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Rescuing the Other Jaycees

2009 August 30
by Julie Clawson

I, along with the rest of the nation have watched in horror this past week as the details of the Jaycee Dugard captivity emerge. Very little angers me as much as hearing about the sexual assault of children. While I generally favor justice that restores criminals, cases like this almost make me want to support the death penalty or at least slow, painful castration for rapists. I can hardly imagine the damage done to Jaycee and the years of healing she and her family now face.

That said, I am a bit disturbed as to why this case has captured the media’s (and my) attention and outrage. It is of course horrific, but it is hardly unique. Thousands of girls around the world face similar terrors every day. Children are kidnapped off the streets in Africa, drugged on trains in India, or sold by uncles in Cambodia and end up as captive sex slaves in brothels around the world – including in the USA. At the Not for Sale site you can read the story of Srey Neang – a young girl sold to a Karaoke bar owner who repeatedly raped her and forced her to service up to ten men a day. Once when the police raided the club, this 15 year old’s “rescuers” charged her with prostitution and but her in jail until her owner bought her back. At the Polaris Project site one can hear the story of Katya, a 20-year-old Ukrainian girl who thought she had landed a waitressing job in America. But instead she found herself in captivity in Detroit forced to work in a strip club and locked into a tiny apartment with other women. Fear of getting caught as an illegal immigrant and imprisoned as a prostitute bought their silence.

Theirs is a story common to thousands of women and children, but those stories don’t make the 24/7 news channels. Maybe it’s because they aren’t cute little white girls from middle class families. Maybe because Jaycee seems so “girl next door” and these other women seem worlds away. I have a feeling the guys visiting the massage parlours or the bachelor parties at the strip clubs don’t see the girls there (often trafficked slaves) as sentimentally as the nation does Jaycee. But shouldn’t we be just as outraged at the captivity and rape of each of these girls as we are about Jaycee Dugard? I think we are right to be outraged and disgusted by what was done to her, but I don’t want that anger to simmer down just because she is now safe. There are girls all over the world, many of them in our local U.S. neighborhoods that are still living that day to day terror. They need rescue too.

So I hope this news coverage of Jaycee Dugard is not just the next sensational story to capture our attention after the death of Michael Jackson. I hope it is a wake-up call for Americans that there are girls being treated as chattel in our very midst. They may not all be cute white girls kidnapped from bus stops, but they are all someone’s daughter and children of God. Their rape, captivity, and exploitation should be pissing us off and causing us to do whatever we can to restore their lives too.


8 Responses leave one →
  1. August 30, 2009

    I think there’s also a broader element to this story which so captivates us. The highway to my house passes through a dense forest. I’ve often wondered if there is any unsolved crime evidence hidden there. There’s a man on my street who in 20+ years has never planted a tree, never paved his driveway. I often wonder what goes on inside that house. There’s a property a few miles from me where for years, the interior was completely ringed by a six-foot solid wood plank fence. What on earth was going on behind that wall?

    We drive through the woods and past homes and property oblivious to what stories are written there. It’s astonishing that something like this story could go on right under the noses of the neighbors for all those years, but then I ask, what could be going on right under our noses? But we don’t want to answer that question because to truly answer it would be to give up basic freedoms. I remember how, years ago, as an apartment tenant, I would resent the annual inspection by the landlord. I wanted to be king of my castle.

    But maybe the loss of such freedom is the price we must pay to ensure the safety of people like Jaycee. On television at least, that property looked like it was dying for a closer audit; and health, fire, safety and environmental concerns are sufficient grounds for authorities to get a closer look.

  2. August 30, 2009

    Paul – very good points. I found it disturbing to hear that in the Dugard case, neighbors did call the cops about suspicious behavior. The police showed up, chatted at the door and then left without looking around the place. There wasn’t enough evidence for a search warrant – well-founded suspicions just aren’t enough. In many ways it may be easier to rescue sex slaves in countries around the world where access to such places may be easier.

  3. August 30, 2009


    I really appreciate you saying this. I too have been wondering why we care about this girl and not all the other girls. I believe we should care about her, but I hope we don’t care about her only because of who she is and where she is from.

    I also find it shocking that people are so shocked by this story. I find it repulsive, but the people around me seem to think it is shocking that this even happens. I find myself wondering how people don’t know about modern day slavery and don’t know this happens every day.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  4. Pippin permalink
    August 30, 2009

    Any boy or girl in similar circumstances, regardless of where they come from, what their socio-economic status, deserve every bit of their freedom, and our outrage on behalf of their horrific plight.

