Don't blame Somer's mother for killer's work
I am detecting a distinct note of blame in some of the coverage of the horrific murder of 7-year-old Somer Thompson, who was snatched while walking home from school. She wasn't walking alone, she was with her brother and sister, but she ran ahead after a squabble and disappeared. Times reporters in a story today looked at local schools with plenty of registered sex offenders in the neighborhood and virtually no one walking home without a parent escort.
"I see parents walking with their children in the morning and the afternoon," said parent Rhonda Hodgdon, whose 11-year-old son attended the school in suburban North Tampa last year. "We're almost shocked when we see a kid by themselves."
Somer's mother, Diena Thompson, told Good Morning America today that she has been wracked by feelings of guilt and responsibility for being at work when her youngest daughter disappeared. "I feel responsible," she said. " If I could have just, I don't know, left work or something and been able to pick her up, this wouldn't have happened."
We need to stop blaming the victim. Would you tell the victim of a drunk driving accident, "What were you doing out driving Saturday night? You know the roads are full of drunks." Of course not. The blame goes to the criminal.
What happened to Somer is extremely rare, and fortunately, according to the experts, getting even rarer.
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center in New Hampshire, told the New York Times that parents need to put these crimes in perspective.
“I am of the opinion that these kinds of crimes have declined. They are shocking and galvanizing to the communities where they occur. But some of the research suggests that the effort we have made, both in flushing out sex offenders, incarcerating them and doing things like registering them and keeping tabs on them, are among the things responsible for the decline.”
It doesn't make it hurt any less, but I find comfort in the fact that the vast majority of crimes against children is from people they know, not from anonymous boogeymen. I can police people they know a lot better than some faceless nightmare.
Somer is a victim of crime, not neglect.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne
[Family photo of Somer Thompson]