7 Year Old Abducted Girl Escapes Captors, Flees to Safety.
July 23, 2002 10:22 PM   Subscribe

7 Year Old Abducted Girl Escapes Captors, Flees to Safety. In the "Summer of Child Kidnappings," the rest of the US could learn a thing or two from Philadelphia girls. Erica Pratt, 7, escaped her captors Tuesday night by chewing through duct tape binding her arms and legs, breaking through a locked basement door, smashing a window, and then calling to nearby playing children for help.
posted by ncurley (42 comments total)

 
Interesting to note that a child of color barely made a story in the press, whereas the Cute White Girls (tm) who went missing were plastered all over CNN.com, FoxNews.com, and so on.

Pretty sad stories all around.
posted by xmutex at 10:26 PM on July 23, 2002


This girl kicks butt.
posted by owillis at 10:29 PM on July 23, 2002


Gotta disagree with you, xmutex. This disappearance was on the cover of CNN, MSNBC, etc. I keep hearing that abductions are covered unfairly by race, but it seems to me it's more the circumstances of the disappearance that draw or don't draw the attention.
posted by GaelFC at 10:40 PM on July 23, 2002


"a child of color barely made a story in the press"

I don't know if it's because of the girl from Salt Lake who was kidnapped(?), but the Philly girl got a lot of press coverage here in Utah.

And yeah, owillis, she needs her own action figure. Mad props to the little girl for having a quick wit and a big heart.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:41 PM on July 23, 2002


I too saw much coverage about this case, and how cool is that little girl! Man, that's a kid whom I hope the universe showers with blessings and good fortune.
posted by dejah420 at 10:48 PM on July 23, 2002


a big heart?

I agree that she's an amazing young person, but I'm not sure what you mean with that last part, crash davis.
posted by captain obvious at 11:04 PM on July 23, 2002


In the "Summer of Child Kidnappings," the rest of the US could learn a thing or two from Philadelphia girls.

Like the other children kidnapped didn't try hard enough?
posted by Latitude11 at 11:05 PM on July 23, 2002


Perhaps some people may not have heard as much about this case because this girl was only missing for 24 hours, while the other cases have been on the news for weeks as the intensive search for them continues.
posted by bonheur at 11:10 PM on July 23, 2002


Like the other children kidnapped didn't try hard enough?

*wiping soda off monitor*

That's the cruelest, funniest thing I've read this month.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:29 PM on July 23, 2002


"I'm not sure what you mean with that last part, crash davis."

I mean it took a lot of heart to "gnaw..her way through the tape bound around her hands and feet, kick.. out a panel in a locked basement door and shout.. for help". As in:

heart: Courage; resolution; fortitude.

Is that any clearer?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:58 PM on July 23, 2002


Heart -> Compassion
Guts -> Courage
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:04 AM on July 24, 2002


Bzzzzt. Thanks for playing, but stop by dictionary.com on your way out and check out definition 6(a).

You won't go away empty-handed, though. All our players will receive a copy of Metafilter: The Home Edition for whiling away those long, lonely winter evenings!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:11 AM on July 24, 2002


This is one of those stories I'm not afraid to show my kids -- in addition to the very strong warning that there is never a puppy (or kitten or iguana or money or whatever lure some pedophile wants them to help look for) I want them to know that just because they're little, that doesn't mean that they're completely powerless. That said, hurrah for little Erica for having so much moxy and a sense of self-preservation that came to the fore just at the right moment. With Elizabeth Smart still missing and Samantha Runnion's funeral happening tonight, this is the kind of resolution to this story that we were sorely in need of.
posted by Dreama at 3:32 AM on July 24, 2002


mr_crash_davis: Well, I've never in my life heard 'big heart' used to describe courage. "strong heart" maybe could have worked.