    I disagree in one sense that Jaycee Lee’s case was ‘hardly unique’– it is hardly unique in that tens of thousands of girls are kidnapped into slavery all the time. However as you mentioned– she is a middle class girl in the USA. This does not make a 10 year old Thai girl’s selling into sex slavery somehow less worthy of outrage or attention– just that statistically speaking, for that kind of abduction to happen to a middle class white girl, in broad daylight, at a bus stop, just several feet away from her own stepfather, is very rare. And for her to show up after being held captive– physically or psychologically– for 18 years is even rarer– unheard of. There is almost no precedent for psychologists etc. to work on.

    I also think our empathy towards others should NEVER end with those who are similar to us. We are *always* called to put ourselves in another’s shoes, no matter how difficult it is to imagine how it must be like when their circumstances are so different from ours we have almost nothing to compare it with. Or, even if we can’t fully understand, that doesn’t absolve our responsibility to care. Even if the case of an 18 year old girl in Asia doesn’t hit home as closely as that of Jaycee Lee, we still, on a collective level, must care for all those 18 year olds silently suffering in Asia. A human being is in captivity in the 21st century. What more do we need to know or understand in order to feel outrage to spur us into action?

    However, on a PERSONAL level, while our empathy must not end there, it is natural to empathize with those we identify with, somehow see ourselves in. For the newspaper readers who read of Jacyee Lee’s story– they can look at their own children and see all the markers of their middle class childhoods– the Christmasses, the school trips, family vacations, graduation– and see just how much Jaycee Lee missed. As her ex-teacher said in an interview, she just thought of all the other students she taught and watched grow and fulfill their potential over those 18 years– students that Jaycee Lee would have grown up with– and just thought of everything Jaycee Lee was denied. I myself was thinking of my own childhood and all the things I was doing in those 18 years she was in that shed. I think that’s a very real, human response. I know similar widespread criticisms have been made of the widely publicised case of Madeline McCann and other white girls who disappeared– “if she wasn’t white, no one would care”– but I think it’s natural certain cases will just resonate or hit home more– cops work on thousands of cases and just certain abuse cases stick out more than others personally for one reason or another– and that’s perfectly okay. We just need to make sure we use that as a stepping stone to care about ALL the other missing children out there– even if their own parents or society doesn’t even notice or care they’re gone.

    Also, I think the bizarre element of this whole case certainly plays a huge factor– 18 years in someone’s backyard– so near and yet so far. As Paul said, it just makes you wonder what goes on right under our noses? The thing that concerns me is that this guy was just seen as the neighbourhood bogeyman– the kids called him “Creepy Phil”. How often is that term applied to those who are harmless; just different, asocial, eccentric or reclusive? How do we tell the difference between someone who’s just a little strange and is in need of tolerance and understanding, and someone whose strange-ness proves to be dangerous? I fear that this case has just made the worst nightmares of every parent who lives next to any guy who seems a little weird come true. And I truly hope this case doesn’t cast a suspicious light on any mentally or emotionally troubled guy who happens to live across the street. (Statistically though, sexual assault/abductions are more likely to be carried out by someone within or close to the family circle than a complete random stranger)

    I just hope they will be able to heal.

  5. August 31, 2009

    I want to pull out Pippin’s comment re: the 18 years later aspect. This is VERY unusual, so far as I can tell, and thus brings this case out of the masses and into our attention in a way most cases won’t.

    Also, I tend not to criticize mass media when they do nothing more wrong than simply failing to practice Christian values. For the Christian, we should care about all similar cases. But for the person of no particular faith, it’s no surprise whatsoever that they notice a particularly unusual case (in terms of the length already mentioned) that is a lot “closer to home” than many others out there. “She looks like me! This happened near where I live!” (actually, on that last, I did notice that the AP article comes out of “Placerville, CA” which actually happens to be my parents’ home town, and where most of my aunts and uncles and BOTH sets of Grandparents currently live, to say nothing of many young cousins and children of cousins) These are things that I simply cannot fault a secular media for noticing….

  6. September 27, 2009

    We need to focus on educating our childeren in schools about Strainger danger again. We need to start a program about preditors that prey on childeren and teach it in the schools. Parents are too laxed about their kids, I see little five year olds walking down the street alone past my house, I see kids in the play area at the mall playing alone while the mother shops inside a nearby store. I try to keep an eye out for these kids, and it pisses me off that so many parents don’t care. The issue is about how adults in this country look the other way when they see a young child alone. We need to start calling the police, charges need to be made to these parents, Child molesters need to be executed if there is physical evidence. We need to know the ages of the victims and the exact assult that was committed by these sex offenders. The sex offender regristry protects these offenders more than the victims or possible victims. We do not know how dangerous they really are, we try to think that they were with a sixteen year old. I think that if the public becomes more proactive about this topic, the more intimidated these predators will be to act out their disscusting curiosities.

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