I remember the first time I ran away from home. I was in sixth grade and I had been wronged in some way. I was sure my parents loved my sister more or denied me some privilege, and I was having none of that. I stayed home when my parents left for work, skipped school, packed a bag and took my bike to this little secluded spot by the river, thinking that was an awesome place to live. I was home before my parents.
The second time I ran away, I ran to my grandmother’s house. I rode my bike about 5 miles to a gas station, and called my Memaw at 1 a.m. to come and pick me up. I was probably 12 – close to the same age as missing Covington girl Jordan Aaron. And while riding my bike in the dark alone and skulking around gas stations in the wee hours was dangerous then, imagine doing that now.
I completely remember what it’s like to feel second-best to a brand-new adorable sister, to be the kid everyone’s annoyed with for some reason, to be teased and to get my stuff taken away. It sucked, and teenage girls are self-absorbed creatures — I’m 34 now and still slightly self-absorbed, no judgment on that one — but I also see the awful things that people do to one another, and if I could tell my 12-year-old self anything now, it would be to suck it up, stop being a victim and start being awesome.
See, covering crimes and trials, I get the reports and hear about children who are molested by family members they should have been able to trust. I see how boyfriends turn on girlfriends when those girlfriends decide they’ve had enough. In fact, in one case I remember well, a woman was killed by the man who said he loved her, and they never did find her head. And that all happened right here in Covington, folks.
It’s scary out there. It scares me, and I’m a grown woman.
And you know what? You should be scared. Because grown men who want to chat up and hook up with barely-teenage girls are not good dudes.
Little girls are playing grown-up games these days, and my biggest fear is that it will get them killed.
What happens when you meet some 20-year-old dude online and you decide you don’t want to have sex, but he does? He’s not going to suddenly feel bad about taking what he wants. That’s your best-case scenario in a lot of these situations.
Worst case? How about you give in to the demands for a physical relationship and then he gets bored with you? What if he thinks about possible legal ramifications of hooking up with a child?
What if, instead of just being a scumbag, he’s actually one of the bad guys? You ending up dead in a dumpster somewhere is not out of the realm of possibility.
All of this seems harsh, I get it, but I will tell you that I am scared for Jordan Aaron, and I am scared for her friends who might know something and won’t tell. What if something bad happened? They would have to live with that.
This is why things like anonymous tip lines are so amazing.
I like to tattle, so if you know something, tell me. I don’t care if someone gets mad at me. I’ve had bigger and badder people than a 13-year-old girl mad at me before.
Because you aren’t scared for her, and she’s not scared for her, but if she is with some random dude she met online, then she’s playing games that can get out of control really quickly, and I don’t want to have to sit in a trial and hear her friends talking about how in love she was with someone, just before he killed her.
And if the rumors are wrong and some friend of hers has a parent who is hiding her out, please come to my office so I can smack you. You can’t hide children. That doesn’t make you the cool parent; it makes you the Mayor of Creepy Town. What if it were your kid missing? Wouldn’t you want to know where he or she was? Don’t be the worst parent in history just trying to be cool.
And another thing, parents of middle school kids at Cousins, talk to your kids! One of them knows something — and they need to tell. Don’t help them make bad decisions this early in life by just letting them keep the secret of where this girl is.
So think about all the worst-case scenarios and help bring this girl home.
Whatever issues she has with her parents can be worked out, but not if she never makes it home.
Amber Pittman is the editor of electronic media for The Covington News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org com.