The 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.