What The “Child Molested at a Library” Incident Teaches Us

Hi erkrdtzkfb
Readers — Yesterday, under my post about “Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day,” someone named Upstate Librarian  wrote: “…why dont you call the mother of the 9 year old that was raped today in the library in New York City. I’m sure she would agree with you on your feelings about leaving children for a few minutes in safe public environments.”

Here’s a response to THAT response, from frequent commenter Uly. Take it away, Uly!

“Dear Upstate Librarian. I’m sure you mean well. No, let me start over. I’m sure you do NOT mean well, that you intend only to shame and scare rather than to educate or learn, but I’m going to act like you mean well anyway.

Stranger molestation does happen. It does. Nobody here has ever claimed otherwise.

It happens very *rarely*, though. The vast majority of child molesters – hell, the vast majority of ALL rapists! – target people they know. For children, that’s almost always relatives.

One nine year old getting raped in a library is sad and unfortunate, but it should not affect your behavior unless, perhaps, there’s been a string of these incidents in your own community.

Likewise, many, many children die in car accidents every year, far more than get raped by strangers (and in fact car accidents are THE leading cause of death for Americans 15 and under), but this simple fact will probably not cause you to stop driving your kid around. (Heck, it doesn’t even convince people to use safer carseats!) Why? Because that would be silly.

When I was a kid I saw a kid get her shoelaces sucked into an escalator and my dad had to help cut her loose. My mother once saw a child fall and get her HAIR stuck in an escalator, which was very nearly tragic. Elevator accidents are more common than most people realize, but plenty of people still use elevators and allow their children to do so. Why? Because you can’t live your life scared of things that occasionally happen to some people.

When your child goes to the park with you, NOTHING is stopping them from being struck by lightning out of the clear blue sky (somewhere around 700 people are struck by lightning in the US yearly) or stung to death by a surprise attack of killer bees (moving northward) or randomly hit by an off-kilter bus. Your presence does not make your child safe. But you go ahead and send your child out in the world anyway, right? Because your kid can’t stay home all the time.

Heck, I bet you even send your child to school with other kids. And why not? That’s what most people do, right? Teachers are far, far, FAR more likely to molest their students than strangers are (although they still come in well under “parents”). Why is sending your child to school without you “safe” when sending your child to the park or the library is “unsafe”?

Because one is something you’re used to doing and seeing, and another is something you’re no longer used to doing and seeing. That’s all.

I don’t mean for you to start seeing the world as the terribly unsafe place it really is, of course. But you have GOT to put these things in perspective. I’m very upset for that poor girl, of course, but I don’t see how an isolated event should make me change my behavior and keep me from doing something that is, in fact, relatively safe. — Uly


58 Responses to What The “Child Molested at a Library” Incident Teaches Us

  1. Uly May 12, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    That’s so weird. I’m guessing I’m quoted (I have my own tag! I’m special!), but I can’t see the text to any of your entries at all.

  2. Melanie May 12, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    Same here, also. I thought that the blank entry was a joke until I tried to view prior ones which also appear to have nothing in them.

  3. Socialwrkr24/7 May 12, 2010 at 3:46 am #

    I can see the text once I clicked on the title!

    Awesome response Lenore – I have a slew of friends having babies this year, I think they all may be getting your book as baby shower presents!

  4. HSmom May 12, 2010 at 3:46 am #

    I can read it just fine…

  5. JMP May 12, 2010 at 3:53 am #

    Just one minor nit-pick:

    Uly wrote: “One nine year old getting raped in a library is sad and unfortunate.”

    Fortunately, from what I gather, no one has said that she was raped. According to the news report I saw (which included an interview with her, as if having her recount it for a TV camera, even with her identity obscured, is something good for her after what was clearly a disturbing experience for her), he touched her inappropriately, had her touch him, and asked some rather inappropriate questions of her. As awful as that was, it did not get to the point of rape.

