A week ago today I wrote about a missing 10-year-old girl in Colorado, Jessica Ridgeway. This young girl was abducted on her walk to the park three blocks away from her home, where she normally meets up with neighborhood friends and finishes out the trip to school. When it was discovered that Jessica was missing, her entire town of Westminster seemed to mobilize to search for their missing little girl. Unfortunately, the search unearthed a body, and the police have finally confirmed that it was the body of Jessica. Hearing this sad news made me want to revisit some comments about this tragedy, and address those whose first instinct was to blame the mother involved, not the murderer who took this little girl’s life.
From the very beginning of the news coverage, Jessica’s mother has taken center stage in the conversation. Jessica’s mom works an overnight shift, so she gets home shortly before Jessica leaves for school. When the school first called to report that the young girl hadn’t made it to school, Jessica’s mom didn’t get the message because she was sleeping. Because of this, the search didn’t commence until the mother had woken up and informed the police later in the evening. I don’t know Jessica’s mother, but I have a feeling that none of us need to get Holier-than-thou about this fact. Even though nothing about this tragedy was Jessica’s mother’s fault, I’m sure she’ll be struggling with the fact that she slept through that message for quite a while.
The focus always should have been on the young girl and the monster who took her. Unfortunately, people just can’t help but kick a mother when she’s down. From our own comments on the story, one person wrote all about how this mom apparently failed her daughter.
Why didn’t the girl’s mother just walk her daughter the 3 blocks up to the park to meet with the school friends? She was already home from work so she could have easily done so. Secondly, with her daughter walking to school, I’m surprised the mother did not make it a habit to call the school every morning to make sure her daughter had actually arrived at school. I’m sure the mother was tired after working all night, but if she had just taken a few simple steps like 1) walking her daughter the 3 blocks up to the park to meet with her school friends, and/or 2) making it a habit to call the school to make sure her daughter had actually made it to school, her daughter probably would not be missing. The mom dropped the ball.
First, I would like to point out that a couple of our own commenters took this person to task for their blaming and misplaced anger. “Lawcat” and “Another Steph” both deserve a round of applause for pointing out that the mother isn’t the criminal here.
Listen, I’m the one who freaks out about a kid playing in the street, as we’ve already discussed. I’m the person who thinks that young kids should be supervised if they’re going to play near the road. Even I think saying that a 10-year-old should be walked three blocks every day with an escort is insane. Suggesting a mother call the school to make sure the child got there is close to lunacy.
Once again, that line of thinking places the focus and the blame far away from where it should actually be targeted. This is not a case of a mother not taking care of her daughter. This is the case of a monster abducting a child off the street. Our anger, our blame, it should all go t the person capable of killing an innocent child. That is where it’s deserved.
I think that blaming the mother for a situation like this is a coping mechanism. I think it makes parents feel safer to say, “The mom dropped the ball.” Then you can delude yourself into believing that there is some way to protect your child. You won’t drop the ball and they’ll be safe from the horrors of the world. I understand the natural instinct there, but it’s still wrong. It’s the same principle behind any type of victim-blaming.
The fact is, this is a horrible thing that happened. Hopefully, Jessica Ridgeway’s killer will be found and brought to justice. We’ll be sending our thoughts and prayers to family and community of Westminster in this difficult time. One thing no one needs though is sanctimony thrown at a grieving mother.