I had a terrifying event occur this weekend when I was camping out in a park with some friends.

We had been asleep in our tents for a handful of hours when I woke to the sound of someone messing around in our campsite. I thought it was one of my friends and so I unzipped the tent a crack to look out. I didn’t see anyone at first until I shined a light into the woods. I saw (with my contacts out) a guy who I wasn’t sure if I recognized. So I reached back in my tent and put on my glasses.

With my sight improved I looked out again and saw he was now standing in front of my tent looking right at me.

He was medium height, blond hair, maybe in his late 20s to early 30s. His shirt was untucked and he had a big red something, maybe a scrape, bruise or cut” about the width of a golf ball on the left side of his forehead.

What frightened me the most was that he was looking at me with a drunken grin. I guessed he was in a drunken black out stage in which he could do anything and not remember it the next morning. That idea frightened me to the core. Yet I spoke with a calm voice as I said…

“Hello. Are you lost?”

He made no reply and kept staring, his body swaying in my direction and then back again.

“Do you know your campsite number?” I asked.

“Yes” he said, still grinning.

“What number is it?”

“This one,” he responded.

He took a couple steps forward then back and, without looking away, he plopped down on the end of the picnic table bench.

I began to fear that perhaps he was going to try attack me. He didn’t know I had guys in my tent.

I called the name of a guy friend (we’ll call him “D”) in the tent next to us and nudged awake a friend in my tent, who we’ll call “youngin.”

“D” climbed sleepily out of his tent and asked the guy the same things. Then “D” suggested that the drunk man might be from the site next to us and he led the man next door, which “D” said was littered with empty beer bottles and cans.

I was terrified.

I was still frightened out of my mind and didn’t want to leave the tent but I had to pee.  I almost insisted that “youngin” escort me into the woods but he was still half asleep so I gathered my courage and took the biggest flashlight we had and ventured out.

The sound of the owl that had serenaded me when I first went to bed now terrified me as I ventured down the hill. Every sound of crunching leaves made me want to bolt. I RAN back to the tent when I was done.

I could hear the stranger moving around in the site next door and it took me at least an hour to get back to sleep.

I told my sister about the event when I returned from camping and she understood my fears.

My friends had acted wonderfully to take care of the situation and had not made fun or belittled my reaction at all.

Yet I don’t think they understood how terrifying that kind of experience is to a girl. I think we, as women, have more reason to be worried about being attacked and raped in alleys, jogging trails, woods, etc.

After everything was over, all I wanted was for any one of my guy friends to put their arms around me to make me feel safe until I went to sleep. But I didn’t feel right asking for it. I was afraid such a request would be misconstrued for something else. Instead I inched my sleeping bag and mat up next to “youngin” who was already curled up in his cocoon of a sleeping bag and I tried to sleep.

The next day as we were packing up to leave, the guy from the night before drove by and waived at us. I guess he was appreciative that he didn’t spend the night traipsing around the campgrounds.

Still, the memory of a stranger in our campground will make me take some more precautionary steps next time we go camping.

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