But I can see why this wasn't in the news, this girl was only gone for 24 hours and there had been a ransom demand... So the girl probably wasn't in that much actual danger, not like she was taken by a pedophile.
posted by delmoi at 3:45 AM on July 24, 2002


in addition to the very strong warning that there is never a puppy (or kitten or iguana or money or whatever lure some pedophile wants them to help look for)

LOL, I'm sure that advice will do a lot good. I mean I'm sure the pervs would never try any other scam, ever. Or just grab them.
posted by delmoi at 3:56 AM on July 24, 2002


mr_crash_davis:

Example six is not a quantified thing, but rather an undifferentiated quantity, you wouldn't say "a big heart" but rather "a lot of heart".

Anyway, all this girl did was act to preserve her own life. Most people will do this; I don't think it makes her all that 'special'. Obviously it's a good thing that she got free, but I don't really understand why everyone wants to put her on this pedestal
posted by delmoi at 4:02 AM on July 24, 2002


Anyway, all this girl did was act to preserve her own life. Most people will do this; I don't think it makes her all that 'special'.

You put me, a 27-year-old guy, in a similar situation, and I really don't know if I'd be able to think straight enough to help myself. That this girl was able to, and at such a young age, seems pretty damn special to me.
posted by toddshot at 4:10 AM on July 24, 2002


I think she could teach John McCain a thing or two.
posted by adampsyche at 4:12 AM on July 24, 2002


A seven year old kidnap victim knaws through her bindings and kicks out a door to save herself. Points to discuss:

-- Heart. Did she demonstrate a big one, a strong one, or none at all? Prepare to cite source.

-- Specialness. Was she special enough?

-- Media coverage. Should she have waited a few days? Might that have helped?

-- Object lesson for other kidnap victims. Try harder? Be more black? Less black?

I heart MeFi!
posted by luser at 4:18 AM on July 24, 2002


Of course by knaws I mean gnaws, and by post I mean preview.
posted by luser at 4:19 AM on July 24, 2002


delmoi - what you being so grumpy about? What would she have to do to earn your respect? How about: gnaw through her bindings, kick out the door panel and THEN beat up her captors, drive them round to the police station and charge them?
posted by jiroczech at 4:22 AM on July 24, 2002


Can we just agree to admire her, detest child kidnappers, and quit arguing over semantics?
posted by UnReality at 5:26 AM on July 24, 2002


I admire the word 'gnaws.' I shall use it five times today. And each time in conversation with the same person. Just to annoy them.
posted by Perigee at 5:39 AM on July 24, 2002


child kidnappings are the new shark attacks.........
posted by zoopraxiscope at 6:15 AM on July 24, 2002


delmoi - what you being so grumpy about? What would she have to do to earn your respect?

Well, I don't just toss out respect like candy. I mean, since when is self-preservation a virtue to be lauded? Is that what our society has come to? Putting people on a pedestal for taking completely rational action in an uncommon situation?

I just don't think saving yourself makes you a hero. I certainly don't know what people mean when they say she's "amazing"... like because she managed this she's probably brilliant or a Mozart or something?

Look, I don't have anything against this girl. I'm sure she's very nice and cute and all that. And I'm sure her parents are happy as can be that everything worked out in the end.

The kids who heard her and called the police are more heroic then her, for example.
posted by delmoi at 6:28 AM on July 24, 2002


Kidnappers beware: don't mess with Philly.
posted by poorhaus at 6:29 AM on July 24, 2002


Look, I don't have anything against this girl. I'm sure she's very nice and cute and all that.

By your logic: what does "cute" have to do with it? I don't toss out compliments like candy.
posted by ColdChef at 6:33 AM on July 24, 2002


luser: I HEART YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS! er, I mean I give it a big heart in lots of caps...lots of heart with big caps...lots of cute hearts with special caps that deserve to get more media attention...

Anyway, you're my amazing hero.
posted by straight at 6:53 AM on July 24, 2002


LOL, I'm sure that advice will do a lot good. I mean I'm sure the pervs would never try any other scam, ever. Or just grab them.

