Harder to Be a Girl

A girl I know only by association, three degrees removed, was murdered. She haunts me nonetheless. At first she was classified as missing, with much information about where she was last seen and with whom, but after that first week, I asked myself where could she possibly be besides dead? There is the occasional case like Elizabeth Smart, where she was taken and held, but the great majority of girls taken either never resurface or are found, as Hannah Graham was, within a few miles of where she was last seen, abandoned, flung aside like so much rubbish. In fact with recycling now so prevalent, trash is probably treated better than this lovely, bright, vibrant college student in her final moments.

This story hurts my heart. Every day that she was gone, I thought of her, her mother, her family, her community, and her newly adopted community of the University of Virginia and Charlottesville. I prayed for her, for them, and for all of us, because what happens to the least of us, happens to us all. And when I say least, I mean most powerless. Why do I say that Hannah Graham was powerless? I say it because after thousands of years of human history, of development and progress and some might say regression as well, it is no more safe and possible for a pretty nineteen-year-old girl wearing party clothes to be walking alone at 1:30 am than it is for me to attempt to fly under my own power. 

There has been a great deal of media coverage of this story, and the usual people have said the usual things about poor judgment and poor apparel choices and poor choice of companions. But why should any of those things matter? Why shouldn't she or any girl be able to do as she likes, so long as she is not hurting anyone else?

It is not fair that a girl in our world cannot go where she likes when she likes dressed as she likes. It is not fair that a boy can do much more of what he likes without consequences, without predators often stalking him, without horrible harm a likely result. That is not to say that bad things don't happen to boys, of course they do, and that is also regrettable, but the overwhelming majority of them happen to girls. Predators primarily target girls. While I also understand that no one ever said life would be fair, why is it still so much harder to be a girl?

With the suspect in custody and the case tied now to several other missing and abused girls' cases, I wish every kind of peace and justice for the families and communities involved, but above all I wish that peace and justice for girls everywhere, anytime, any place.


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