If you are a human woman living in the world, you no doubt already know that something as simple as walking through an empty parking lot at night can be a scary thing. This woman’s viral Facebook post about finding a shirt on her windshield explains exactly why: Seemingly innocuous things, like finding an object on your wipers, could be nothing… or they could be a way of making women vulnerable. The situation has since been revealed to have been a prank, but the lesson stands: It’s important to act on your instincts when something feels wrong.
Recently, 19-year-old Ashley Hardacre was leaving her job at a mall in Flint, Michigan, when she noticed that there was a flannel shirt wrapped around one of her windshield wipers. In a since-deleted Facebook post, she wrote, “There were two cars near me and one was running so I immediately felt uneasy and knew I couldn't get out to get it off. … I used my windshield wipers to try to get them off but the shirt was completely wrapped around my wiper blade.” She wrote that she’d heard stories about people leaving things under windshield wipers “as an attempt to get girls out of their cars and distracted.” Hardacre decided to leave the shirt in place until she could get to a secure place to remove it; she said that, from the way the shirt was attached to her car, it’s placement there “had to have been intentional.”
The Facebook post went viral, garnering more then 100,000 shares before Hardacre took it down. After seeing her post, the local police department contacted Hardacre and began an investigation. Flint Township Police Detective Sergeant Brad Wangler assured CBS News, “Nothing like this has ever happened before.” Nevertheless, he said that people should be “vigilant” and pay attention when “something doesn’t seem right, or the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”
“I posted about the incident to inform others that it can happen to anyone and that they shouldn’t fall for it,” Hardacre told CBS News. “A lot of people think it is fake or it won’t happen to them. But you can never be too safe.”
Yesterday, the Flint Township police were able to track down the culprits. According to a police statement (viaMLive), two men eventually “admitted to putting the shirt on the vehicle as a random prank.” The police said that the men were previously unaware that putting an object on a car in this manner could be perceived as “a human trafficking tactic.” The statement said that the men have apologized to Hardacre for “caus[ing] her to feel scared that night.”
Although it’s a relief to know that these guys weren’t trying to lure Hardacre into human trafficking, their prank is still certainly weird and, frankly, creepy. The fact that they didn’t foresee that their “joke” — involving a teenage girl alone in a parking lot at night — could be construed as threatening is naïve in the extreme.
It’s messed up that a girl’s response to finding a random object attached to her car has to be “People might be trying to attack me,” but this is the world we live in. If you’re in a situation that feels “off,” trust your gut!