Of course there are other scams and lures that pedophiles will try, but this is a big one because it is not only used all the damned time, it is a big attraction for kids who would want to see the puppy, kitty, or bunny, or get some of the free money that's usually offered in a money lure. ("If you help me find my money, I'll give some of it to you.") I want my kids to know that there isn't anything that a stranger would ask them to help find that they need to go looking for, and in fact, to view such offers as a red flag warning of stranger danger.

I just don't think saving yourself makes you a hero. I certainly don't know what people mean when they say she's "amazing"... like because she managed this she's probably brilliant or a Mozart or something?

No, but she was brave, braver than many people would be when faced with similar circumstances, and especially more so than many children her age. She didn't know if her captors were sitting there, quietly watching her, ready to hurt her if she got herself loose. She didn't know if they were upstairs. She took a major chance thatshe'd make these guys angry, and that's nothing to sneeze at -- especially now that we know that they are, most likely, members of drug gang which is a rival to her father's gang, who took her not for the money that they demanded, but as some kind of retribution/revenge thing against her father.
posted by Dreama at 7:08 AM on July 24, 2002


"Interesting to note that a child of color barely made a story in the press, whereas the Cute White Girls (tm) who went missing were plastered all over CNN.com, FoxNews.com, and so on."

I think the problem has more to do with the fact that Cute White Girl parents are unable to grasp reality. Those parents in SLC should have realized that their daughter was probably dead ages ago. Of course, the media doesn't help. You would think they might be covering the complete fuck-up the president is instead of a little girl's disappearance (for months on end). I am not saying that the media should not help to find the girl, but do we need 30 minute updates on the search every single morning?
posted by DragonBoy at 7:21 AM on July 24, 2002


On stranger kidnappings, I have a distinct memory of when I was six or seven and being tested by my father on my susceptibility. Something about two men, in a strange looking car, and would I go with them if they gave me some candy? Unfortunately, my father's visual --> lexical abilities are limited (though superb in isolation); he failed to get across to me his point: the two men were Batman and Robin, and the car was the Batmobile. (It was ~1970, and this was one of my favorite shows.) There were several iterations where he tried to explain it further and I didn't understand what he meant -- I just thought it was dumb he kept asking me to go with these strangers, when I naturally wouldn't, because they were strangers.

And once he had given up in frustration, and explained his scenario to me, I thought it was even dumber. Dad, they're TV characters! They're not real!
posted by dhartung at 7:43 AM on July 24, 2002


Putting people on a pedestal for taking completely rational action

Well, in contrast to the recent behavior of politicians, CEOs and media personalities, "completely rational action" are beginning to look quite heroic.
posted by rushmc at 8:20 AM on July 24, 2002


Well, I've never in my life heard 'big heart' used to describe courage.

They don't call him "Richard the Lion-Gutted".

The only advice I ever got from my dad regarding abduction avoidance was simple and direct: "Kick them in the groin and run like hell."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:49 AM on July 24, 2002


The New York Times has a more detailed account of her escape.
posted by ncurley at 10:02 AM on July 24, 2002


They don't call him "Richard the Lion-Gutted".

I think 'lion' rather than 'heart' is the important part of that name.
posted by Summer at 10:31 AM on July 24, 2002


Only in so far as the lion implies the courage and the phrase determines that courage to being in his heart.
posted by vbfg at 10:41 AM on July 24, 2002


I can't believe this thread is almost off the front page, just when I've run across the most fascinating bit in the whole affair -- this quote at the end of the NYT article from a woman who lived across the street from the girl's family. Remember that these people live in SW Philly, one of the saddest, poorest neighborhoods the USA has to offer:

"You hear about it happening in other parts of the country," Ms. Adams said, alluding to recent high-profile abductions in California and Utah. "But it's still frightening when the reality hits you: it can happen right here."

