In Memory of…

By Gina Simmons, Ph.D.

Chelsea King, 17, went for a jog after school last Thursday.  Her body was found Tuesday in a shallow grave a half mile from her car.  Chelsea was a straight A student, an athlete and a musician in the prestigious San Diego Youth Symphony. Beloved by many for her charming personality, Chelsea held the promise of the best of our youth.  This month and next Chelsea’s parents will receive her college acceptance letters in the mail.  The sickening loss of her life made even more disturbing by the loss of her contribution to our world.

Amber Dubois, 14, missing since February of 2009, still haunts investigators searching for leads in her disappearance.  Amber’s mother aided in the search for Chelsea King.  These parents, united in the love for their children, pulled together with the community to help find Chelsea.  According to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) most non-family abductions of children happen in the after school hours between 2 pm and 7 pm.  74% of the victims are girls ages 10 to 14.

Many of us feel a smoldering rage toward perpetrators of crimes against children.  Comments on blogs and internet news sites describe homicidal fury towards these predators.  When faced with the senselessness and brutality of these crimes against the innocent, it is easy to succumb to blind hatred.  We feel helpless to find or save these precious children.  That feeling of helplessness can kick us into anger as a biological defense mechanism.  Some slip into depression.  Many adult victims of child abuse feel traumatized all over again when they hear stories about new victims.

Chelsea King’s grieving friends and family will not likely feel helped by vigilante anger.  The surviving children in our homes and communities will not feel safe and secure when faced with raging adults spewing bile, no matter how justified the feeling.  Friends of Chelsea reported some healing from the candlelight vigil held for her last night in front of a church.  The power of groups of people coming together to support, grieve and repair is stronger than the force of rage.  There may be predators among us, but they can never conquer the power of thousands of people pulled together for the love of a child.

Lone joggers in the hills have been attacked and killed by mountain lions.  Human predators with the moral compass of a slime mold sometimes do the same.  Threat assessment expert Gavin de Becker wrote Protecting The Gift, a brilliant book to help parents keep their children safe from these predators.  He writes about what he calls the “wild brain” or that animal part of us that tells us when we’re in danger.  If something doesn’t feel right, pay attention.  Is someone looking at you or your child in a strange way?  Listen to that voice inside.  If your child feels uncomfortable with a priest or a teacher or a neighbor, listen to that voice.  Don’t force your child to hug Uncle Ernie or Grandpa Bob when she doesn’t want to.  Let your child respect her own physical boundaries.  That way she’ll know to trust that creepy sensation inside,  while feeling emboldened to protect herself.

Our love and prayers go out to Chelsea King’s family and friends.  Chelsea, may you rest in peace.  In your life you inspired many.  In your death you have brought attention to all missing and exploited children who need our love and protection.