Cal Ripken’s Mother

Posted by on Aug 12, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Cal Ripken’s Mother

Although, initially, the topic of this column will seem to be Mrs. Ripken’s recent misfortune, as usual, its topic is your safety. I’ll start with a quick rundown of what happened to 72 year-old Violet Ripken, mother of famous baseball player Cal Ripken.   I pieced this together from various news reports and added some speculation. The facts of the case, while never certain to those that weren‘t involved, don’t actually relate to the lessons we can learn from it anyway.

A man approached her early one morning near her garage, which is in a more secluded “backyard” type area than are many people’s garages. He used a gun to force her (by threat alone) into her own car, tied her up and blindfolded her.  He probably knew she was an older woman living alone; but probably did not know her son was famous.  Shortly thereafter, her neighbor did something in his backyard. By his own report, had he come out much earlier, he would have seen what happened and done whatever he could to help. The attacker may, or may not, have known when she was usually at her garage and when her neighbor was usually in his backyard.

The perpetrator drove Violet around and used her credit cards to buy some things.  He fed her, and, at her request, used a cloth blindfold instead of tape. Someone saw her tied-up in the car and spoke to the man about it.  He assured them that “his mother” had Alzheimer’s and was restrained for her own protection.  At that point–or another–someone called the police and informed them that an older woman was tied in a car and gave the license plate number.  Eventually, the criminal left her and the car and fled.

I don’t mean to be a “Monday morning quarterback.”  Just as any landing you walk away from is a good landing, anyone who survives danger and puts their life back together did a great job.  But, in the interest of causing my readers to be better prepared for dangerous situations they may someday face, I’m going to highlight some choices that might or might not have been available to Violet Ripken, just as they might or might not someday be available to you in a dangerous situation.

I wonder if she noticed a suspicious stranger walking up to her before it was clear that there was a weapon involved.  If so, I wonder what would have happened if she responded assertively and yelled at the man or yelled for a neighbor.  Possibly he would have left.  Or, he may have showed her the gun and told her to be quiet, which he was already planning to do anyway.  Either way, she would not have made her situation worse by yelling at a suspicious stranger.  The reason most people wouldn’t dare do this is because they feel like it is a complete disaster if they yell at a suspicious stranger who turns out to be not dangerous.  It is no disaster; and, you might just be saving your life.

I wonder what would have happened if she ran away (to the best of her ability) when the man showed the gun.  If he was planning to kidnap someone, as opposed to planning to shoot someone, he may have left. However, it is not impossible that he would shoot. But, statistics support that it is much more likely, if he even fired, that he would have missed or only wounded her. I think it’s most likely that, if shots were fired, her neighbor would have brought a gun to his backyard ready to help her.  (I’m basing this assumption on an interview I saw of him.)

Statistically, 90% of people who allow themselves to be taken to a second location, as she did, are not heard from again. A person could say that she was “lucky” her abductor was not interested in killing her.  But, let me point out that some things she did were the absolute best things for a kidnap victim to do.  If, for whatever reason, you ever make the choice to let a bad guy tie you up and drive you around, your best line of defense is exactly what she did:  Make yourself seem human to them (not the object a serial killer wants to see you as) and try to create opportunities for someone else to save you.

Mrs. Ripkin told her captor that taping her eyes would activate her claustrophobia. This would make her seem human to him.  She may have also told stories about her children (leaving out the fact that one of them was famous). There are bad guys out there that think of their victims as toys.  If the victim can get the bad guy to think of them as human, they may not be able to carry out their plan.

Allowing herself to be noticed by strangers caused someone to call the police.  Although it did her no good, things like this have gotten others saved.  Here, it just underscores the fact that we cannot count on the police, or anyone else, coming to our rescue and must learn as much as we can learn about how to protect ourselves.