The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Kid's Play

Excuse me while I drag this soapbox out. If I just dust it off a little, it'll be fine. If anyone else wants to use it once I'm done, you just let me know. Otherwise, I'll slide it back under my desk when I finish here.

I started to post on Saturday. And then again on Sunday. And I couldn't seem to get it the way I wanted it. Frankly, I'm not sure this will be the winning shot, either, but I'm going for it. I've got so many different blogposts brewing in my head that if I don't start getting some of them out of here, Highlander is gonna be cleaning my brain matter off the walls of our lovely apartment. And soon, too!

A recent news story has me kind of...let's call it emotionally charged.

I used to laugh when my elders would get all nostalgic on me. Every time you'd pick up a phone and dial out, you'd hear, "Oh I remember when we had party-lines on all the phones and you would have to wait until your neighbor was done talking to her Aunt Fanny before you could make your call.". You'd grab a cookie and be in mid-bolt out the back door and you'd catch some piece of "We didn't have cookies lying around the house when we were kids. Your grandmother was rationing sugar because it was wartime and cookies were a special treat." And while, once in a while, those stories would bring a grin to my face, mostly, I just wanted to go "Yeah, whatever, Geezer." But, as I was wise enough to realize I'd have been backhanded across the room, I don't recall ever actually uttering the words.

When I was a kid, we lived in the upstairs apartment of a duplex in urban Rochester, New York. Directly across the street was a branch of Marine Midland Bank, and a great deal of my childhood memories are of weekends in the empty parking lot there. Summer memories of learning to ride my bike, as my dad held onto the back and ran alongside, and winter ones spent making snow forts (and the ensuing battles with the kids in my neighborhood) in that huge parking lot are probably the dearest to me.

That's not to say that bad things didn't happen. I mean, I wasn't living in Mayberry, or anything. For instance, there was a German shepherd that lived on my block that was pretty vicious. He'd get out of his fenced yard periodically and terrorize the neighborhood until he was back in custody. There were mean kids, too. Kids that would tease you for any number of reasons...and even some who would bully you with a little more physical force.

The last year that I lived in Rochester (1973), there was a serial rapist getting rather adept at attacking 10-12 year old girls in our area. I was too young to know how scared I should be (as I was in the target age range), but my parents were plenty scared enough to cover me. One of the girls in my class was one of his victims. And though I wasn't close to her, I'd always liked her. But, I was never really able to look at her the same way. Not that she was somehow less than what she had been, but more that I felt an overwhelming sorrow for her every time I saw her. She tried, very hard, to be just like all the rest of us. Sometimes I would wonder if I was the only person who saw her differently. Maybe I was.

"Barbara" lived a few streets over from the school and walked home every day after classes. Even after the rape, she walked home every day. I remember that she left at a different time every day after it happened. Sometimes ten minutes before school was out. Sometimes a half hour before. I overheard a teacher, once, saying that it was in case the rapist was still looking for her. See, she'd been one of only two (at the time) who hadn't been killed during the attack.

I remember, too, all of the adults reminiscing about how something like that would never happen when they were a kid. How, someone might give you a hot foot or dip your pigtails in the inkwell, but that you didn't have to worry about getting raped or killed as a child. And that you shouldn't have to.

Though it sounded like a plan I could, definitely, get behind, I honestly didn't have the analytical mind I do now, when I was an 11-year-old. As I've gotten older, though, crimes against children have become so much more an insufferable attrocity in my eyes. I remember breaking down crying when I saw the news story about Susan Smith killing her children. I remember thinking, "How could ANYone do that?"

I am loathe to think that we, as human beings, have such disregard for children. And, unfortunately, I anesthetize myself and go back to the day to day until the next thing happens and I ache all over again. Ache for the children. For the people who loved them. And for the whole human race that we cannot seem to stop this stuff from happening. And you better believe I think about my own children and I can't imagine them being in the situation or me going through my life without them. It's like someone is inside of me pushing the empathy button like it was the call button for an elevator that just won't come.

All of these feelings were brought to the surface again, last week, when news of Hope Rippey's early release from prison was made public. Hope Rippey. One of four teenaged girls who brutally beat and tortured a 12 year old girl to death, including sodomizing her with a tire iron and finally setting her bound, live body on fire. Hope Rippey didn't even KNOW Shanda Sharer. Hope was friends with another girl, who was feeling jealous because Shanda was becoming closer to one of her own friends and wanted to teach her a lesson.

I look at this seriously gruesome and sad story and wonder why this couldn't be stopped. Why someone didn't know what their young teenagers were doing? Why four teenaged girls would take on a pack mentality and overlook what they had to know was horrific behavior. And I look at my own teenagers, who are now 15 and 16. And the thoughts of them being the victim of such a violent attack haunt me. And I imagine, that like Hope Rippey's mother, I can't, for a second, imagine them perpetrating such a crime.

