Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Perverts and Predators

The picture on the front page of today’s Plain Dealer Metro section shows a poster of 14 year old Gina Dejesus, tacked to a tree outside Wilbur Wright Middle School. I overheard a couple of my students talking about her in my morning class. They knew her from the neighborhood. Many of the kids here at Max Hayes live in the area around Lorain Avenue where first Amanda Berry, and now Gina, disappeared.

The conversation began with the theory that the same person may have abducted Gina and Amanda (missing since last April). Someone challenged that idea saying that there were so many perverts roaming the streets of Cleveland that the location and dates were probably just a coincidence. Almost everyone in class had a pervert story.

I decided to take an informal survey in my remaining four classes this morning. What I learned was disturbing, but not surprising. Every single girl had, at least once, been approached or harassed by a stranger on the street. Nearly two-thirds of the boys had similar experiences.

Last year my own daughter and her friend were beckoned to the car of a stranger from the sidewalk of our quiet, leafy suburb. Thank God, they kept on walking, as fast as they could, to the friend’s house three doors away. The police were called, but since neither girl was able to remember a license plate number, nobody was ever apprehended. After this incident I checked out the county's internet site that lists sexual predators online. How frightening…so many.

And those are just the ones who have been convicted.

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