    Just as it’s irresponsible to go around claiming that genuinely awful but infrequent events are justification to avoid certain types of risk, it is just as irresponsible to throw around words like “rape” to describe an incident in which no such allegation was made, as it would only add fuel to the fire, as the hysteria becomes an urban legend about a girl being raped in the library stacks while her mother was a few feet away — which never happened…

  6. Michelle May 12, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    Uly, that was an awesome response!!

  7. Michele May 12, 2010 at 4:26 am #

    JMP – From Lenore’s OP it appears that the commenter ‘Upstate Librarian’ said that the child was raped and Uly’s comment was in response to that comment.

  8. Kelly G May 12, 2010 at 4:46 am #

    Well said, Uly!

    JMP, I have to agree with Michele…it was the first commenter who threw the word “rape” out, and Uly’s response is perfectly within reason in that she (or is it he? Apologies Uly!) used the same language as Upstate Librarian. That aside, I heartily agree that too many people throw around such severe words like “rape” without thinking twice. And I do wish that when people start talking about things like that, they would post articles so that we can get more information as well as make more informed decisions about the events. Granted, the media can twist things around, but still…I’d rather read an article from a (relatively) trusted news source than a random comment thrown out.

  9. Eric May 12, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Props to Uly. Well said.

    JMP…like my momma used to tell me, think before I speak. In this case, you should read (carefully), and think before passing judgement. But I do agree with you that people should get their facts straight before commenting, reporting, or documenting anything. In this case the person who should have been watching what she said was “Upstate Librarian”.

    When people are fearful, and paranoid, they find it in themselves to rationalize many negative things. Which include what was said, what was done, and what was seen and heard. They always tend to jump the gun.

  10. JMP May 12, 2010 at 5:03 am #

    Thanks for those who pointed out that it was the original comment by Upstate Librarian, not Uly which used the word “rape.”

    Unfortunately, in situations like this it’s often the echo chamber of conventional wisdom that ends up taking over for facts. If enough people start referring to the incident as a rape, it’s only a matter of time before an authoritative-looking news source picks up on the story using the term.

    I take back any impression that I might have been taking a jab at Uly, but what I wrote applies absolutely to the underlying comment to which Uly was responding.

    I once watched someone I knew have their life completely destroyed when a college paper said that he had been accused of rape, when his accuser had made no such allegations (and later withdrew her complaint entirely when the police explained to her that not calling the next morning is not a crime). Just as we should all not engage in playing up minuscule risks, we should not contribute to the echo chamber in which things get erroneously escalated.

  11. Anna May 12, 2010 at 5:07 am #

    I am only in middle school, but my mom wanted me to comment on something that happened at school. One girl at the high school apparently was sexually abused and this concered the school system. I live in a small relitively safe town. The school made us sit against the wall and hold our heads between our knees in the classrooms while out in the hall police had brought dogs and were opening our lockers, taking everything out and looking through it! This happened at every school, high, middle, and elementary. This was the first time this had ever happened. They wouldn’t tell us why, but cell phones were confenscated, all food, a few health class text books and my lunch. I have to bring my own because I have soy allergies and all of the teachers know this, but I couldn’t get my lunch back. I think this is a privecy issue. I even had some of my texts and call numbers deleted! The only people I ever called were mom and dad. I think that what happened to the high school girl was wrong, but schools should know how to deal with it. We all sat against the wall for two hours. Not alowed to see what was happening, my homeroom teacher who is a family friend told me latter about the police.

  12. Vince L May 12, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    Hey, this is the US. We are all forgetting the most important thing. There ought to be someone we can sue!

  13. Uly May 12, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    1. I’m female – and no apologies, I *know* it’s a weird username. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce it either. I don’t know!)

    2. JMP, you’re right. I can’t find out anywhere what actually happened. This might be for the best if it helps preserve this child’s privacy, but there’s no way to know if it was rape or attempted rape or a flasher or what. Indeed, I hope it was on the very mild end of the sexual assault spectrum!

    However, the original commenter did use that term, so that’s what I went with. Even if it was known to me to be an especially brutal rape and a murder, my comment still would be the same. The fact that terrible things happen should not keep us from living.

