• Stephen Warneke

Listen to Your Spidey-Sense



After 15 years in law enforcement, one of the skills I am most proud about developing is that of being able to spot a creep. Over the years I’ve had to deal with many of them. I’ve heard of their suave, manipulative rhetoric as recounted by their victims, most of them women. I’ve heard how they weasel their way into people’s lives, getting close in order to take advantage of them. I’ve interviewed and investigated these predators, and having spent so much time with them, I feel like I can see them and their motivations better now.

It almost feels like my eyes have become an x-ray machine, peering beyond people’s eyes into their soul, revealing much of their nefarious thoughts. It’s been both a blessing and a curse. Many people who know me chalk up my warnings to hyper-paranoia, but I know better. The times the universe has allowed the truth to be revealed, I am almost always right about people’s true intentions.

At the book festival this past week, amongst all the beautiful weather, amazing authors, and loads and loads of interesting readers, I had the misfortune to come across a man who allowed me to exercise this skill in spotting a creep. It was a man who I could tell had a massive disdain for me immediately. But as I watched him come up with different excuses to come back over to my booth, I quickly figured out it was my marketing manager he had zeroed in on.

She is approximately 40 years his junior, and over the course of the day, he slowly revealed himself to be a creeper. He would start off telling of his past accomplishments, of his connections and then made sure to dangle the carrot that perhaps he could use these to help our cause. But then there were several insinuations just barely sliding his toes across the proverbial line into the sexual realm. They were comments that had no place for an old man talking to a young woman at a book festival.

Predators often tell tales or hint at how they are desired by others, in order for their victim to perceive them as desirable and highly sought after. Often times there’s unnecessary touching—a hand on a shoulder whenever the slightest opportunity exists to do so or a slight squeeze of the arm. Lechery should always be a red flag.

Another tactic used by predators, is the attempt to make future plans, to secure the connection. Our creeper was very intent about cementing an event sometime in the future. This event is either mutually beneficial or is beneficial to their target, so that the target will want to follow up. There’s only one more step left at this point, and it’s to exchange contact information just before the targets are about to leave, which our predator also completed.

The interesting thing is that even my marketing manager will be the first to tell you that her red flags were waving. She too felt he was creepy, but believed by being kind, courteous and keeping the contact professional, she was doing the right thing. Another worry of hers was coming off as rude or unfriendly. So, she did the polite thing and smiled, obliged his request for information and tried her best to keep things professional.

Just like clockwork, the first Monday morning after the book fair, guess who called to follow up regarding all the possible plans that were offered? With yet more inappropriate suggestions? Yet another clue that something was not right.

Here’s what I learned this weekend: Most people ALREADY HAVE a sense of when they are in a dangerous or predatory situation. They feel it. They have an inkling that something isn’t right. The difference is that they often put that feeling aside or ignore it because they are concerned that they will be perceived as rude or unfriendly, instead attempting to be kind to the creep.

I can tell you first hand that even if a crime never comes to fruition after an encounter such as this, it was probably close to occurring. The more interactions a target has with a predator, the more likely something is going to happen. I’ve responded to instances too many times that began just like this one, and found them ending in victimization and tragedy.

So LISTEN TO YOUR SPIDEY-SENSE. It’s so important to follow your instincts. Do not be concerned about how you will be perceived when your creep alarms are going off. And I’m especially talking to the ladies here. Don’t give out any information, don’t make any plans, don’t smile or entertain their advances.

You have to give the predator a firm, cold shoulder and make a clear boundary that you are not interested in any further exchange with this person and then get yourself out of there. If you don’t, I’ve seen it happen often where pretty soon police become involved, either serving restraining orders or taking a criminal report. The one thing you absolutely have to make sure of when your danger alarm is ringing is that come Monday morning, your phone isn’t.

**Steve is an writer, speaker, consultant, and author of From Boy To Blue. Find more from Steve at www.SteveWarneke.com