For some background into the layout of where this situation takes place, my apartment complex has it's own dog park. Within a few hundred feet of the dog park is a large and spacious public park, surrounded by tall prairie grass.
Recently during my nightly visit to the dog park, a young girl (17-19 in appearance) approached me from behind. Our conversation went something like this:
Girl: "Excuse me, miss? Do you live here?"
Girl: "Can I stay with you for a minute?"
Me: "Yes...? What's up?"
Girl: "Some guy just chased me through the field (the open park area), and I don't know where to go."
Once she was inside the dog park, I tried getting more details out of her to understand what had happened and if she was still in danger. While I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt (as I know I would've been terrified in the moment if I was her), the details of her story never quite became clear.
Here are the details she shared with me:
- She had been walking from an apartment across the field.
- The man followed her in a car, and when she began running, he sped up to keep pace with her.
- She dropped some of her belongings in the field and needed to retrieve them.
- Her phone was dead, it was becoming dark outside, and she was afraid to walk back for fear he would show up again.
My initial thought was to offer to walk her through the field to get her belongings and then back to her apartment with myself and my dog, thinking we would have safety in numbers (her, myself, and my large dog).
However, as she explained more of her story, I became more skeptical. To shed some light for readers, here were my concerns:
The dog park has a clear view of the field which she said she had been running through (which I am always facing), yet I didn't see any of this take place.
There aren't any roads through the park so I'm very uncertain of how he was chasing her in a car through the field.
She approached me from the opposite direction of her apartment and the field.
She seemed pretty calm, and she didn't seem out of breath, which I would expect from running so far in colder weather.
As I asked her to repeat the story to help clarify, details were inconsistent.
My area has had increasing numbers of sex trafficking activity (very elaborate plots that lure people into being kidnapped/attacked).
It's become a 'trend' here to have a female claim they need help to lure victims into a trap where they are robbed/attacked by a number of men.
What I tried
I allowed her to use my phone to call someone to come get her. I heard someone answer the phone, but when she explained that she needed a ride because a man had been chasing her, the person on the other end hung up on her.
I offered to call police, but she assured me that there was nothing they could do because she didn't have any description of the man or details of his car beyond the color.
I ended up telling her that I had company coming within 10 minutes and that I couldn't come with her, but that if she wanted to walk home, she should do it while it was still light outside so I would have a clear line of sight on her as she walked through the field. I assured her that I would pay close attention and that she could come back if she saw the car, or that I would get help otherwise.
Is there a better way to approach/handle skepticism of a stranger's pleas for help without risking my own safety or coming off as dismissive of theirs?
I feel that I couldn't have told her I didn't fully believe her because if she was telling the truth, that'd make me out to be a terrible person. However, if she wasn't telling the truth, that exposes that she had malicious intentions and I can't think of a way that ends well.