Jaycee’s Story and the Yale Bride Who Was Murdered

Hi Readers — After the terrible story of Jaycee Dugard’s abduction and 18-year imprisonment came to light a few weeks ago, the media was on fire with reminders that our children are NEVER safe on the streets and anything like this could happen at any time on any unchaperoned trip to school. You’ll recall one bit of advice I questioned was an article that said we should never — that’s right, NEVER — let our children go “anywhere alone.”

Last week, Annie Le, a graduate student, was murdered at Yale.  Shouldn’t the talk show hosts and fearmongers be wringing their hands and tearfully reminding us parents, “Never — NEVER — let your children go to Yale”?

 Why aren’t they?  — Lenore

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40 Responses to Jaycee’s Story and the Yale Bride Who Was Murdered

  1. DFW September 15, 2009 at 11:07 pm #

    What we need to teach kids is that if they are in trouble, they should yale at the top of their lungs!

  2. Alexis September 15, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

    I actually chuckled aloud, DFW.

    What we should really be teaching kids now is that nobody should ever go to Yale alone, ever. Or go to work alone.

    And let’s remember, Jaycee wasn’t actually ALONE when she was abducted. Does this mean that nobody is ever safe anywhere? Even with a parent watching you? She was abducted in the sight of her stepfather, after all.

  3. DelicateFlower September 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    I actually saw a serious comment on a blog that suggested Yale should use its endowment money to install security cameras in every room (EVERY room!) on campus, with live monitored feeds! Besides the prohibitive cost, which this person claimed was worth it if it could save one life, there was nary a mention of the privacy invasion. Amazing.

  4. Anna September 15, 2009 at 11:53 pm #

    Things like this happen, it’s so sad for these girls and their families but all we can do is accept that sometimes bad things happen.

  5. pentamom September 15, 2009 at 11:54 pm #

    NEVER enter a keycard protected building. ANYONE could be in there!

  6. Susan September 15, 2009 at 11:56 pm #

    I think a big difference is that no one (currently!) blames the parents if their 20-something daughter is murdered. Sometimes I think the real goal of the super safety-concsious mom is to be blameless.

    Whenever I bring up the fact that driving your child anywhere is more dangerous than letting them play outside by themselves (or walk to school, etc). I always hear, “But if my child got abducted because I was too lazy to watch them, I could never live with myself. If they died in a car accident, it would just be an accident.”

    It’s just a big mommy competition. Sigh.

  7. HSmom September 16, 2009 at 12:02 am #

    Accept the car accident could, in theory, actually BE your fault. While a random abduction, is completely out of your control (as Jaycee’s stepfather is all to painfully aware). Not to say we abusively blame people for driving accidents, but I think you get my point.

    It’s very sad for the Le family and her fiance. But no, we won’t hear, “don’t send your kid to Yale” anytime soon.

  8. Alison Fairfield September 16, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    Lenore, I am so glad you asked this question!

    I’ve been waiting for just the right opportunity to share this link from the Austin American Statesman newspaper.

    I can’t speak for Yale, but if you are sending your kid to University of TX you can keep on worrying and worrying and worrying….


  9. Angelina September 16, 2009 at 12:10 am #

    Both incidents are horrible and my heart goes out to the parents. I am sure they are reliving in their mind what they did or didn’t do that could have avoided this tragedy.

    But we have to maintain perspective. As a parent, it is a delicate balance to protect our children from harm and to restrict their life, thereby creating children who cannot protect or think for themselves. An invaluable lesson is to teach them is to be aware of their surroundings and trust their gut feeling, They’ll not only be ready if there is danger, but they will appreciate all that life offers by being present and focused. When you live life in this way, you develop the ability to trust your intuition, and that can save your life.

  10. Alyson September 16, 2009 at 12:14 am #

    How come ‘just saving one life’ is soooooo important when it comes to ridiculous legislation but doesn’t hold the same clout when it comes to healthcare???

