Back off of this child!
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Anderson has experienced a week that most people cannot even imagine. A close family friend betrayed her family in the worst way possible. Her mother and eight-year-old brother Ethan were tortured, murdered and torched on August 4. She was kidnapped and held in captivity for a week by a sadistic psychopath. Finally, on Saturday, August 10, her ordeal ended when her kidnapper was shot and killed before her eyes in Idaho’s Cascade Mountains. Now she is the subject of reckless finger pointing and unfounded speculation. It is never acceptable to blame the victim, and all who do so should be ashamed of themselves.
I have experienced tragedy, and I sat there numb and stoic as family and friends wept upon learning that my daughter Polly was dead back in 1993. I will never forget wondering what was wrong with me as my family returned to Sausalito from Petaluma in a slow grief stricken caravan on the chilly evening of December 4, 1993. It was only hours later that the enormity of my loss finally registered. I exploded in a violent rage. I cursed God, the killer, and even myself for not saving my child. Sometimes, the mind and the heart are not so well synchronized. Sometimes, your understanding belies your emotions. Sometimes, your emotions reject a truth simply because that truth is too painful, too raw, and too devastating to accept.
Hannah has taken heat for engaging social media. People wonder what she was thinking, and why she wasn’t steeped in grief. I took those questions to my friend Alicia Kozakiewicz. In 2002, when she was thirteen-years-old an online predator lured Alicia into his clutches. Four days later she was rescued by the FBI. Now she is a very effective child safety advocate.
Alicia explained that Hannah’s emergence demonstrates how important social media is to kids. Hannah has grown up with social media, she feels very comfortable sharing with people online because it is what kids do. Right now Hannah is emotionally needy, and is seeking comfort and support. She is confused, in shock, and not fully comprehending her situation. Social media, chatting with her peeps, gives her the validation that is otherwise scarce right now. Hannah’s online actions are ill advised, but they are illustrative of child who needs guidance and help, not criticism, innuendo, and condemnation.
It is easy to sit in front of a television set in the comfort of your home, protected from the outside world and armchair-quarterback the issues of the day. However, that doesn’t provide you with insight or secret knowledge. Jim DiMaggio is the criminal in this incident. If you want to point fingers and play the blame game, he is the object of your attention, not his sixteen-year-old victim. She deserves better than that. Send Hannah your hopes, prayers and good wishes: not your criticism, unfounded speculation and finger pointing.