  14. JMP May 12, 2010 at 5:16 am #

    Uly, the best source I’ve found is http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local-beat/Child-Allegedly-Sexually-Assaulted-In-Public-Library-93358049.html

    The on-air version of the story on that channel actually had video of the victim, although her face and voice were obscured. Assuming she’s recounting the incident accurately, there was no rape, nor did it sound as though things got far enough for there to have been an attempt at rape.

  15. Amanda May 12, 2010 at 5:30 am #

    Excellent, excellent point about the cars and carseats. Really, people choose to freak out about things they can point at and jump to conclusions and warn others about–but not about things that they can actually change. If we want to protect our kids, a HUGE way to do that is to make sure they are safely buckled into an appropriate carseat. But do people do that? No, because it’s too inconvenient. Instead they point fingers at libraries and parks, saying that they are unsafe. Your kid is in far more danger, statistically, in YOUR car than they are in a park or library.

  16. Aaron May 12, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    I love using car safety stats when advocating for free range. It works even better (sadly) when talking about teens.

  17. David May 12, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    I really liked Uly’s response except the point about why we wouldn’t limit the amount we drive our kids around because “that would be silly.” I don’t think it would be silly at all. It sort of seems pretty rational actually, that we would try to reduce their exposure to the thing that is the number one killer of kids.

    Everything else, well said.

    David Hogg
    My Little Nomads

  18. Uly May 12, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    Given that I live in a city where I don’t have to drive anywhere, I would agree, David… but if I say “Actually, that’s a great idea!” I get a zillion people telling me that where THEY live it’s not POSSible, EVer. I call this a need to organize and build better systems in their own communities, but I guess they don’t have the time? I don’t live their lives, so I don’t know.

  19. David May 12, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    I get ya. I think we’re probably largely in agreement on the issue of cars (and putting kids in them). But you did say it would be silly. And I think it’s reasonable to say, no it isn’t silly, it makes good sense – or at least some sense.

    David Hogg
    My Little Nomads

  20. Joie May 12, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    Spot on Uly! Fantastic response. 🙂

  21. montessorimatters May 12, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    Uly, as always, you’ve written something that EVERY person who cares about children simply MUST read. Not only read, but meditate on and understand. Good going!!

  22. Donna May 12, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    And the kid was not even at the library alone! Her mother was nearby when this incident occurred. While it is awful that something like this happened to this girl, we simply can’t keep our 9 year olds velcroed to us at all times and still expect them to grow up to be healthy adults. We have to occasionally let them out of our sight. And, unfortunately, very rarely something terrible will happen when we do. But sadly, very rarely something terrible will happen when we are standing right there as well.

  23. Michele May 12, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Rock on, Uly!! I hope “upstate librarian” reads it and gets an “aha” moment of her/his own.

  24. Cwningen May 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    GO ULY! Thank you for being such an intelligent, well-spoken (written?) woman.

    And I pronounce it “you-lee”. *lol*

  25. Frau_Mahlzahn May 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    Very good response.

    I think, we _all_ agree that we want to protect our children. But we differ in our decisions on how to protect them.

    I firmly believe that children who are allowed to roam, to play outside, to handle knifes, to take the metro, to ride their bikes, who get the chance to learn how handle their conflicts with their playmates by themselves — in short: the kids who move around freely and with a good sense for their environment are much safer than those kids who are always under supervision.

    By the time they are off by themselves, a kid that just moves around naturally and selfconfidently, is much less likely to become a target of those who mean ill as opposed to a kid who is insecure and really doesn’t really know how to react in certain situations.

    (Plus the fact that with a kid that is well-known in the neighborhood, people will be more likely to notice if something is wrong).

    I am so proud of my 12yo daughter who once was in an awkward situation on the tram that scared her. Rather than concluding that she never wanted to take the tram by herself again, she said she wanted to take up a martial art to be able to defend herself. That’s the way to go!