    That’s my question.

  11. Alyson September 16, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    @ Alison (Great name) – I skimmed the article and LOVED the quote about walking on campus and there was….wait for it….a HOMELESS person and someone SMOKING A JOINT! Oh, how will my child ever be safe again??

    Ok, I’m done now.

  12. Phil September 16, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    We will just have to genetically engineer all children to be cojoined twins in the future so they will never be alone and be safe……lol

  13. Kathy September 16, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    I agree with Susan, it’s just a competition to see who cares more for their kids. But this helicopter parent thing is out of control! I actually know a dad who won’t let his children eat without an adult in the room because they might choke. Can you believe it?!?

  14. Lilavati September 16, 2009 at 12:33 am #

    Perhaps the real lesson in Ms. Le’s case, at least for free range parents trying to convince others, is that bad things happen no matter what the precautions.

    Ms. Le was not a child; she was a grown woman of 24, in a secure building. She was highly intelligent and independent. The evidence that is coming out indicates she fought ferociously for her life. She is still dead. She was not magically safe because of her age, or because of the security.

    Jaycee Dugard’s stepfather was right there, and yet she was still abducted.

    No measure of precautions will make the world safe, particular from the sort of people who kidnap little girls and murder young women in university buildings. But these events are very rare. That’s why they are news. So the question is whether we should take drastic measures that don’t work to prevent very rare events. Especially drastic measures that cause their own problems.

    Not only is the idea of installing live-feed cameras in every room at Yale absurd because of the expense, can you imagine what a gift to a security guard inclined to stalking it would be? I’d feel safer knowing the building was reasonably secure, as that one was, that knowing that someone I didn’t know could watch my every move in real time.

  15. Rich Wilson September 16, 2009 at 12:49 am #

    I remember hearing a stat in Canada (which unfortunately I have no reference for anymore) that the #1 predictor of being a murder victim was being in involved in criminal activity, in particular drugs. #2 was being a woman who had broken up with a man in the last two years.

  16. Darcy September 16, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    While I agree with this site and that we should give our children more freedom, it really bothers me that we are using these two unfortunate situations to prove a point. These parents have suffered enough, let’s not use their terrible tragedies as foder for our simple conversations.

  17. David September 16, 2009 at 1:14 am #

    The LEAP blog has an interesting post today about Jaycee Dugard. The posts focuses on scarce police resources and suggests one way to actually keep our kids safe:


  18. Susan J Sohn September 16, 2009 at 1:19 am #

    I see and hear these stories, I talk about them, I think about the parents and their broken hearts and I can’t begin to imagine their pain. I pray each night for protection upon my family. I pray, not from a fear perspective but from a faith perspective. I believe that my awareness (mine, not my children’s) helps me place tools in their hands for negotiating life and the many circumstances and situations that may come their/our way.

    I am choosing to raise strong, confident children who think for themselves. I encourage them to find ‘their voice of confidence’ early in life. I spend time depositing into their lives and I allow them to be kids, void of some concerns that are beyond their reach or their level of understanding.

    I don’t believe the world to be a bad place and I believe ‘we need to be the change we want to see’ (Ghandi). I/we want to see safe and secure homes, strong, healthy families and vibrant communities so that’s what we are focussing our attention towards. Fear is the opposite of Faith.

  19. sylvia_rachel September 16, 2009 at 1:22 am #

    @Rich Wilson — I think I read that somewhere, too. Alas, I can’t remember either. But it makes perfect sense, and also ties in with the fact that the majority of murder victims are killed by someone they know.

    @Lilavati — you’re absolutely right, that is the real lesson. Problem is, it has two sides: I read what you wrote and think “Exactly! So there’s no point in being hovery and paranoid! Q.E.D.” but I know lots of people who would read it and think “Exactly! So you can never be too careful! Q.E.D.”

