Horror Story Confirms Moms' Fears of Public Restrooms

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Terry Sanchez
Terry Sanchez
My son turned 8 earlier this month, putting him well past the age I used to think I'd let him enter a public restroom by himself. Each year that passes though, I still just can't do it and drag him -- now red and embarrassed -- into the ladies' room with me. Horror stories like this one out of Louisiana make me uncertain I'll ever be able to let him go alone ... at least with any peace of mind.

Last Friday evening a 12-year-old boy entered the restroom of a Burger King around 7:30 p.m. in Thibodaux, Louisiana. There he was allegedly raped by a 51-year-old man, Terry Joseph Sanchez. There his life was forever marred in those terrifying moments.

How it could happen is unimaginable. It was 7:30 p.m. where likely plenty of people were just feet away chowing down on Whoppers. He wasn't a toddler; he was 12. So many parts of this story blow away any kind reasoning I typically see in stories where I can tell myself this would never happen to my kid. This could happen to anyone.

Of course, bad things happen, and we can't prevent them all or suck all the enjoyment out of life trying. But public restrooms are just one of those places where the unthinkable can and does happen, and I can't bring myself to let my son enter one by himself. Of course, I worry about over-sheltering him and fostering unreasonable fears in him, but when I see stories like this, I feel like that's the lesser of the evils.

He's already fighting me on it, and protests loudly when he has to go with me into the women's room. And I can see the looks -- especially from older ladies -- who think he has no business in there. I rejoice when I see family restrooms or "one-person potties" as we call those that are just a single room instead one filled with stalls.

I know I'm eventually going to have to give in on this one, just like I'll eventually have to let him spend the night at a friend's house, cross the street by himself, drive, and plenty of other frightening and potentially dangerous things we have to let our kids do. But when it comes to entering the men's room alone ... maybe next year.

How old do you think is old enough for a boy to enter a men's public restroom by himself? Do stories like this change your mind?


Image via Thibodaux Police Dept.

behavior, boys, in the news, safety

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tinyp... tinypossum

Oh god, that is terrifying. I have two sons and they are still too young to go alone but I have thought about what I will do when that day comes. I think I will send them packing a stun gun and stand right outside the door. If they arent out in three minutes, I'm goin' in.

PonyC... PonyChaser

An important thing to remember is this... that same night, how many MILLIONS of kids of all ages went into bathrooms, did their business, and came out, perfectly safe? And how many of those millions of kids went into a public bathroom and even received a helping hand from some other guy who was in there? Maybe he couldn't reach the soap, or the towels were stuck.


As much as you'd like to believe it, predators are not lurking around every corner. The reason you hear about stories like this is precisely because they are so rare.


Lighten up, mom. It's time to land the helicopter and let your son learn how to live his life. Otherwise, he's going to grow up helpess and afraid of his own shadow. And for Heaven's sake, let him have a sleepover or cross the street!

clg1213 clg1213

It's def easier to be the Mom than the Dad with the opposite sex kid....really, you don't "see" anything in the ladies' room (well, from a few bar dashes in my younger years...you don't REALLY see anything in the men's either but it has the potential). 


I've heard of a parent letting a kid go but mandating they keep talking/humming/singing and saying they'll tear on in there if they stop.  Not a bad idea.  Or finding another solo parent to "swap" with

momto... momtothemax2910

This is so sad. It's horrifying to realize you never know when that rare occurrence can happen.

melis... melissabilliot

Omg I go to this burger king ALL THE TIME...it's right down the road from campus....how scary

Lulu_B Lulu_B

I'm gonna go with ponychaser on this one. Millions and millions of kids use the restroom everyday, and nothing happens. And, if you just wait outside the door, you'll know if something is up. How long was this kid in the bathroom? Why did no one notice that he was gone for too long? Why didn't someone check on him? It's all well and good to be cautious, but there comes a time when you just have to suck it up and let your kid grow up.


If there really were rapists and molesters around every corner, it wouldn't make the news like it does. I don't know a single kid, in my entire life, who has been kidnapped or raped by a total stranger like this.  Family member? Yes. Family friend? Yes. But not a total stranger.

Rachel Schiller

My 5 year old is allowed to use the bathroom on his own occationally. Generally it is when we are someplace small, like Quiznos or McDonalds and it isn't very crowded. He is also generally more afraid to use it alone then not but he does on occation.


Children are far more likely to be hurt by someone they know well. And that person is also someone that the parents know and trust. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

PonyC... PonyChaser

It's scary to let go of your kids. It was scary when they started being aware of things... gotta watch what they put in their mouths. It was scary when they started to crawl... watch out for the stairs! It was scary when they started to walk...omg, will they fall???


Our kids are going to keep growing and hitting those milestones. If we don't guide them through, give them the tools to manage them maturely and safely, they are going to be seriously handicapped as adults. How are they going to navigate the real world if we don't teach them how?


My heart breaks for this boy. I don't know what could have prevented this disaster. Maybe self-defense classes, maybe individual stalls in teh bathroom. Maybe a "buddy system". Maybe locking the dirtbag up who did this to him in the first place, if he was a repeat offender (I don't know that). But we also have to remember that some things, as horrible as they are, are *not preventable*. Kids are going to get hurt. Sadly, some will die. It's part of life. We can't not live it because we're afraid.

dirti... dirtiekittie

i side with ponychaser on this one - we hear about these things because they're so sensational and they *do* have that "omg, this could happen to me" vibe to them. but there are plenty of children who go into the bathroom by themselves and nothing happens. it's one thing to be a protective parent, but another to shelter a child so much they can't go to a public restroom alone as a pre-teen.


and i second the comments about sleepovers and crossing the street! that poor kid!

Courtney Paige Neale

Wow, I would've thought 12 was ok....:( poor lil boy!!! I hope that bastard stays in jail for a VERY long time!!


Ponychaser - have you checked online recently to see how many sex offenders live near you?? Unless you live in some really remote place, there are quite a few. And they do not "get taken care of in jail." Thats a myth.


I guess I'm more paranoid than most because what happened to me was done in a store by a stranger a couple aisles away from my mother. I personally would rather be too safe then not. Lord knows my mother is a very VERY good mom and something bad STILL happened to me. Whats wrong with being cautious? Oh yeah, cause it USUALLY happens by someone you know......so, wouldn't sleepovers fit into the category of being put in a position to be taken advantage of by SOMEONE THEY KNOW??

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