Vigil Won't Help Missing College Student, But Vigilance Could Save Us All

mickey shunickIt's becoming an all too familiar nightmare - another young woman is missing. This time college student Michaela "Mickey" Shunick disappeared while bicycling home at about 1:45 am Saturday morning. 

It's as though the 22-year-old, University of Louisiana senior vanished into thin air after leaving a friends home just four miles away from her own apartment.

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It's a trek the avid cyclist had taken many times, her mom told the Huffington Post. "She has a car but she likes to ride her bike," Nancy Shunick said. "She rides her bicycle everywhere, and the route she would have taken Saturday is not a bad area. It is one residential neighborhood after another."

Her family began to worry when Mickey didn't show up at her little brother's high school graduation. Not calling was completely out of character for the young woman, who hung out with the same group of friends since kindergarten and teaches horseback riding lessons to little kids.

Hundreds gathered at a vigil to pray for her return, but police are still baffled about what exactly happened as she rode her black, Schwinn bike. "I think that someone saw the opportunity and grabbed her," her tearful mom told HuffPo. "She does carry pepper spray, but someone might have overpowered her."

It's certainly a real possibility. Mickey may have known that route like the back of her hand, but dangers often lurk in even familiar and usually comforting places. Elizabeth Smart was taken from her own bed and held captive by a demented, sexual predator for months. More recently, 15-year-old cheerleader Sierra LaMar was missing for two months before police arrested a man for her kidnapping and murder (her body still hasn't been found).

There are hundreds of frightening stories just like these and it seems a new one hits the news every week. Over 355,000 women went missing in 2010.  What is happening here? Why are there so many  young woman abducted and murdered. I have to wonder, are we taking these dangers seriously? Are we doing everything we can to keep these psychos away?

I know so many women who think something this horrific could never happen to them. But being safe in this treacherous world requires a certain level of paranoia. I remember when self defence classes were the thing to do. I had a friend who signed up for one where the instructor would do a surprise attack on the street. Crazy but effective. She was always on guard. And that is exactly how we have to be now.

I never let a stranger get too close. When someone asks me for directions, I keep moving a few paces forward so that I am standing more than arms length away. On the street at night, my eyes are always darting around, I never let someone walk too close behind me, and the buddy system is a must (yes, it's safety merits go way beyond preschool field trips).  

Of course the sad truth is, even the most safety-conscious person is still at risk. There are too many crazies to count in this world. Let's just try to make it a little harder for them to get their hands on us.

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