    @Angelina said, Both incidents are horrible and my heart goes out to the parents. I am sure they are reliving in their mind what they did or didn’t do that could have avoided this tragedy. Yes, this. And what I’ve noticed is largely missing from media coverage and straight-up gossip about these types of cases is this kind of sympathy and empathy and compassion for the parents of victimized kids, who — remember? — are also victims. These days we’re incredibly quick to judge the parents (mums, particularly) when anything remotely bad happens to any kid, when really in most cases the parents were just regular parents, not neglectful or delinquent at all, and what happened is NOT THEIR FAULT.

    Unless, of course, they helicoptered and bubble-wrapped their kid so diligently that the said kid was launched in a world s/he was completely unable to cope with, and something bad happened to him/her as a direct result of that inability to cope. Then it is the parents’ fault — but for exactly the opposite reason.

  20. Tana September 16, 2009 at 1:23 am #

    So what you’re saying Rich, is that we should never be involved in criminal activity, especially drugs (I agree, 100%), and that we ladies should not be involved with men romantically, ever, because we might break up with him and then he might morph into homicidal Mr. Hyde and take us out. Right? Or, upon the dissolution of a relationship, we should all go into a witness protection program for two years. That would work. (sarcasm, in case that didn’t translate into text.)

    So where are the blamers and haters saying Ms. Le’s parents should NEVER have let her out of their sight to go to college? At what age do we magically become ‘safe’? If her very sad death is any indication, never. I did read one comment about Yale needing to make the campus somehow safer. Cost, invasion of privacy, and all idiocy aside…why are we not putting blame where it belongs? Yale does not need to be safer. Jaycee’s stepdad should not have been closer. The blame for these heinous crimes should be squarely placed on the evil people who committed them. In Jaycee’s case, I’d say some blame falls on the justice system. Her abductor shouldn’t have been on the street in the first place. If he hadn’t been released, she would have gotten on the bus, gone to school, and returned home just like every other day.

    And to wrap this epic comment up, I love the following quote from that article: “Continue the dialogues you’ve had when your sons and daughters since they were little,” says Dahlstrom. “As a parent you still want to talk about good choices, especially when it comes to drinking.”

    Because if your kid didn’t absorb the message during the first 18 years, they’ll DEFINITELY start listening to you in college.

  21. Dot Khan September 16, 2009 at 1:37 am #

    I live 2 towns over from the city of New Haven where Yale is located. While working there I actually used to know the Police spokesperson. (Lost touch years ago and I have no more inside knowledge than whats in the news)
    This occurred in a building with HIGH security and 70 cameras so I always doubted that a stranger was involved. As of now, the case is leaning towards someone she knew. Annie Le wrote a story about safety around New Haven, where she may have believed in the fairy tale of Stranger Danger. There is the possibility that if she believed that, that she let her guard down around those familiar to her.

    If anything this may be an example of how Stranger Danger makes us LESS safe.

  22. MFA Grad September 16, 2009 at 2:54 am #

    Broadsheet on Salon.com had an interesting post about how parents are reacting to the Jaycee Dugard story. I think the author captures something that sometimes gets overlooked when we talk about how fear causes helicopter parenting: sometimes it’s not just fear that causes parents to hover over their kids, it’s also the pleasure that comes from feeling NEEDED by your kids. As the author writes: “It’s nice being around our children. It’s nice to feel needed. I love those moments every day when we trot off to the schoolyard together, laughing and talking. Who wouldn’t have a tough time relinquishing that?” It seems obvious point, really – it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine how well-meaning parents might try to hold onto that stage in which their kids really do need them that much longer than they should? It’s not a problem that affects just child-parent relationships either – how many adult relationships have we seen (or gone through ourselves) in which we’ve seen that kind of “need to be needed” choke the life out of relationships?

    She also pulls out a great quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (from the season 6 finale, I think, when she’s talking to her little sister) that I think sums up what FRK is trying to impart as a parenting philosophy: “I don’t want to protect you from the world. I want to show it to you.”