Though it's impossible to lock your children up until they are adults, any more than it is to ensure that they have undertaken every piece of advice you have taught them over the years, I feel helpless to keep them safe from harm sometimes. We talk. I don't know if that's the answer. But, we talk. We talk about how these girls were followers and how thinking for oneself is an invaluable tool. How, things are never too far to make it stop (that applies to a great many issues, actually). About being aware of their surroundings.

You don't want to completely take their childhood from them. You know? You want them to be adventurous and bright-eyed for a little while. The world will beat that out of them soon enough. Where do you draw that line?

I'm not sure how I feel about Hope Rippey's release. Part of me hopes that she IS rehabilitated and that maybe she has learned her lesson. Part of me feels that she has not served her time (just over half, actually) and should not be getting out early no matter if she's a better person now. (That part probably more than the first. Which probably doesn't speak well of me.) I doubt she's still a danger to teenaged girls. And I'd imagine that she may have had some experiences in prison that have taught her some hard lessons. Maybe that's enough. I don't know. I imagine if it was my child lying in the ground, I wouldn't think so.


Blogger Spider Girl said...

Wow, what an insane story.
I ran away from home when I was 16 with an ex con and became pregnant. I've had to deal with the consequences ever since. Being 16 when I made those poor decisions doesn't get me out of paying for them for the rest of my life nor should it get Hope Rippey out of paying for her crime. Of course, as a mother, I can't help but imagine my own child as the victim and therefore am perhaps a bit biased against her release. Finding it impossible to imagine committing a crime like this even when 16 and under the influence of peer pressure, or to imagine one of my children committing this type of heinous act, I find it impossible to empathize with Rippey. I can't imagine how the victims mother must feel upon hearing of Rippey's release.

The world is a scary place for a kid and unfortunately as parents we can't be there all of the time to protect them :(

5/01/2006 5:10 PM  
Blogger FindingHeart said...

I grew up out in the country with no bad things happening within 10 miles of home. I always felt safe. As an adult and teaching 10 yr olds in a larger Tx city, I learned to be afraid for them. I became very protective of my students, but especially of the girls who just weren't 'aware' yet. Now that I have a baby girl, I worry about the harm that will come her way in the future. It does bother me enough to want to have her in a convent with armed guards at the door. Thanks to my soon-to-be-ex's hardships and therapy, I've learned how to support both of them and help baby girl steer towards confidence and strength. I don't fear for her as much, but stories like Hope's still worry me.

God bless the kids. As long as we care and love them, they will be fine.

5/01/2006 5:33 PM  
Blogger AaA said...

I have to wonder what would have happened to a 15-year-old male homosexual who beat, tortured, and burned alive some boy that was becoming too friendly with his boyfriend? Would he even be alive to get released today?

For that matter, what about a guy who beat, tortured, and burned alive a girl that was getting too chummy with his girlfriend? (Actually, I guess that never happens, most guys would be all for that sort of thing.)

Hell, what does it matter? WTF is wrong with people these days? Why isn't Hope Rippey's crime so infamous, so shocking, so uncommon as to make her commission of it make her name a household name for evil? Hope Rippey is FREE?

She... did something so vile... unforgivable... evil. What sane world would ever let her walk free?

"One of four teenaged girls who brutally beat and tortured a 12 year old girl to death, including sodomizing her with a tire iron and finally setting her bound, live body on fire. Hope Rippey didn't even KNOW Shanda Sharer. Hope was friends with another girl, who was feeling jealous because Shanda was becoming closer to one of her own friends and wanted to teach her a lesson."

What was the lesson?

This is the human race? Fine, here's my card, and my membership package. I formally secede.

5/04/2006 12:14 AM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

I hear ya, gang. In my younger, pre-parental days, I was much more liberal. As I get older (and entirely more jaded), I am not so sure that some people can ever overcome the demons that drive them. This certainly strikes me as one of those cases.

I just hate thinking that a 15 year old girl is already a lost cause.

It sure does make you want to turn in your membership card.

5/04/2006 1:24 PM  
Anonymous AB said...

I read the story and was horrified. They didnt just beat her. But they beat her, clubbed her with a crow bar, sodomized her, beat her to the point where a piece of her skull had broken off, and then for Godsakes the fact she was crying out for her mother didnt even stop them. And then they went ahead to burn her alive! I cant even fathom what would make someone want to do that to another person.

The impression I got of the other two accomplices (Rippey and Lawerance) was that they were frightened. But for godssakes, excuse yourself to a pay phone while the action is going on to call the cops. You better yet, you knew something was going to happen. Get a stomach ache and call the cops.

Shanda got herself sucked into something too young. These things happen. And unfortunately she didnt have the smarts to get out of the highly charged dramatic relationship with Amanda Heaverin. Age would have taught her when it looks like a dog and barks loudly to run the other way.

But I was very upset when I read this. And people that would do something is awful to someone, no matter how much they are "rehabilitated" are suck fucks that are not fit to walk in society

2/03/2007 12:46 PM  

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