    (Btw: ever since first grade she has been talking about wanting to travel the world after high school. So we parents decided that we had to start to let her go and wander off by herself, so “the world” will not come as a surprise to her).

    So long,

  26. baby-paramedic May 12, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    @ Anna

    What in the name of all that’s good has your LUNCH got to do with a sexual abuse case??!?!?

  27. Frau_Mahlzahn May 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    @JMP: I don’t even want to get into a debate about what is less harmful — even that experience the girl went through is absolutely traumatizing.

    I know you don’t mean to head in that direction, but for me it almost sounds like “not such a big deal after all.”

    I do agree, however, that the choice of words is a means to manipulate a discussion.

    So long,

  28. Sandra May 12, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    That was a really wonderful reply to an unfortunately common comment, Uly.

    As about JMP, just give her a break, readers. She made a mistake by attributing the word to the wrong person but what she wrote made perfect sense to me! And it’s not like she totally went against what Uly said but rather called it “Just one minor nit-pick”.

    Both were right and I wish more parents had their line of thinking!

  29. Penni May 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    Donna is right, her mother was obviously not far off.

    The thing that makes me angry about the original comment from Uptight Librarian (okay, I just checked, it’s Upstate, but I like my version better) is the implied blame of the ‘absent’ mother (and by extension anyone who might leave their kids at the park for an hour or so without parental supervision). No, the person at fault in this situation is the perpetrator, not the mother who took her kid to the library and then let her wander (what, 10, 20 metres away?) and *gasp* look at books.

  30. Kenny Felder May 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Uly–very well said.

    Anna–unfortunately, the Supreme Court (which said in the 1960s that your basic civil rights do not end when you walk into school) has gradually, over the past few decades, eroded any sense that students have rights at all. I don’t know if anything can be done about it, but it’s important for your generation to realize that they are being very ill used.

  31. HappyNat May 12, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    I pronounce Uly as ‘Throatwobbler Mangrove’ but that may just be me.

    Great response, Uly.

  32. Alison S. May 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    With respect to what David and others have noted, we DO limit our car travel for our daughter – and for ourselves. Not to the point of deleting scheduled activities, but we steadfastly avoid unnecessary trips (do we REALLY need to drive up the freeway to the grocery store today, or can it be combined with something else tomorrow?). An average of five hundred people are killed on the roads in Harris County Texas every year (and thousands experience serious injury). There’s NO QUESTION about what constitutes our greatest risk of death and injury.

    While we’re on the topic of the number one killer of kids, there IS a grassroots countermeasure that has the potential to significantly improve both the death and injury statistics as well as the general quality of life for free range kids, and that is the Community Pace Car Program. This concept was developed by a guy in Australia and is spreading rapidly across Canada. I believe the state of Maryland is the first in the U.S. to formally adopt a program. I hope to initiate a program here in southeast Texas, and the Province of Nova Scotia has generously provided me with a start-up kit at their own expense so I can use it as a go-by, but my progress to date has been limited as I struggle to do this while working my “real” job (the one that comes with a paycheck). More info here (if URL does not work, google these words – safe kids Canada pace car):

  33. Mike May 12, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    Love the letter, Uly. Nicely worded and reasoned.

    Re what actually happened, unfortunately there seem to be a lot of people for whom there’s little distinction between molestation and rape. Remember the story a while back about the woman in Nevada who was sentenced to life in prison for forcing a teen boy to touch her bra-covered breast? Perhaps some of you read the reader comments on the “moms” site that posted one version of the news story–terrifying. Almost to a one, the readers cheered the verdict, and fell into line behind the idea that ANY molestation is worthy of life in prison. Or deportation to an island, one reader even suggested. Lord….

  34. sylvia_rachel May 12, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    Uly FTW 😀

    (By the way, I pronounce it “OO-lee”, because it reminds me of my stepsister-in-law’s name, pronounced that way but spelled “Ulli”.)

    I feel like I’m having this same conversation with people ALL THE TIME. It’s so tiring.

