Jessica Ridgeway Probably Didn’t Go Willingly With Her Murderer, So Stop Yelling ‘Stranger Danger’

stranger dangerThe tragic murder of Colorado 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway was shocking and sad. The response from some parents who chose to shame and guilt the young girl’s mother for her daughter’s abduction was even more depressing. When we should have been opening our hearts and showing support for this poor woman, parents on the internet were enumerating the multiple ways that Jessica’s mom supposedly failed to protect her. I’ve already called out this bad internet behavior once, but there is a new development in the case that should make those sanctimommies and daddies feel even more ashamed of themselves.

Jessica Ridgeway’s murder has been linked to two attempted abductions of runners in the area. Back in May, a man came up behind a jogger and attempted to cover her mouth with a chemical-soaked rag. She was able to get away and call the police, although her attacked was not identified. And in July of 2010, a man fitting the same description attacked another jogger, tackling her to the floor. He was only scared away by the sound of a near-by resident opening their sliding glass door. Police believe that this is the same man who took Jessica Ridgeway on her walk to school.

This new evidence shows that the man who took Jessica probably didn’t lure her away with candy. It doesn’t sound like she hopped in his car when he offered her a ride to school. This man had already attacked two fully-grown women. He was possibly using a chemical to knock his victims unconscious. This is a monster who had practice stealing away women and girls.

One of the reasons that online parents seemed to feel justified in shaming Jessica’s mother was a letter sent home from the young girl’s school about “Stranger Danger.” As one of our commenters argued, some parents believed that this letter should have prompted a quick response from area parents looking to protect their kids. And by extension, that response should have protected Jessica.

“I just read that Jessica’s school sent out a letter on september 13th, warning parents of  ”stranger danger” /previous attempts of a stranger to lead students into their car? …and somehow the mom has (no?) responsibility to protect her child and heed the school warnings? I can only say what I would do, and that is to drive or walk with my daughter to school. Especially if the school has sent two letters home. There is just no excuse to take a hands off approach such as this to parenting. The sicko who did this is certainly to blame but parents should do everything in their power to protect their children.”

It’s very likely that after the school’s letter went home, Jessica’s mom discussed it with her daughter. They could have gone over what to do if you’re approached by a stranger. That would be a responsible way to handle a warning from the school about stranger danger. Unfortunately, that information couldn’t have helped this little girl. The sad truth is that this monster was determined to take a female, and he would’ve found a way. We cannot ask that our children live in bubbles to protect them from these rare but terrifying criminals. We can give them as much information as possible to stay safe, but that doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen.

More than that, we can’t blame parents for not adequately “protecting” children when the kids weren’t doing anything dangerous. Jessica Ridgeway was 10 years old and walking a couple blocks to school. She like wasn’t ignoring safety warnings from school and chatting up a stranger. She was taken by a man with a history of attempted abductions that included the use of chemicals to knock victims unconscious. Not that it would make the situation any more of Jessica’s mother’s fault if her child was lured away by a cruel and calculating adult, but that’s not the case here.

The new evidence provides just one more example of the fact that blaming the victim or her parents is the wrong direction for your anger or shame.

(Photo: Amma Cat/Shutterstock)

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  • Byron


    The guilt and shame inflicted on the mother is “even more depressing” than the kidnap and murder of a 10 year old girl? In what dimension of what planet?

    I don’t get the point of the “Haha! It wasn’t the mother’s fault after all! It was just a crazy kidnapper after all, now everything is good with femdom again!” celebration. Just because it’s not your fault and just because there’s nothing to tell you you could have done something differently doesn’t change the fact that there IS something this woman could have done differently which would have saved her girl’s life and I’m sure she knows it just as much as everyone else. I’m sure she’s not hearing anything new and I’m sure she’s blaming herself a million times more and the guilt she’s causing herself is so much greater than any external person on the internet could inflict on her that all this energy spent defending her is a waste.

    Instead, spend it on promoting ways for schools to more efficiently communicate safety procedures than through “letters” and maybe prompt them to even include the town police into the matter when such things occur in the vicinity of the routes schoolchildren frequent on a daily basis.

    • Taargus

      I don’t get how you can jump to the conclusion that this article says any of what you just implied. There was no laughter and no declaration of everything being good with femdom (whatever the hell that is) again.

