But a far greater tragedy is the impact her story will have on the lives of young people everywhere, and in particular on girls — every time an abduction as dreadful and as high profile as this happens the freedom of children is curtailed as a result. The outside world recedes even farther, curfews lengthen, toddlers’ reins are shortened, the front door opens a little less often; and endemic parental neurosis heightens.
It doesn’t matter how vast the odds are against such incidents, or how randomly they occur, this response is as inevitable as it is irrational.
Fifteen years ago I heard mothers boast, as if it were a badge of righteousness, that they never let their children out of their sight. What will they do now, these maternal police officers, post Madeleine, post Jaycee? Implant electronic chips in their offspring? Hire private detectives? Put up drones to check the safety of the school playground?
To do anything less, in some circles, is tantamount to admitting that you are the Karen Matthews of your community.
Particularly sad is how Jaycee’s story will affect little girls. For them, the message can only be reinforced — you’re a woman, you’re especially at risk. You’re vulnerable and powerless against dark unseen forces. The world is full of threats, rapists and child abusers. Stay inside, stay pretty and be safe.
Any way you look at it, this is a regressive and disempowering way to bring up young women. It’s also totally misleading, because woman, as we all know, are most at risk in the home and from people they know.