  35. pentamom May 13, 2010 at 12:36 am #

    I think those who are saying “you wouldn’t limit your travel” don’t mean “you wouldn’t be careful to limit it to what’s necessary,” they mean you wouldn’t limit your travel to the degree that some people want us to limit our kids’ independence. That is, these people are saying never never never let your child alone or out of your sight. You might make choices about how much you need to travel in a car with your child, but you’d never use the safety issues surrounding auto travel as a reason to never never never put your child in a car.

    So the point being made is that if you treated car travel, which is much more dangerous, in a parallel fashion to how some people want to treat how close you keep your child — well, nobody WOULD.

  36. pentamom May 13, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    @baby — I think Anna’s point is that over-reaction to fears about abuse has real-world consequences — in her case, she had her lunch taken away, and there really WASN’T sufficient reason to put her through that. Someone, somewhere in her school district was molested, so they had to lock down the whole school and take away people’s stuff. It’s a small example, but it’s the tip of the iceberg. If you can see the tip, you know there’s a lot more there.

  37. Robin May 13, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    I don’t know the details of this incident, but what really bothers me is that no one had taught this little girl how to protect herself in this situation. In a library, with mom and probably other adults (librarians?) within reach. When I was little, they taught us to scream and fight in a situation like that. Other adults were nearby and could hear her. Just that fact would probably have sent the attacker running. Someone did not give her the skills she needed.

  38. Nicky May 13, 2010 at 3:46 am #

    @Robin: To be fair to the girl, it’s possible she was simply afraid. It’s not uncommon to forget everything you were ever taught about a frightening situation when it finally happens.

  39. BrooklynShoeBabe May 13, 2010 at 4:50 am #

    As a children’s librarian, I always warn parents that it isn’t my job to babysit their child in the children’s room while s/he are in the adult sections of the library. Most of the parents are okay with this, and run to check out books and such. Of the five years I’ve been here, there’s never been a criminal incident against a child who was unattended as the parent was in a different room. (And the children are usually over the age of 5.)

    I also believe when describing sexual crimes, one has to be very careful in use of language because it can be confusing. For example, when people hear the word sodomy, they automatically think just anal sex. But it is also used to describe inappropriate or unconsensual touching of the genitals or forced oral sex.

    @JMP, I’m curious. Why would a parent or the D.A. allow the girl to tell her story on television? Couldn’t it be held against her in court?

  40. BrooklynShoeBabe May 13, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    @Robin…Also, as I heard the story reported on the radio, the man came up from behind her and covered her mouth.

    Also, let’s not get into blaming the victim.

    Some women and girls have been taught to be still and don’t scream as to not get hurt worst. My grandmother taught me that, and my mom taught me to fight. And, maybe it didn’t occur to the parents to teach a 9-year-old to fight off a sexual attack.

  41. JMP May 13, 2010 at 5:05 am #

    @BrooklynShoeBabe, I don’t think that there was a risk of the girl saying anything that would be held against her, and she seemed to simply recount the incident. They only focused the camera on her hands in her lap, and obscured her voice, so that she couldn’t be recognized.

    I don’t think the DA would have any reason to prevent her from speaking out, although that doesn’t mean that having her speak to a TV crew was a good idea. I know that from my perspective, God forbid one of my kids experienced a news-worth trauma, I doubt I would then want to subject them to dealing with the media on top of whatever else they’d gone through, but that’s an individual decision, not one that I would impose on other parents.

  42. Frau_Mahlzahn May 13, 2010 at 6:25 am #


    ****unfortunately there seem to be a lot of people for whom there’s little distinction between molestation and rape****

    that makes it sound like molestation was okay and nothing to bother about.

    So long,

  43. Frau_Mahlzahn May 13, 2010 at 6:35 am #

    @brooklynshoebaby: off course as a parent you most likely don’t explicitly tell your kid how to behave in case of a sexual assault.

    But there are so many occasions in every day life, in which kids either learn to hold still and not fight or to carry out their conflicts by themselves and, should need be, to fight.

