There are many things I worry about unique to having a daughter. Her self-esteem, boys, how to handle puberty, clothing and hair fights, and countless other things you really only think about with girls. Tops on that list? Safety.
If you live in or near Virginia, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of Hannah Graham, a second-year student at the University of Virginia who has been missing for over two weeks. She went missing in the early hours of Saturday, September 13 after leaving a party alone. She’s the second student to go missing in the Charlottesville area in recent memory. In 2009, Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student, attended a concert at UVA and went missing that night. Her body was found three months later.
It came out yesterday that there’s a connection between these two women – Jesse Matthew, the suspect in Hannah’s disappearance, has now also been linked to Morgan’s death.
As the mom of a girl, it’s beyond frightening. Both these young women had (still hoping for have in Hannah’s case) their entire lives ahead of them. Young women shouldn’t have to deal with this and worry about these things, but we do.
I like to think that in college, I never left a party or bar alone and never let my friends leave alone either. While I know that was probably true most of the time, I’m sure happened a few times. I cringe thinking of that now, knowing I want my daughter to know better. You never know who’s out there, and it’s so important to be careful and mindful of your surroundings. I can’t even imagine the pain these families are feeling, not knowing just what happened to their daughters and being powerless to stop it.
Talk about a nightmare.
At the same time, out of all of this, I look for the glimmer of something good. A chance to teach young women (and men for that matter) to be safe when they’re out alone. To teach them to stay in groups when partying. To teach them that mom and dad will pay for the cab if they need it so they’re not wandering around at night. To teach them to be mindful. To arm them with a loud whistle on their keychain, as my mom did when I left for college, or perhaps some mace. To teach them that they can ask for help when they need it.
Mostly, to teach them to look after themselves, and to come home to their families safely.
I hope you’re ok out there, Hannah, and I hope we find you soon.