The latest headlines report the horrors endured by Jaycee Lee Dugard,abducted from a Lake Tahoe Street in 1991. The girl, then 11, has been held captive for 18 years by Phillip Garrido, now 58. Sadly, this girl, now a grown woman had been raped and forced to bear two children with her abductor. For 18 years she was confined to a small shed in an overgrown backyard at the home Garrido shares with his 54-year old wife.
The story once again reminds us that we need even tougher laws protecting children from convicted sex offenders who are released from prison. Garrido had been charged as an offender twenty years before he abducted Dugard, and was registered with local police when he moved into the neighborhood. His wife knew he was holding the young woman and her two kids but did nothing to help them. His next door neighbor heard the sounds of children playing in his backyard and knew he had been arrested for sex crimes but did nothing. His parole officer visited the home several years ago, and never investigated the house and back yard so the young women remained undiscovered. Perhaps the most outrageous detail of this tragic story is that Jaycee, now 29 was even forced to accompany her abductor and his wife to the parole office and no one took the time to question who the girl was.
While it is important for tougher laws to be enacted to protect the innocent lives of our children it is even more important that everyone work to be a solution to the problem. Yes, court/police staffs are overworked and underpaid. Yes, kids sometimes fall through the cracks, and yes this case is extreme. What is not extreme or even rare? The number of kids who are abused to some degree every day in this country. That number goes into the millions and it is only going to be stopped if we all "love our neighbor" enough to get involved.
As citizens we are responsible for Jaycee Dugard and the faceless children around us. While most of us don't want to get involved, we are called to defend the defenseless and that means at times we'll have to step in. We may lose a neighbor/friend, but if that person is hurting a child, who cares?
While I'll be the first to defend anyone's right to privacy and of course we can't just accuse people of crimes if there is no proof, there are times when being a nosy neighbor is appropriate. If only the woman who heard Jaycee had called the police, so much tragedy could have been averted.
Yes, it's too late for Jaycee and her children, but maybe her case will teach us all an important lesson ----sometimes we have to step in and help our fellow man. It's not only the Christian thing to do, it's the right thing to do.