly trying to find out how to get out of Schiphol, how to get to my hostel and how to work an ATM, since none of them seemed to accept my card.

At long last, however, I was at ease, and I went to a cafe.  It was open only to tourists and had a large smoking room in the back.  I sat on the couches listening to the loud pop music and observing my fellow visitors.  There was me, four young looking boys in a corner, and a pair of guys roughly my age, if not a little older, eyeing me down from the other side of the room.  

Red flag number one. 

My phone was dying after my long commute, so I went to the only outlet in the room, which happened to be right next to the duo who found me very intriguing.  They asked me to sit with them.  Not necessarily a red flag, but I probably should’ve known better.  Problem is, I’m terrible at saying no to people for fear that I’ll hurt their feelings.  So, rather reluctantly, I sat with them.

They started peppering me with questions.  Huge red flag number two.  Again, being the concrete and honest person I am, I replied “why yes, I’m American,” “why yes, I’m here alone,” “why yes, I’m only here for the night!”

It could’ve been the reflectivity of the TV screen through the smoke, but I could’ve sworn I saw a glimmer in their eyes.

I didn't become suspicious until they asked me how old I was, and I cut myself off mid-sentence. “I’m nine--...why does it matter?”

But they already knew.  “Nineteen?” they yipped excitedly.  Again, being the direct person I am, I nodded.  After that, I started stretching the truth, saying I was from Oregon and I was a junior rather than a sophomore, but the damage was already done.  They knew I was a young American woman traveling alone, in a foreign place for the first time in my life, for only the night.

Seeing that the other boys had left, one boy started telling me about how much they loved Amsterdam, while the other went to hang out with barista.  When he came back, he and his barista buddy had brought me a cappuccino.

I had not asked for a cappuccino, I had not insinuated I wanted a cappuccino, and I had not seen this cappuccino be prepared.

Red flag number three.  Red flag number four came when I refused to drink it, and the boys started begging me to drink it, putting sugar in it for me and pushing it towards me, insisting I have some.

Reluctantly, knowing perfectly well not to take drinks from strangers, I feigned sipping, holding the mug to my lips without ever opening my mouth.  Unfortunately, in my panic, I took a sip.  My head started spinning and my hands started shaking.  

Time to go.

Here’s where my advice comes in: throughout this entire conversation, I had been texting my friend, telling him I was nervous.  When I truly got scared, I told him from that point on, no matter what I sent him, be it a random jumble of letters or a nonsensical assortment of words, that he needed to call me.  He agreed.  The moment my head started spinning, I smashed my keyboard, sending him some arbitrary, meaningless word.  When he called, his image popped up on my screen.  “Oh, sorry!” I said, holding the phone up to the boys so they could see.  “I have to take this--thanks so much for the cappuccino!”  And I booked it out of there.

I was so dizzy and paranoid that when I got back to my hostel, I clambered onto my bunk bed and stayed there for a solid two hours, waiting for the shaking in my body to subside.  It was a close call for sure, so I recommend that if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation where you feel like you’re in danger, your best bet is to simply leave.  Luckily I wasn’t followed, but if you are, go into any store front and alert the clerk to what’s going on.  They will most likely call police or keep an eye out for you.

It’s a scary world out there, but as long as you trust your gut and aren’t too naive like me, you’ll be able to get out of sticky situation scot free.