I talked earlier on Twitter about how angry it makes me when something happens to a child and instead of focusing on how sad it is that they are missing, people focus in on seemingly irrelevant issues, like why the child was playing unsupervised. “These questions should be asked”, I’ve heard. Should they? Really? Even if you that were true, I’m pretty sure that they don’t need to be asked by you, or me, or anyone else not appointed to rule on this matter. I’m also sure that when these pictures, descriptions and phone numbers were put together and sent round, the only purpose of it was to inform us, to ask for our help, to make sure we know who we are looking for and what to do if we think we see her.
Focusing on whether this child should have been outside or not is not very helpful at all. Firstly, because no-one needs to hear people judging them and their actions when they’re having what may well be the worst time of their lives. Secondly, because when this sort of niggling, over-the-fence gossipy malice starts, it builds and builds until it becomes accepted as a train of thought, and before you know it some newspaper that we all abhor is doing a think-piece on the perils of certain parenting styles and asking if this sort of thing could be prevented. Thirdly, and most importantly to my mind, it completely detracts away from the criminal element. If no-one wanted to do any harm, if there was no cretin in a van with an agenda, then all that would have existed would be a small child, playing outside. It really doesn’t matter what your moral judgement is on that or whether you think it’s appropriate or not – a child was playing outside.
When you question whether this girl should have been in that place, at that time, whether you know you are doing it or not, you’re saying that it was avoidable. That different actions could have produced different results. It brings up half-formed wisps of ideas that maybe there was fault here outside of the perpetrator. It conveys the horrible notion that perhaps you think this was in some small way ‘asked for’, or that a small piece of blame can be attached to the victims of this crime.
Please don’t do this. It really hurts to hear it, whatever you’re the victim of. Without the kidnapper, you just have a child playing outside. Without a rapist, you just have a girl in a dress in a club. No-one ever asks for anything horrible to happen to them, ever. We love to use that cliché that we could be ‘hit by a bus tomorrow’, but I wouldn’t want it to stop anyone from crossing a road, or leaving their house, or wearing a dark-coloured coat at night, or being a bit drunk and unobservant and other such gallopingly high-risk behaviour. There will, I imagine, ultimately only be one person to be judged in this whole matter, and even that’s not our job. For those whose job it is, it would be nice if they weren’t detracted from the matter by the discussion of whether even a small part of blame should be attributed to anyone else.