In the last few weeks most of the world has been watching from a distance as events unfolded in Newtown, CT. For some of us the view has been a little closer, and it got me thinking. For the most part the public doesn’t know the families at this point. Most will quietly try to get on with their lives, a couple will do Oprah, and I am predicting that one will become a superhero.
When we went through the initial sexual abuse intake process I was mortified that it was being done on index cards. Not exactly 21st century technology. So I took it upon myself to fix the problem and built a web based case management system that was used by all child advocacy centers in the states. I tried to donate it, but it actually is harder than you might think. Superheros frequently have challenges helping those they are trying to help.
Becoming a superhero is a logical response and it seems to make sense. What six year old didn’t want to be a superhero? They are strong, brave, smart, and they get to have special powers. Costumes are cool when you are 6 but unless you are a multi-millionaire with lots of gadgets, or have some unique physical ability, the costume is probably a bit much.
When something happens to someone you love, people respond different ways. Most simply shut down. They stop leaving the house, showering, things like that. A small group look for ways to solve the problem, or at least make it better in some way in the future. I probably fit into the later category. I am a firm believer that the best way to help yourself is to help others. You can’t change the past, but you can change someone’s future.
The superhero takes helping people to a whole new level. Many parents will setup a non-profit foundation, or write a book, or help a law to be created. When I was a senior in college one of the freshman girls was murdered. Now there is a foundation and a law (the Clery Act) which requires uniform reporting of violence and sexual assault on college campuses. Not quite superhero status, but pretty close.
When Adam Walsh was sexually assaulted and murdered, his father John made it his mission to take on all the bad guys. He helped create a law, and then created America’s most wanted which lead to a huge number of arrests. I don’t have a complete laundry list of all of John’s accomplishments over the past 20 years, but he probably has publicly done more to protect future generations of children than any other person.
John’s wife Rev’e stayed out of the spotlight but almost single handed changed the way law enforcement handle missing children cases. She was instrumental in creating the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Much like most superheros, love was a casualty for the Walsh’s They divorced but were fortunate enough to reconcile. Many couples are not as lucky. Dealing with the trauma can destroy regular relationships. Becoming a superhero only adds to the complexity.
The Walsh’s stepped into a problem needing a solution – sexual abuse of children. One of the parents of Sandy Hook is likely to do the same with assault weapons. Superheros come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. They can take on the big problems, or just some of the little ones. Becoming a superhero has both it’s benefits and risks. Most people will choose to put their lives back together. A small few will accept the calling. Maybe you will become a superhero, or maybe you will just want to make life better for someone else.