    Personally, after having helicoptered over my oldest daughter way too long, I came to the conclusion that kids _need_ to learn early on that they are allowed to defend themselves using physical force. Now, I don’t want them to be the first to hit the other kid over the head with the shovel, but, hey, if another kid pushes them around and will not stop, go for it.

    I mean, seriously, I’m all for talking things out — but in case of an aggression, I’d prefer for my kids to fight and scream rather than to politely hold still.

    So, while I do agree that it is not easy, I do think that there are ways to encourage your kids without spelling out the worst case szenario in detail.

    So long,

  44. Kym May 13, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Here is an essay by famed security expert Bruce Schneier on worst-case thinking: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/05/worst-case_thin.html

    “There’s a certain blindness that comes from worst-case thinking. An extension of the precautionary principle, it involves imagining the worst possible outcome and then acting as if it were a certainty. It substitutes imagination for thinking, speculation for risk analysis and fear for reason. It fosters powerlessness and vulnerability and magnifies social paralysis. And it makes us more vulnerable…”

    He’s talking about terrorism, but the same thing applies to any irrational fear of incredibly unlikely occurrences.

  45. Donna May 13, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    @ Brooklyn and JMP – The DA can’t prevent a victim from speaking to the press any more than I can prevent my criminal clients or their families from speaking to the press. We, DAs and defense attorneys, can strongly urge against it but at the end of the day everyone has free will. Further, the DA is no where involved in this case at this point. Unlike on Law & Order, the DAs office doesn’t become involved with a case until after someone is arrested. My understanding is that nobody has been arrested in this case so this is not on the DAs radar.

    I assure you that should the DA become involved, he or she will not be happy about the press interviews with the girl. You want the fewest recordings of statements of the victim available for the defense. You definitely don’t want to risk a bad response due to an improperly worded question coming from a reporter not used to interviewing 9 year old sexual assault victims. You only want 2 statements – the forensic interview (interview by a person – cop or psychologist usually – specially trained to interview child sexual assault victims) and the in court testimony.

  46. Really Upstate Librarian May 13, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    I am a librarian at a public library in Canada. While I agree with much of what you say, I do think you are being more than a bit harsh on poor Upstate Librarian. I am assuming that perhaps you have never worked in one of these “safe” public places where other people’s free range children are thrust upon you, like it or not?

    Public places are not “safe” places. At the Library where I work, people frequently leave their children unattended.

    A)It is not the responsibility or problem of library staff to supervise or otherwise babysit your children. Indeed we can’t even if wanted to (which we don’t!), due to the large space, multiple floors, limited amount of staff, etc. However, there does seem to be a public perception that kids are safe at the Library because, well, it’s a Library. Not true. If one is truly leaving their kids somewhere “free range” that’s one thing, but if there is any expectation of more than that I think that’s a problem. I’m guessing this might be where Upstate Librarian is coming from – I’m sure any library staff near where this happened are horrified and troubled by what happened, not the least because it was entirely preventable.

    B) My library is in shopping mall. Caregivers should be around to help/guide their children with things like occasional fire alarms that require an evacuation, unfiltered internet computers, and access to other places in the mall. Staff do not act in loco parentis because, well, you should be.

    C) Parents should know that many public libraries have policies that include calling security or the police if they find unattended children in the library under a certain age. If the police arrive before the parents do, children are removed by police and social services kicks in. At my library we normally call on mall security, who actually require parents to prove their identities and sign a formal report before they can leave with their child. Yes, this is rare, but not so rare that we don’t have a policy on this that we have to use numerous times each year.

  47. Stephanie Lynn May 14, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    @Frau Mahizan:

    That’s not what Mike said, or implied. Something can be more terrible than something else without devaluing anyone’s suffering. We have to be careful the language we use because (especially in situations of sexual assault) people can easily be prone to sensationalist thinking. Molestation is horrible, but it isn’t rape and shouldn’t be called as such. Saying this is not implying that molestation is “okay” or “not that big a deal”

  48. Frau_Mahlzahn May 14, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    @stephanie Lynn: I hope that this is not what Mike implied. My point is, that it is not up to us to judge the traumatization that people go through after having experienced either one. So while I do agree that our choice of language manipulates the discussion, I also say that we shouldn’t not get into a debate of where on the scale of molestation (I think it was Uly who used that term) the poor girl was assaulted, it should suffice that she experienced something deeply unsettling.

