For any of my readers who have come here to read something funny or lighthearted, I apologize. Recent events in the news have been weighing heavily on me, so I am going to be serious tonight, as I am from time to time. There are two news stories that are making me want to write these things tonight. One is about a girl in Canada, Amanda Todd, and one is about a girl in Westminster, Colorado, Jessica Ridgeway. Both of these lovely girls are now gone from this earth, and their stories had some things in common for me.
Amanda Todd made a silly mistake when she was thirteen and was hanging out with her friends. They were playing around with a webcam, and someone spotted a potential victim in Amanda. She was told how pretty she was, and encouraged to "flash the camera." After a short time, she received internet messages telling her that if she didn't provide full-body shots, the pictures of her breasts would be sent to all of her family and friends. A list of these people was included. Social network pages identified her as a person of loose morals. She changed schools more than once, and tried to dull her pain with cutting, and use of drugs and alcohol. She was constantly hounded by bullies, and verbally abused and beaten. After she tried to commit suicide by drinking bleach, online messages to and about her included pictures of bleach bottles and comments that maybe if she used a different brand of bleach, she'd be successful next time. Amanda lost all of her self-esteem and desire to live, and took her own life.
Ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway's mother watched her walking off to school at 8:30 a.m. Friday, October 5th, and then went to bed. She had just worked the night shift, and was going to sleep during Jessica's school hours. Jessica never showed up to meet her friends at the park three blocks away, and never made it to school. Unfortunately, when the school called about her absence, her mother didn't hear the phone ring. As mentioned before, she was sleeping after her normal work shift. Jessica's mother didn't realize that she was missing until late afternoon when her daughter didn't come home from school. People from all of the surrounding communities searched for her to no avail, including my friend Melissa, who lives in the same neighborhood. A dismembered body was found two days ago by some people who were, to the best of my knowledge, doing grounds keeping at an open space. It was disclosed today that the body was that of Jessica.
So, what do these stories have in common? It is more than the tragic loss of two young lives and the sorrow of the families and friends affected by their deaths. As I have seen the news stories and people's comments about them, I have noticed some disturbing things. Amanda was a child who made a childish mistake of trusting someone who sweet-talked her. This was met with torrents of abusive comments. The comments haven't stopped with her death, either. I saw some heartless comments in regard to her mistakes and her death. Unfortunately, I have seen some cruel comments directed at Jessica's mother, as well. Instead of being concerned over a missing child, many people were blaming the mother. She should never have let her walk three blocks, they said. That makes her a bad parent, they said. How could she be so awful and lazy as to sleep through the phone calls? In essence, they were saying, of both stories, that "she got what she deserved."
Instead of blaming the bullies, or the horrible person who killed and discarded a child, they are blaming the victim. It makes me wonder if we have become so cruel as a society that our youngsters have taken this into their everyday behaviors. I am not saying that bullying is anything new. I was on the receiving end of bullying that was cruel and matter-of-fact. When someone tells you that you are too ugly to have a pretty name, or that you are so ugly that a war started over who was uglier, you or another person in the class, you know what bullying feels like. These kids were dreadful, as kids can be. But where do they learn this pattern of behavior? Could it be from hearing their family say something about Mrs. Jones being fat and stupid, or Grandma being a dumb old woman?
Are we unable to face the fact that there are predators out there who can easily abduct and kill children as well as adults? Does the fear of losing one's own children make people try to find blame in the parents? After all, if the child is dead because they had a bad parent, that means your child is safe, because you are a great parent, right? Wow, maybe I have accidentally hit on something. By trying to make the other parent's situation different from their own, they create an idea that it will never happen to them. I don't know their reasons, and I suppose I never shall. But I hope I never catch myself blaming the victim in such a tragedy. To me, it is the cruelest thing of all.