    Lenore’s NYT story is also referenced. Positively, I might add! 🙂

    Here’s the link to the full post: http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/09/14/solo_kids/index.html

    BTW – I have never read the term “edutainment” before that post – hilarious!

  23. Welmoed September 16, 2009 at 2:55 am #

    I must always stop and think “How many children were NOT abducted last year? How many Yale students were NOT murdered?” The media feeds on fear… Can you imagine a paper with a headline “Millions of children arrived safely at school yesterday”. It’s like airplane travel: the crashes make the news, if only because they are so statistically rare they are the anomaly. Anything that’s common isn’t “news”. Even car crashes don’t rate a mention unless they’re particularly gory or cause a larger-than-normal traffic snarl.

  24. AirborneVet September 16, 2009 at 3:42 am #

    This is all hopeless, really. No matter what we parents do- anyone at anytime can be murdered etc. After all, the Yale student who was murdered was killed in a high security lab that has numerous cameras and limited access with ID cards and key codes. What could be safer? I’m just sayin’.

  25. wellcraftedtoo September 16, 2009 at 4:15 am #

    Violence towards women on campuses–An issue one doesn’t hear so much about these days…

    When a younger woman, and an undergraduate at a large, Midwestern university, I became very involved in efforts–undertaken by women students who organized to make the campus safer for women–in a number of feminist organizations working to enhance awareness of violence towards women. I quickly learned, and have not forgotten, that college campuses create particular difficulties for women.

    Working with these groups was a tremendously empowering, interesting, and enlivening experience for me. It was there that I made some of the best friendships of my college years, some that have lasted to today.

    Did I ever consider leaving school, or ‘blaming’ the school, or curtailing my activities while in school? Not in the slightest. I had lived the year before in a large, urban, and not very safe environment , and had come to this lovely college town, and simply wanted to make it safer for myself and other women on campus. Nor did my parents–to my knowledge–ever even think of taking me out of school. My recollection is that I had to ‘raise their awareness’ (as we used to say) of the dangers women students faced!

    Flash forward a good number of years–Within a week of one of my kids starting school at a large western university two years ago, a young male student was attacked by a knife-wielding deranged man in broad daylight on the front terrace of university’s student center. The boy was injured, quite badly, but survived, having fought back, and having had others rush to his aid. My child’s response when he learned of this attack, and that the victim had come from his very high school? “This shit happens, but, hell, I’m probably safer here than at home.”

    Shit happens.

    And when it does, it can hurt like hell, and make us want to wrap ourselves and our loved ones up in bubble wrap. But we know that’s not the answer to crime. The answer is education, information, developing street smarts, choosing our risks wisely, and dumb luck.

    My sincere condolences to the family and friends of woman student at Yale.

  26. alexicographer September 16, 2009 at 4:32 am #

    Lenore … your earlier post on Jaycee Dugard starts, “First off, my heart goes out to Jaycee Dugard, her daughters, her parents, step-parents – everyone in her circle.” I’d feel a lot more comfortable about this post if it started similarly.

    My condolences go out both to Jaycee Dugard and her family and to Annie Le and hers. Both have suffered tragically.

  27. Gabe September 16, 2009 at 6:55 am #

    We should ban colleges. They’re bad. They keep the children (who are mostly legal adults by then, but who are we kidding, really?) away from parents where they can’t do everything for them and schedule all their time and shield them from harm.

    What’s the point in educating them any more beyond grade school when they’re probably so ill-equipped for reality after their parents have hobbled them their entire lives up to this point?

  28. Mae Mae September 16, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    I think MFA raises an excellent point. Our self-worth has become so wrapped up in our children that it has lead to helicoptering. My parents had a very defined hierarchy of relationships in our house: 1. Their individual relationships with Christ 2. Their relationship with each other and 3. their relationship with us kids. This was the way it was and we understood that at a very young age. I believe this is why they are still together. It never took anything away from us but it was so necessary for them, if that makes sense. It’s nice to feel needed but not at the detriment of our children.

