From a young age, Ashtyn has been in the spotlight developing a successful career as a model and actress.
“When I was about 13, I did downtown shows at the Tower Theater, which were like dinner and theater,” Ashtyn said. “From there, I was scouted for my smile on stage.”
Ashtyn said as a young girl who wore braces with headgear, she never thought modeling would be in her future. Years later, Ashtyn’s career remains in the spotlight and while she is proud of her accomplishments, her success has been shadowed by harassment and attempted kidnappings.
“Recently, I just did a photoshoot up in LA and I am a little lost, I don’t know where the entrance is to the studio. And I am walking around the street in my cute outfit getting cat-called by people …just making me feel so uncomfortable,” she said. “I immediately, you know, grab my keys, put them in my fists like I’m going to use that to do something if I need to.”
Ashtyn said she has even had uncomfortable moments with people at modeling jobs.
“I have had a manager pull me aside and tell me that I’ll get more jobs and lock the door behind me and just be really creepy towards me. And I remember quitting that job the next day. I think being a woman definitely puts you in a lot of vulnerable situations especially in the modeling/acting industry, she said.”
She said she was involved in three attempted kidnappings growing up and the incidents impact her to this day.
“The first time I was almost ever kidnapped, I was a freshman in high school,” she explained. “I was walking to my friend’s house, just on my own street, and a van comes up and pulls up next to me and almost jumps the curb where I am walking by, and I thought it was very strange. So, I kind of like pause and move a little further away and continue on the sidewalk. A man opens the door and is holding on to something, and he grabs my arm. I did know a martial art move to take off running after that.”
After calling the police, she learned a similar incident happened the same day and it was the suspect’s second attempted kidnapping.
During another incident, Ashtyn said she was walking from the parking lot to a pet food store in the evening and somebody emerged between cars and pulled a knife on her.
“As soon as he said, 'get in my car little mommy' and pulls a knife I took off running,” she said. “I had security escort me out but by the time they called police, he was already gone.”
Ashtyn recalled a third attempted kidnapping encounter when she was in high school.
“I had a previous accident where somebody t-boned me and my window was permanently rolled down and you could tell there was a dent there,” she said. Another vehicle with a man behind the wheel pulls up next to her and without identifying himself says he can fix her car.
“He says, ‘I can fix your car’ through the window and he looks like he is on some kind of drug. He’s kinda got this little twitchiness to him and I told him no sir I don’t need you to fix my car. And he is just persistent,” she said.
Ashtyn said the man said he would follow her despite telling him no, so she tried to get away, but with every turn, he was right behind her. She messaged her mom to call the police and meet her at school, but when she arrived there was nowhere to park.
“I found a parking spot outside and he immediately kind of blocks my car with his. And as I get out of my car, I am trying to walk to where the police are and he grabs me by both arms and says, ‘come look at my trunk. I can fix your car,’” she said.
At that point, the man was pulling her away from her car.
“And that’s when police swarmed and as they took him away, he says, let me talk to the sweetheart,” she said. Ashtyn doesn’t know what would have happened if the police didn’t show up at that time.
“I wish I would have had something like a Byrna to protect myself,” she said.
Ashtyn has a background in martial arts and has taken self-defense courses. As an adult, she added pepper spray and a pocketknife to her arsenal, but she believes those tools aren’t adequate.
“I honestly don’t think that a pocketknife is enough to adequately save me in one of those situations. I know that knives can be turned on you very easily. Pepper spray, I practice with it, but I know that will only go a certain distance.”
Now, she is happy to have Byrna by her side. Ashtyn said her experiences have made her more aware of her surroundings and the dangers she could potentially face. She hopes by sharing her story, she can help others and share advice.
“Being aware of your surroundings is probably the most important thing. Somebody who is trying to kidnap you from what I’ve learned from my classes, they’re looking for somebody that is unaware. Resorting back to talking about being on the phone, they’re looking for somebody who is an easy prey, easy target,” she said.
Ashtyn said everyone should listen to their “gut feeling and be ready. If I was feeling uncomfortable, I would have my hand in my bag, safety off, on the trigger, maybe not have the gun out directly but at least know that I can pull it out in quick time if I needed to.”