Travel back to 2013, a year when life was easier: we had a president who wasn’t a racist misogynistic narcissist, Brangelina was stronger than ever, and One Direction was still making harmonious music.
What a time to be alive.
One breezy night, during my freshman year of college, I was walking across campus with a friend from my dorm. We were standing outside the library when several guys struck up a conversation. I don’t remember the exact mechanics of the discussion, but it probably went along these lines:
Guys: “Hey girls, do you go to church?”
Guys: “Why don’t you come to our on-campus ministry?”
Guys: “We’re making spaghetti at our house tonight! You’re invited!”
Half an hour later, we were in an unknown house 10 minutes from campus, sitting in a living room with several strangers and eating spaghetti (I was a vegetarian at the time, so they made me a special meat-free plate). My friend and I never discussed feeling unsafe, probably because we were lulled into a false sense of security that having another person brings.
As you can probably guess, we made it back safely to our dorms that night. We found out later that our RA was friends with one of them, and they truly were kind and focused on spreading their faith. But what if that hadn’t been the case?
Flash forward to 2017, where I am much more cynical and subscribe to several true crime podcasts. In between applying for full-time jobs, I receive a golden ticket: an email inviting me to a interview! One for a job that could potentially start in two weeks! I enthusiastically reply to the email and start planning the new wardrobe I’ll be buying from Zara.
At some point I decide to research the company (because I’m a true professional, please hire me!) and red flags begin to pop up. Their website has no “about me” page, telephone number, or address. The Facebook and Twitter accounts had only been created a month earlier and with no followers or likes. Nothing popped up on LinkedIn. No results on the Better Business Bureau. And no names were given in the email.
So I reached out to the listeners of one of my favorite murder podcasts (good luck guessing which one!). I explained the situation and asked for their opinions. Should I cancel the interview? Was I overreacting?
The final verdict: don’t go!
Each time someone replied, my instincts felt increasingly validated. If multiple unbiased third-parties were also picking up on the sketchy elements, I couldn’t have been completely paranoid. If there was even the smallest chance that I could be putting myself at risk, it wasn’t worth it!
I don’t regret cancelling the interview (which was done in a respectful and courteous way, because I’m a true professional and also please hire me!) because I’ve spent years ignoring my instincts and I’ve probably used up all nine of my lives at this point. That’s also why I decided to share this experience: maybe it would have been fine, but it also could have ended badly. People need to hear that it’s okay to doubt what others say, even when things look perfectly normal on the surface. Never be afraid to ask questions and investigate. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, don’t worry about being rude or offending someone! I’ve heard too many similar stories to know that ignoring a bad feeling can be the difference between a normal day and a life-changing one. And as Ann Rule wrote in The Stranger Beside Me:
As I write these recollections of women who survived, I hope my readers are taking careful note of why they did. They screamed. They fought. They slammed doors in a stranger’s face. They ran. They doubted glib stories. They spotted flaws in those stories. They were lucky enough to have someone step up and protect them.