Public Disdain a Needless Response to Charish Periwinkle’s Murder

Rayne Periwinkle, the Jacksonville, Fla., mother whose eight-year-old daughter was murdered after being abducted  from a Wal-Mart McDonalds by a pedophile on Friday, is receiving a royal reaming on CafeMom, a popular women’s social networking website.

Replies to a rancorous post on the case range from mild disparagement to outright vitriol. Nearly all point a finger at the mother. “Who needs enemies with a mother like that?” one reply said. “Fry her ass and sterilize her so she can’t have any more kids to endanger,” said another response. The venom goes on.

It’s mob mentality. Anonymous accusations. A chance to feel superior. The sad truth is, such hateful comments represent only a small slice of America’s current empathy-void.  A void that starts when parents lack the skills to nurture their children. It’s a cycle. And the cycle repeats itself, unless we are smart enough, and lucky enough, to stop it.

According to the Huffington Post, Rayne Periwinkle met Donald James Smith while shopping with her three children at a Dollar Store on Friday night.  He promised to give her a $100 Wal-Mart gift card to buy things for her three children and she agreed to go with him to store.  Smith had previously been convicted of attempted kidnapping and lewd and lascivious assault on children.  Periwinkle said she did not realize her daughter Charish had gone to McDonalds with the man.

“He asked if I wanted anything and I heard Cherish [sic] say ‘cheeseburger.’ I thought she stayed near me. I didn’t realize she went with him. I didn’t let her go with him like people think,” the mother told the station [JAX News].

The CafeMom comments remind me of Shirley Jackson’s famous short story, “The Lottery.”  Jackson’s somewhat autobiographical tale surrounds citizens of a small town who are so in love with their annual tradition of stoning a local citizen to death that even their better judgment is overruled for the sake of the harvest ritual.

Must the ritual continue? Once one stone is thrown, must a hundred follow?

It’s true that when the tragic story first broke not all the facts were known. The media at first believed the mom had allowed her daughter to go off with a complete stranger.

Still, there’s no need for a bloodbath.

Like other sex offenders, the perpetrator recognized his prey. It took him little time to gain the mom’s trust and abuse it. She was a sitting duck.

Perhaps Rayne Periwinkle experienced so much stress in her life that her stress response system no longer worked properly.  Perhaps her brain wasn’t getting the same “red flags” that other people get, warning her of a potential threat. Maybe she ignored that  “uh oh” feeling parents warn their kids about.

When faced with a decision, whether selecting a potential mate or allowing a child to go with a stranger,  people who’ve become accustomed to overwhelming stress often don’t make the best choices.

The Huffington Post:  At first she thought the man was “creepy and annoying,” but he seemed like he truly wanted to help her. “Part of me wanted to believe this was a blessing for my children,” she said.

The part of Periwinkle that wanted to trust the perpetrator was the part that longed for empathy – from anyone at all. Frankly, I can’t even imagine shopping with three young children at 11:00 p.m.

I also think the online rancor I’m reading has something to do with blatant arrogance. When a news source or blog asks  people how they feel about the news, it ceases to be news and becomes opinion. Everyone’s opinion doesn’t matter, but people are led to believe that it does. It’s a time-sucking facade.

If we attempt to show the least bit of empathy – whether it’s pitching in to help a single mother in some small way, or listening to a friend’s problems over coffee – maybe there will be fewer women in this mom’s shoes. The ones she’ll have to wear to her child’s funeral. FFG


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