Saturday, April 13, 2013

Repost: How would you respond if your kid had legal trouble?

I've contributed to the Orlando Sentinel's Moms at Work blog since 2010. The blog is changing content management systems and my old posts will no longer be available to the public, so I'm reposting them here, in the order that they were originally posted.

March 16, 2011

Two sexual-assault cases that happened nearly a thousand miles apart are on my mind this week.

They stick out in my mind not just because they are a chilling reminder that although I don't want her to live her life in constant fear, I'll need to be proactive about teaching my daughter to protect herself -- and that I don't know how I'd respond if a child of mine was accused of committing such a crime.

Take the new case involving Edwin MacFarlane, for example. Edwin, you may remember, was the teen accused of briefly taking a toddler from an Orlando-area store this past summer. He was arrested, although he claimed he'd been trying to help the girl find her mother. The Orange County Sheriff's Office investigated, and the case received national attention.

Edwin's mother, Mildred Roman, was his champion during this episode. She said repeatedly that he was innocent. There were lots of people, including Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who agreed. No charges were filed against Edwin.

Then on Monday came the news that Edwin, 15, has been charged with sexual assault on a 15-year-old girl. The attack came on a school bus, authorities said. Edwin is accused of fondling the napping girl against her will, touching her breasts and putting his hand in her underpants, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Edwin has admitted his involvement in this case; he wrote the girl an apology letter. Footage from a Tuesday morning juvenile court hearing showed his mom standing near him. Again.

For the second time in less than a year, Mildred Roman had to stand in front of a judge with her son, who isn't even 16 years old yet. Her son has been charged this time -- and with a felony. I wonder what she thinks about that. Is she angry with him? With herself?

In another case involving what authorities have described as the brutal gang-rape of an 11-year-old Texas girl, people in the town where she lives and the parents of some of the men accused of raping her have talked about how much she was responsible for what happened to her.

In a controversial New York Times story, several residents of the town of Cleveland, Texas, have said that that they worry about the well-being of the 18 men and boys accused of attacking the girl.

"These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives," said one.

It's pretty plain that the people of that town have decided to close ranks around the men and boys instead of the allegedly victimized girl, a decision that is infuriating people throughout the country.

Again, I wonder why. Is it genuinely because the parents and people in the town think the young girl did something to harm or incite the men? How can the parents handle the dissonance between what they know about their children -- and in some cases have seen in cell-phone-camera footage -- and the horror of this particular crime?

How would you respond if your child was accused of committing a terrible, brutal crime?

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