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Let’s Hope Rachel’s Death Saves Others

Dear Rachel:

Your picture haunts us. Your trusting smile, lively eyes. You looked like dozens of young, happy 9-year-old girls we know, their whole life stretched before them like a dream. But you didn’t get that life; it ended violently and publicly. Your kin, Uncle Jason, sits in jail charged with your murder.

Bereavement experts advise those grieving to write letters to the person who has died. As a way to heal. Get the emotions out. Rage was the emotion we felt the first days. We even wondered: Is Rachel better off dead?

Your family life made us feel so angry we felt violent ourselves. But that’s no way to live, as you know. We feared, though, that your chances of ever living a “normal” life were slight. Before you could even count your age in double digits, you had been beaten and sexually abused by men who lived with you. And the women in your family chose those men.

We felt rage because we knew there was a good chance you would hook up with with abusive men in your adult life. Social service workers see it time and again. That cycle of abuse which runs in families like a dominant, defective gene. As an abuse victim, you also might have run away, sold your body to survive or found yourself pregnant in your early teens.

Our anger switched to elation as we watched the community embrace your memory. Strangers streamed into your memorial service, their arms aching. Arms that could have embraced you physically, even rescued you, had they known the truth of your young life.

Mostly now we feel sadness. Maybe you were one of those resilient kids who could have overcome. Been the one in your family to say: “The violence, the sexual abuse stops with me.” That is sometimes all it takes to end family secrets. One brave soul saying no more of this. No more.

Perhaps you would have grown up to help other young Rachels in our community, girls smiling on the outside yet terrified within.

Now we can only hope your death will awaken others. Many would like to deny that young people get hurt in their homes by those who are supposed to protect them. Maybe now adults who sense that children are being beaten and sexually abused will trust their instincts and interfere, invoking the name of Rachel Carver. Maybe the laws will make it harder for men convicted of sex crimes to share homes with vulnerable children.

We hope your death will prompt decent men and women in our community to get involved in programs for children. Inspire them to become foster parents, guardians ad litem, volunteers in crisis nurseries and shelters.

All too late to save you, beautiful child. But you are safe now, Rachel. Godspeed.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board

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