It can happen right here, she says. Is she delusional? Right there is where it's SUPPOSED to happen! Or is it possible that poor people don't see themselves the way we often see them -- as defeated, resigned (and therefore) collaborators in their own circumstances?
posted by luser at 10:56 AM on July 24, 2002


When I was about five or six, my mom and I lived in a (comparatively nice) public housing project in the town in Pennsylvania where I grew up. I was playing out in the yard and a car pulled up to the curb. Inside was a balding, 40ish man wearing glasses (I can still remember his face). He got my attention and said: "I'm picking up the neighborhood kids to take them to Bible study. Why don't you get in?"

My suspicions were aroused and I said warily, "No, my mom wouldn't want me to go to Bible study."

The man said, "I already called your mommy and it's ok."

"I need to go ask" I said, and ran into the house, yelling "Mommy there's a weirdo outside!"

We both went to the window and looked out, only to see him driving away.

I remember this scene vividly, and I still shudder when I think about it.
posted by evanizer at 11:39 AM on July 24, 2002


So you objected to the Bible study...but what if it had been the Koran he'd been offering?

(Seriously, though, scary story.)
posted by rushmc at 11:46 AM on July 24, 2002


Delmoi, I think you must be the only person who's read this story and not cheered for this little girl. Why do the rest of us think she's special? Because she got away! You don't find gnawing through duct tape courageous? You're unimpressed with her calling to the kids on the playground for help, despite the dire consequences she could have suffered? My heart bleeds for all the other little girls who weren't so lucky and their families, and I rejoice in young Erica's escape. I also think you could use some more heart, yourself.
posted by Lynsey at 7:58 PM on July 24, 2002


despite the dire consequences she could have suffered?

Um, it's the dire consequences she could have suffered that made her gnaw through those bonds and yell for help- as has been noted, even at 7 children are capable of knowing when they're in trouble or danger. What, like this was Sophie's choice?

Hey, I didn't cheer... fuckin' hell, 280 million people in the country and I'm supposed to get all emotional about someone I've never met and never will meet? Bully for her, but we've all got problems- now she's got a fantastic story to tell her grandkids. In the time spent by the media in covering these abduction stories, time and effort could have been spent holding a national discourse on topics far more pressing, not only to this child from a poor neighborhood but to children across the country. Y'know, boring shit like health care and nutrition and education and crap like that that doesn't involve gnawing through duct tape.

Meanwhile, I'm just going to sit here and pray that Dreama's kid gets kidnapped:
Of course there are other scams and lures that pedophiles will try, but this is a big one because it is not only used all the damned time,
All the damned time?!? Hey, spread the fear, Dreama, spread the fear. From Judith Levine's "Harmful to Minors", which I've recently begun reading:
Studies commissioned under the Missing Children's Assistance Act of 1984 estimate that between 52 and 158 children will be abducted and murdered by nonfamily members each year. Extrapolating from other FBI statistics, those odds come out between 1 in 364,000 and fewer than 1 in 1 million. A child's risk of dying in a car accident is twenty-five to seventy-five times greater.

Fortunately, pedophilic butcheries are even rarer than abduction-murders. For instance, in 1992, the year a paroled New Jersey sex offender raped and killed Megan Kanka, the seven-year-old after whom community-notification statutes were named, nine children under age twelve were the victims of similar crimes, out of over forty-five million in that age group.
Oh, but I guess it's more satisfying to imagine the world is full of these projected horrible dangers no matter how incredibly rare they may actually be, because it's much simpler to imagine something evil and monstrous than your own possible failings as a parent, or worry about the immense but solvable problems facing not 9 children or 52 children or 158 children, but thousands of kids, millions of kids, in this country.

Oh wait, I forgot: the nation's full of pedophiles...
posted by hincandenza at 12:03 AM on July 25, 2002


Meanwhile, I'm just going to sit here and pray that Dreama's kid gets kidnapped

What the f**k kind of statement is that? Sarcastic or not, it's loathesome. But, judging from your post here, as well as your history, it's obvious being loathesome doesn't bother you one bit.
posted by evanizer at 12:33 AM on July 25, 2002


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