    Yes, UL might have used the term in order to manipulate our perception — but let’s not get on her level.

    @really upstate librarian: As a parent I do not expect a librarian to babysit my kid, if I leave it unattended. I leave it unattended because I trust my kid with being able to handle that situation, and, yes, to behave himself while I am off in another section. I think I know what you are talking about, however, because I know quite a few people who just assume that other people will watch their kids just because they happen to be there. But that’s not what free range is about.

    So long,

  49. Uly May 14, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    Corinna, I agree. Even though this sounds comparatively mild, it still should not have happened and it still is wrong.

    I’m somewhat relieved it wasn’t more… MORE, but I don’t think it’s my business to say that it should’ve upset the girl less or been less traumatizing because it “wasn’t as much” or anything. (I’d rather see no molestation or rape of anybody ever, of course. That really goes without saying.)

  50. Elle May 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    Regardless of the textbook or legal definition of rape, many people consider rape to be any unwanted sexual act, whether it be physical intercourse or forced touching. Rape is used to express the violation that has occurred, not necessarily to sensationalize anything. It is also used in nonsexual terms to express a violation (e.g. expressions like ‘Raping the rain forest for profit’)

    The argument over semantics is just odd. I don’t understand why the word rape would “add fuel to the fire.” I was upset to hear about a child getting raped in the library. Finding out it was “only” molestation did not make me feel one bit less upset. It’s like you are all taking the worst case scenario and twisting it around. Instead of imagining the worst possible outcome and then acting as if it were a certainty, you are imaging what you think is the worst case scenario and saying, well since that didn’t happen, it’s all ok. But you are forgetting that what did happen is pretty horrific in itself.

    The fact that this pedophile “only” touched the girl in question would be enough for me as a parent to be very cautious in the neighborhood where the library is. There is some sick person who has learned that molesting a girl in a library works somewhat, but there were people around. Next time he will try to find a more secluded place.

    Now, I am not saying that there are rapists lurking in every corner. But a child was attacked. The molester mentioned in the article is lurking somewhere, there is a good possibility he lives or works in the neighborhood where the library is and he will strike again. And as a parent, I could care less about whether his assault was molestation, sodomy or rape. It’s all bad.

  51. Elle May 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    Bad editing. I meant to write

    “All you are doing is taking the worst case scenario ..”

    It’s like you are all taking the worst case scenario (implying that everyone on the board is assuming the same thing.)

  52. Kathy May 14, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    A case like this happened in Melbourne, Australia (where I live) a few years back, when my eldest child was about 2 or 3 from memory. A girl of about 6 or 7 was raped in the stacks of a public library while her mother & siblings were in another section of the library. It was one of the few remaining libraries with celing-height stacks in Melbourne. It doesn’t have them now.

    It happened at around about the same time as a rape-murder in Perth, Australia, where a 9-year-old girl who was out shopping with her uncle was sent into the toilets at the mall by herself. Her attacker was already in there concealed in a stall and attacked & killed her in the 10 minutes or so before the next woman toilet user came along & entered the toilet.

    Both these tragedies were deeply disturbing to parents here in Australia (quel surprise) and responses varied a lot. But one thing we didn’t see a great deal of was mother-blaming in the case of the library attack (there was, unfortunately, a bit of finger-pointing at the uncle in the shopping centre murder, more from not having called out for the girl after she’d been absent a few minutes rather than the initial sending of her into the loo). Probably the strongest vein of rhetoric was basically the one that tagged these events as the horrific outliers they were – and reassuring people that *these events are rare*, and *children can be safe in the world without their parents hovering over them every second*.