  29. Gary September 16, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    I think we can all agree, NOBODY is ever completely safe. A car crashes, a plane falls out of the sky, a random bullet plows through a bedroom wall.

    A nutjob kidnaps one child out of 85 million and another kills a pretty young bride the week before her wedding, or another kills his pregnant wife and dumps her body in San Francisco Bay!

    The reason we hear and pay such extreme attention to the above type of events is precisely BECAUSE they are so uncommon as to attract our undivided attention.

    Yes they are sad & tragic events. Terribly so. But how may people died in car accidents within a 100 mile radius of Yale in the past 7 days? How many of them made the national news? Even IF they were driving to their own wedding? We are immune to car accidents and shootings (at least in big cities) because we see and hear about them so often as to tune them out. The human brain is an amazing creation that way. We can get used to ANYTHING. If there were several more Jaycee Dugard type stories in the next year you can bet people would be complaining that there was too much news about it and to stop already!

    Once again we see that the press feeds the publics desire for sensational stories, then in the case of child abduction etc.. many parents use this as fuel for their helicopters!

  30. ebohlman September 16, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    When considering how safe college campuses are, we have to compare the risks college students face to those of similar-aged people who aren’t in college. I suspect you’ll find that the campuses are significantly safer. Remember that both victims and perpetrators of violence disproportionately come from the 15-24 age group. If there’s no differences, or the campuses are safer, then trying to alter the campus environment won’t make any difference and might actually do more harm than good.

  31. Blake September 16, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    I really feel for Miss Le, her family, and her fiance. It is very sad. But I’m actually glad this hasn’t grown into a movement to increase campus security.

    Maybe to balance out this tragic incident, papers should run a story about my dear friend Moegi. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but she came to Montana State University-Billings as a year-long exchange student from Kumamoto, Japan, and after her year was over, she spent a month or so traveling in Europe (including a trip to Rome; I was so jealous), mostly alone. She’s now back in Japan with a part-time job and she’ll be finishing her college pretty soon.

    For every one tragedy, there are numerous successes.

    That’s not to say I didn’t joke with her about a Taken-style scenario happening. We had fun with that joke.

  32. wellcraftedtoo September 17, 2009 at 6:38 am #

    @Ebohlman. it would be nice (for those on campus) if it were true that college campuses are safer places for students than non-college campus locations, but I don’t think that statement can be made without a good deal of qualification.

    A number of college campuses and college towns struggle with higher than average rates of sexual assault, for the not particularly surprising reason that many campuses are large, and filled with young women and young men, who can, for various reasons, become targets of sexual and other forms of assault, as well as perpetrators of assault.

    This is not to say, of course, that college-age men and women living in places other than campuses are not subjected to varying degrees of risk of assault, sexual and otherwise. They are. It’s just to bring up a topic that perhaps does not receive enough attention, and is not widely discussed, and that is that seemingly idyllic campuses can often be, especially when alcohol enters the scene (and when does it not on campus?), surprisingly risky places for students.

    I realize, of course, that the evidence continuing to unravel in the Yale case does not suggest, at this point, student-on-student assault…and I continue to feel deep sympathy for the young woman and her family.

  33. Alexis September 17, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    Speaking of the secure building… I went to college and ALL of the dorms were keycard-secured. I was not a resident so I didn’t have a keycard. However, whenever I had to attend a sorority function in the keycard-secured dorm, all I had to do was linger outside of the building and wait until a resident came in or went out, and they let me “tailgate” on them into the building. Another college I attended had the same situation, and I never had trouble getting into a dorm I didn’t have access to (and this was on a campus of 15,000 – very anonymous, and before my sorority activities). So even in secure buildings, it’s NOT that hard to get in!

  34. Peter September 19, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    “Never — NEVER — let your children go to Yale”?

