The young Wisconsin woman had first spotted him skulking around behind where she was lying alone at a local beach. But it was when he sat down beside her that things got alarming. His question about the tattoos on her bare body was particularly uncomfortable – so she grabbed her phone.
Haley Oscar is a 24-year-old mother of one from the city of Kenosha, WI, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Something very unnerving happened to her early in July 2017, when she was minding her own business relaxing on her local beach.
Oscar had decided to spend Friday, 7 July reading and catching some rays down by the lake at Simmons Island Beach near the Kenosha Lighthouse local landmark. But it tuned out to be far from the relaxing day she had planned for herself. It all started when a strange man approached her.
She didn’t recognize the individual, but she had noticed him walking “back and forth” behind her as she was lying down engrossed in her book. From his appearance, Oscar guessed that the stranger was Hispanic and probably in his late 40s.
The next thing that happened was totally unexpected. Uninvited, the man decided to come and sit right next to her position on the beach. Oscar thought this behavior was odd, but things became even more bizarre when he started to speak.
The stranger spoke in broken English, claiming to be from Waukegan in the neighboring state of Illinois. He then began asking Oscar some unusually personal questions that made her feel deeply uncomfortable.
He asked her where she lived, if she had a network of people that loved her, and if she was financially comfortable. He even asked Oscar about her credit score. Even more unnerving, he asked the vulnerable young woman why she was on the beach alone.
Feeling increasingly uneasy about the situation, Oscar tried to tell the man that she was studying, and encouraged him to leave. He did not and his unwelcome questioning continued, the queries becoming more and more inappropriate.
Despite repeated requests for him to leave her alone, Oscar said in an interview with local TV channel TMJ4 that the stranger’s questions now became increasingly sexual. At one point he asked her if she enjoyed pain, having noticed the tattoos on the exposed parts of her body.
The frightening interrogation ordeal went on for about 40 minutes, according to Oscar, who felt terrified and trapped on the beach. She didn’t want to get up and go to her car for fear of presenting an easier target by standing up, or the risk of him following her home and finding out where she lived.
Oscar then made a smart move and texted friends, asking them to come and save her from this sinister situation. Thankfully they got the message and one of them, her best friend Mandi Fuentes, called Oscar to tell her she was on her way.
It was Fuentes’ call that seemed to spook the guy, as soon as Oscar’s phone went he got up and left straight away. “That freaked him out,” she told TMJ4 News. But the whole incident left Oscar feeling totally shaken, so once safely back at home she took to Facebook to warn other local women, beginning, “So something not okay happened today while I was tanning at the lake…”
Oscar’s post included a photograph of the guy who had approached her, alongside a message urging other women in the area to be vigilant and stay safe. She wrote, “I don’t think a man has EVER made me that uncomfortable and scared for my safety.”
Oscar’s warning attracted a lot of attention online, with thousands of people sharing the post and the comments filling up with similar stories. Soon, the update went viral and even caught the attention of the police.
There have been suggestions made by local authorities that women in the Kenosha region are particularly vulnerable to predators involved in human trafficking. This is because the I-94 corridor – which runs from Chicago to Milwaukee – traverses the area, offering access to many different cities. Could Oscar have narrowly escaped abduction that day?
It appears that Oscar is by no means the only woman in the area to have reported an alarming incident of this kind. Daniel Miskinis, chief of Kenosha Police Department, subsequently released an online statement addressing this worrying trend.
Writing on the department’s Facebook page on July 19, 2017, Miskinis said, “The KPD continues to receive and investigate incidents in which females have been followed and/or approached by unknown male subjects in various vehicles at different locations in the city.”
Miskinis stressed the importance of victims coming forward to the police as soon as possible. “Too often incidents have gone unreported to police but instead have been posted via social media or news outlets.”
It seems as though posting about these kinds of incidents on social media is a great way of creating awareness and warning other people in the short term. However, if these dangerous offenders are to be apprehended for the long-term security of the community, the police need to hear about it too – and as quickly as possible.
Thankfully Oscar survived her disturbing encounter on the beach relatively unscathed, but it could easily have escalated into something much more serious. Speaking to TMJ4 News, she said, “Don’t do what I did – call 911 if you’re uncomfortable.” Meanwhile, local police are investigating the incidents, and anti-human trafficking billboards have been installed along the I-94 corridor. Let’s hope that they can get to grips with this terrible problem.