      What, exactly, is it that the mother could have done to protect her daughter? Quit her job and spend every waking moment hovering over her? Who’s to say that she wouldn’t also have been targeted if they were walking together – this story does say that he had been targeting grown women in the area. The first attack happened in 2010 and the second in May 2012. That’s two attacks in the area in 2 years – rearranging life for the tiny chance something could happen is unreasonable.

      I agree, the police should have spent more time in the area during the times children walk to and from school. But you can’t put that on the mom. She can’t make the police department do that every day until the guy is caught – 2 years later.

    • Byron

      That top bit may have been slightly hyperbolic but it matched the…feeling I got reading it, one of celebratory relief almost.

      The mother could have walked/driven her daughter to school every morning like my folks did. I never said to hover over her all day or anything, I just said that she knows that if she had driven her to school that morning, the girl would be alive.

      The two attacks and their space in between is not the issue, as I already said, there’s no way she could have known that would have happened and she was logical in her prior behavior to not be a paranoid mom. That, however, does NOT change the fact that she actually could have prevented it had she walked her kid to school that day…or had she taken her into one of those rare “skip school have fun with mom” days or…something! There’s a million ways she could have just by luck or chance avoided this day. It’s bad luck…but bad luck can be prevented by us doing something that changes how things turn out.

      Just because there’s no way you could have known, just because there’s nothing you could have done different while remaining logical for the facet of reality you’re aware of, that does not make what you did right or even ok, it’s simple, you just did the wrong thing, she did the wrong thing that day as it turned out, she couldn’t have known it was the wrong thing and indeed she doesn’t deserve to be blamed for it…but we can’t stand here and say she did the right thing just because it makes us feel better to do so. Sometimes, it’s impossible to do the right thing. We need to come to terms that parents will do the wrong thing for the kids now and again out of no fault of their own and on some tragic occasions it’ll even cost em this dearly, this is life.

    • Taargus

      1. The spacing between the two attacks is very important to the issue. It was a two year span. That is a long time. The previous 2012 attack was in May and this attack didn’t happen until several months later.

      2. How was the mom supposed to know an attack on that particular day was going to happen well enough to have a “skip school” day with her daughter? The mom can’t be expected to be psychic. You’re being incredibly unreasonable.

      3. I refuse to blame the mom for a child being attacked while walking to school. Should the mom just have kept her daughter home from school forever on the off chance that the girl may or may not be attacked by someone whose only two attacks happened over a 2 year span?

      4. Chance is just that – chance. You can’t change it. Maybe with retrospect you can see where you could have done something differently, but that is not the same as assigning blame to a mom (and not the dad, apparently) who just lost her daughter. It’s disgusting to blame the mom when it’s not her fault a deranged man (well, a 17-year-old kid) abducted her daughter and then murdered her. You’re assigning blame to the mom and not the murderer – that’s pretty screwed up.

      5. I find it interesting that -no one- asks where the dad was. Where the hell was he? It seems we’re all so engaged in mom-blaming that we’ve lost sight of the fact that there are two people responsible for the girl who was murdered. Where is the outrage that he didn’t rearrange his life to protect his daughter?

  • Lori

    I think parents react to something like this by shaming the child’s parent as a way of reassuring themselves. That is, instead of thinking, there are all kinds of bad people out there who could snatch my child and I might not be able to do anything about it, they’d rather think, this happened because this girl had a bad mother. I am a good parent, so this won’t happen to my kid.

    • Zoe

      That is exactly why ‘blame the victim’ exists – fear. It’s like claiming a rape victim was asking for it because she was wearing a short skirt. The logic is, “I don’t wear short skirts, therefore it can’t happen to me, so I’m safe.” Obviously that’s total crap. Rape can happen to anyone, regardless of clothing. And child abduction can happen to anyone, too. It only takes a second. And a 10-year-old walking a few blocks to and from school is perfectly reasonable, even if there have been some suspicious incidents in the past (2 years apart). I would trust a 10-year-old to not put herself in harm’s way if I instructed her on stranger danger. People can’t accept that sometimes terrible things happen, and can happen to anyone, no matter how many (unreasonable and excessive) precautions you take.

  • Derrick

    Why is she walking home alone? That’s the issue people are upset about, or should be if anything,