GRATES COVE, NL — A young girl ran home crying Sunday following an unexpected encounter with an adult stranger.
According to the girl's mother, she had just left her family's house in Grate's Cove to see if a friend was home. Learning the friend wasn't there, the girl started to head back home. Then a dark-coloured car pulled up beside her.
"This happened right in front of our house," Courtney Howell told the Compass Monday. "If we would have been looking at the window, we would see it."
He started talking with the girl and asked to take a photo of her. She left the area and showed up moments later at home crying.
"She came in the house bawling because she was scared and she felt that she'd done something wrong," said her mom.
Courtney and her husband Terrence reported the incident to police.
"I put it out on social media so people around us could know, and also I want to let people know it's not appropriate, it's not right," Courtney said. "I don't care if it was innocent or not. An adult should never approach an unaccompanied child unless they're in danger, because what you're doing is leaving the child to figure out whether they're a good person or a bad person, trying to cause them harm or not."
The child remained disturbed by the encounter Sunday. Her mom said she was reluctant to play outside for the rest of the day.
Courtney and Terrence did some role-playing with their daughter to talk about how to react in these sorts of situations — it's a subject matter that's come up in the past too.
"We work in a community where there's a lot of tourists who come, a lot of people just driving around, so we've talked with her a lot about how she can protect herself and about people approaching her … She knew right away that that's not a situation that's right."
The local Girl Guides group leader told Courtney they'll also look at addressing this topic with its young members.
Police did determine who the man was and, according to Courtney, a constable planned to visit him Monday.
"He technically didn't do anything illegal — just wholeheartedly inappropriate," she said. "I just said to the constable that any adult who doesn't know that they shouldn't do something like this needs to be spoken to by a person in authority, because it's so confusing to a child. And we as parents, we have to teach them that no one should approach you … I don’t know what this person was thinking of at all. And now he has a picture of our kid."
Although the incident scared the girl, Courtney is hopeful her daughter won't develop a fear of leaving the house on her own.
"She doesn't have to be polite," said the girl's mom. "She needs to be respectful, of course, to people. I think I grew up feeling like I always had to be polite — little girls had to be polite. And we've told (her), if she feels scared, she can do whatever she has to do."