There are a couple of incidents that stood out when I lived in Europe—things that demonstrate my appeal to predators.
We were traveling through Italy during one school holiday. We went by train and had to transfer at the Rome train station, which we had been warned about. I don’t remember the specific warnings, but they likely had to do with pickpockets and theft. This train station was huge! When my mother went to purchase tickets for the next leg of our Italian journey, she opted to leave my sister and I on a bench with our luggage. We arranged that luggage around us like a fence, we were so afraid of someone taking one of our bags. When my mother returned with the tickets, there was a man who spent a long time trying to buy me. He was insistent. She refused. She may have had to involve the police, but I can’t remember.
The other thing that happened was in Moscow.
In the 70’s, it wasn’t easy for Americans to visit Russia as common tourists. I suppose it was done, but getting visas was reported to be a hassle with no guarantee of success so we opted to visit Russia with a Swedish tour group by bus. We thought it would be safer and we would be camouflaged by other people whom we resembled. Our visas were approved. Of course, my mother wore her red, white and blue outfits. And she was tall, blond and she smoked. She was a sight to behold.
One night our tour group went to a Russian bar. It might have been a disco. No one was carded—I’m pretty sure my sister and I could have had beer if we wanted. A Russian man was staring at me and eventually he wanted to dance with me. He was very insistent and I think he had money out to try to pay my mother. There was a lot of arguing and I was very uncomfortable. I didn’t want to dance with an ugly old Russian man. But he kept asking. Until we left.
I believe both these men were predators looking for a specific “type” of young girl, and I fit their requirements.
We went to Zell Am Zee, Austria with some Americans over Christmas break. I think it was a couple of families and us. We weren’t really friends with these people, but Americans band together when living in Europe and it was an opportunity to visit a country we wouldn’t have, otherwise. My sister and I were going to learn how to ski! There were other teenagers in our group a little older than us. The trip lasted several days and one night some of the kids went to a bar. They apparently don’t card anyone in Europe. I was 16 at the time. I went, too, and got so drunk I was reeling. One of the older guys from our group made sure I got back to my hotel room okay and didn’t take advantage of me in any way. He certainly could have if he had wanted to because he was taller and stronger and I was drunk. I think I kind of wanted him to, though.
I think that somehow I had begun to associate romantic feelings and sexual desire with getting fucked up. As far as I can remember, this was the first time I had drunk alcohol.* My confused, under-aged brain was beginning to be altered by alcohol in ways that weren’t well understood back then. And my brain was already on a twisted path of denial that had caused me to repress a traumatic experience.
When you drink before your brain is finished developing it changes you. You’re more likely to become addicted and certain neural pathways are altered. I think the drinking age should be raised to 25. Note: This is the age when auto insurance companies lower rates because drivers aren’t as likely to make poor decisions that result in accidents. People are less likely to act on impulse. Their brains have matured. This is really when you become an adult.
* I think there’s a family story about my parents having a party when I was very young, probably around two. After the party, lots of drinks were left around and I went around the room finishing them all, getting drunk in the process.