    As a Princeton grad, I heartily concur 🙂

  35. B. Durbin September 19, 2009 at 6:04 am #

    When my brother was in second grade, one of his classmates was abducted and murdered. What happened then? All the schoolkids in the area got an extra dose of stranger training— “don’t go with the guy offering to show you his baby ducklings.” (Actual lure, according to her siblings.) And they took all of the low bushes out of that park. My mom didn’t go there for years.

    These things happen, but the best prevention is not to hover over the kids but to give them the common sense training to not fall for lures. I’ll never know if the people offering me rides on my way to school were legit or predators, but that’s the point— I never rode with strangers, so that’s a question that doesn’t have to be answered.

  36. Blake September 19, 2009 at 6:14 am #

    Alexis, it was a similar situation at my alma mater, except the students did keep a look out for anyone suspicious. I always knew who was at the front desk (had a lot of friends who were RAs), so I had little problem getting in, but most of the time you really did need to have some business down there to get admitted.

    Then again, I only went there for a couple of International Studies parties, for a birthday party, and to pick up some students for a ski trip.

    As long as security is alert, then there really is no trouble with that style of dorm, since people can usually tell if someone is or isn’t supposed to be there. Suspicious behavior can be seen.

  37. Amber September 19, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    This year at my college campus ( California State University Long Beach) a student was murdered in her apartment by her boyfriend, and then we had a swine flu epidemic for several months. Also during the summer there was talk of coyotes stalking the campus at night.

    However, the worse thing is that I’m living with my grandmother, who used to be quite overprotective of me when I was a kid, is driving me nuts with her bantering about every guy being a potential pervert, or worrying that something bad is going to happen to me almost every time I leave the house. I can’t live with her constant anxiety about everything, but I can’t afford right now to move as my hours at work have been cut back quite drastically. Does anyone have any advice to reassure her that disaster IS NOT waiting to happen every time I leave the house?

  38. wellcraftedtoo September 20, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    @Amber– Sure, try a couple things: Introduce her to your friends, including boyfriends, so she can get to know them as actual, known people and discover that they are–hopefully–smart, responsible young people; let her know, to the best of your ability, where you’re going and when you’ll be home and call if your hours change; reassure her that you’re no dummy and that you’re taking reasonable steps to take charge of your life and safety (and if you’re not, start to); include her–when it seems reasonable–in discussions of your plans and activities–for example, if you plan to take a trip or go away for the weekend or go to a music festival, or some such ‘big’ event, you might consider seeking her feedback and including her in your considerations; try to spend time with her, especially outside of the house and do fun things together (a dinner, a movie, etc.) so she can see that you function well and in a ‘grown up way’ out in the world; and, finally, if she is house bound, encourage her to get up and involved in activities outside the house (and get the TV off, if it’s on a lot!).

    I have two college age kids, and this is the kind of stuff, as opposed to arguments or statistics, my fears.

    Good luck!

  39. unclesmedley September 26, 2009 at 3:30 am #

    Hey thar…

    I agree with your reducto-ad-absurdum… But the ironic thing is that Yale went into damage control immediately after the grad student was found stuffed in the wall. Following a perfunctory expression of condolence and regret for the loss, etc., the Prez immediately elaborated on how New Haven and Yale are not dangerous places. Everything’s cool. Yadda yadda yadda.

    In point of fact, even in my days at Yale in the late ’70s, much of the school was in sketchy neighborhoods. There was a tacit agreement between the school, the city and the powers-that-be to keep a lid on the townie-on-Yalie violence that was a regular occurrence: muggings, rapes, all manner of bad news was not at all unusual–just nobody talked about it for fear of triggering another Columbia disaster (Columbia is in Harlem, and that sorta thing frightens the affluent.)

    Alas, in the mid-90s, the cat came out of the bag for once and for all, when a gang-related drive-by took out some freshmen orienteers and their relatives as they strolled around the green on a Sunday afternoon. That was the day New Haven became “urban.”