    I’m not really sure where I’m going with this actually, as I admit that I was badly frightened by the library attack and it has taken me until the last few months to comfortably allow my 7 and 5 year olds to stay in the children’s section browsing, reading & playing for 15 minutes while I move a few feet (but out of sight) with my infant to select adult books. So I suppose I responded irrationally to a bad but rare outcome by becoming excessively worried in a particular environment. (It was particularised; I don’t tend to helicopering generally, although I’m sure I have my moments compared with some of you!)

    Anyway, just wanted to add an international perspective, and to say that it is possible to acknowledge that bad things can happen, even the worst things, and that while we will be sickened and frightened by them, we don’t have to let it permanently cloud our judgement either as a society or as parents. Risk is an evaluation, after all.

  53. Uly May 14, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Elle, it’s reasonable, right after an incident like this, to be more cautious in that specific library, in that specific neighborhood, at that specific time of day. You’re responding to a known risk.

    What’s not reasonable is doing what UL seems to have suggested – being scared of EVERY library (and park, and playground, and store, and stoop….) in EVERY neighborhood at ANY time of day with ANY child, no matter how old or young, capable or not. What’s not reasonable is then holding on to these fears for years, long after the incident and restricting yourself and your child because once, a long time ago, something happened to some kid somewhere.

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  55. Angela May 18, 2010 at 10:56 pm #

    Be real. I go to the park and the library a lot both with and without my kids. There are a lot of creeps that hang out at these places and at this point in my kids development I point them out and why they do not belong there.

    Guy alone on the playground…STAY AWAY from him, do not look at him talk to him, if he tries to talk to you RUN. LIkewise, guy alone in the children’s section of the library who is not actively getting books for his kids well, dude get out! And mommies with your three year olds on the playground and in the library when you see the 9 year old alone it is your job to make sure no creeps are trying to talk to the poor kid. Free range only works if responsible adults are willing to help speak up for the whole community.

    Ever notice a guy sitting alone at the kiddie pool? Well when I see him I say, “is your child or grandchild here”? When he answers “no” I always say well then I don’t think it is appropriate that you are here…every time the guy hits the road.

    I believe in free range but it can’t just happen out of this idea that you are more likely to get struck by lightening than get raped in the bathroom. There are a lot of seriously creepy dudes hanging around public places. It is our job to speak up to them and speak up for our kids and to teach our kids how to scream and run like crazy if someone scares them!

  56. Jamie June 2, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    “I’m guessing this might be where Upstate Librarian is coming from – I’m sure any library staff near where this happened are horrified and troubled by what happened, not the least because it was entirely preventable.”

    This is my very first post here, so please forgive me if I’m misinterpreting, but isn’t the shtick of ‘free range’ kids that this incident was *not* reasonably preventable? It’s the sort of thing that the little girl’s mother, in retrospect, might have seriously questioned her decision to let her daughter briefly out of her sight, but it’s not as though she watched her daughter head toward a suspicious-looking, leering man and shrugged, right?

  57. Angela June 8, 2010 at 4:56 am #

    Uly, no offense meant, but you’re comparing apples to oranges. Getting hit by an off kilter bus or getting into a wreck? Accident. Getting stung by bees? Accident. Escalator mayhem? Accident. Struck by lightening? Again, accident. However, being molested and therefore changing a childs life forEVER can not and will not ever be an accident so you can’t compare them.

  58. Stacey June 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    that’s a good point. I’m surprised worrywart parents don’t insist on staying next to their kids for the entire school day. Somehow some dangerous things are culturally acceptable and others are not. Ironically, from what I’ve read on this site, free range parents seem more likely to homeschool than the helicopter parents. Reminds me of a novel I read where a young woman time-travels back to the dark ages and someone tries to warn her of the dangers of that time period, she responds by pointing out that today is just as dangerous. I have often said every time you leave your house, you risk getting hit by a car. Once you get past that, why worry about anything else? Some obvious dangers just don’t bother us because we are so used to them.