After 42 days of faint hope, confirmation that abducted 8 year old Tori Stafford is indeed dead is like a tiny knife to the heart. She became “our” little girl as we got to know her and worry for her.
In our hearts we knew it wouldn’t end well but, boy, wouldn’t we have loved to be wrong. Strange and stranger things have happened. Now Tori’s name will live in infamy alongside those of other children who suffered similiar fates. Cecilia Zhang. Holly Jones. Kristen French. Leslie Mahaffy. We can never erase them from our memories and perhaps we shouldn’t want to.
You and your children are safe today. You probably hugged them a little tighter and maybe even shed a few tears when your imagination leapt, however briefly, to the terror that Tori must have experienced. A helpless child with no one to save her. It boggles the mind that there exist people whose twisted minds turn not to protecting such a child but to taking full and unfathomably sick advantage of her inability to protect herself. It takes a chain of events to allow such a girl to be in a position where this could happen to her. In Cecilia’s case, it began with a young stranger boarding in her home. In Holly Jones’s case; the first time she had ever walked in her neighbourhood all on her own except to go to and from school. In Tori’s case it appears she was somehow convinced by an acquaintance of her Mom’s to accompany the woman to the place where she would meet her fate.
We can all speculate but all that matters is that it’s too late for Tori but it’s not too late for the rest of us. The chance of a similar occurance is rare but not impossible. Don’t hide this story from your kids. Use it as a learning tool. Tell them they can’t go anywhere with anybody if Mom or Dad haven’t said it’s OK. They. Just. Can’t. Tell them it doesn’t matter if it’s a grown-up. They can hurt a grown-up’s feelings if they have to. Tell them that how they feel is more important than being polite if they feel in their tummies that something isn’t right. Tell them that no other grown-up has more say about what’s right for them than you do and that nobody speaks for you except you and someone you designate, like an Aunt or an Uncle. You’re not ruining their innocence with their information. You’re actually preserving it.