Hannah Is All Of Our Daughters

small_5982590252I was grabbing a coffee and a banana at a hotel in Pennsylvania last weekend, when shivers went up my spine. We were visiting a lovely college and it also happened to be parent’s weekend, so the hotel was buzzing with families, many wearing smiles and sweatshirts emblazoned with their alma mater’s logo. A large flat screen TV, centrally located for viewing, hummed in the background. The Hannah Graham story came on and soon the morning rhythm seemed to suspend in time. I arched my neck to listen, see and hope that this story was now brandishing a happy ending. There was a young mom who halted somewhat as she sipped her coffee and eyed her two young daughters. Another mom, with a daughter closer to the college years, winced at the news shaking her head. The tone was mournful, all passed in a newsroom minute. I felt fear and longed to shout “what are we doing about this” but I needed to rush off. I believe we were all thinking the same thing.

My thoughts were with Hannah’s family but also drifted off to my daughter who just started college four and a half hours away from home. I felt my eyes well up because no matter how much talking we do about safety and traveling in pairs – stories like this surface and I felt an overwhelming desire to turn back time and whisper in Hannah’s ear. Hannah is all of our daughters, though I don’t know her, I see my daughter in her face. Perhaps she was more sophisticated or more daring but she was in the prime of her life, attending a great institution and learning about life. She made an error in judgement, going off alone, if indeed that is the case but that misstep should not cost her this unfortunate situation. It’s not over and I hope with all my heart she is back enjoying her life again.

I look at my teenage son and I say something that jolts me as sexist. I’m surprised since  the remark jars me as I’m as opposed to a double standard. I tell him “girls need to be more careful.” He looks at me and says, “Boys get kidnapped too” although I can tell he doesn’t really believe this statement. He’s old enough to hear this so I say “girls are targets for sex crimes.”

Truth is most of these young girls on campuses around the country are intelligent but have likely grown up in leafy, green communities where they have been embraced and loved and have always felt safe. Danger seems far away, the truth is it isn’t. On a daily basis, we all read about kidnappings, rapes, domestic violence, finding bodies – all mostly young women and girls.

The media, the economy, testosterone driven entertainment, video games, alcohol, drugs, mental health, a bad start in life – they are no excuse for what’s happening to our girls. Domestic violence, treated as a slap on the wrist, for football players and entertainers. The type of men young boys in this country admire. I recently read about a group of high school seniors who spelled out the word rape on their T-shirts as a joke. The incident received press and the boys showed remorse. The incident is inexplicable.

America’s rhetoric touts we are the land of the free but dare I say, fear runs through my veins a little more every day. How free are we when according to The Campus Sexual Assault Study between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years. The president just started his own campaign against campus sexual assault dubbed “It’s On Us.” I couldn’t agree more. Hannah needs to be our wake up call. She is all of our daughters and we have failed her.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/velvettears/5982590252/“>Noukka Signe</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/“>cc</a>


  1. Hannah is all of us. I walk with her when I walk alone at night. I walk with these women who’ve disappeared. They’re everywhere, they’re all of us.

    • Thanks for reading Justine. Yes, she is. We all need to be outraged. As a mom and as a woman, it send shivers up my spine.

  2. My daughter worked at that Italian restaurant that had the tapes. This was only 5 years ago. She worked many nights and would get back fairly late at night. I just can’t believe that some horrible person with a tragic, twisted mind was out there at the same time. My heart is so so sad for the Graham family.

    • Thanks for reading Barbara. So truly sad. I can’t bear to look at the photo of the parents. Something has to change…

  3. From the first day of her disappearance I’ve said that Hannah is all of our daughters. My daughter is out of college and I thank God to this day for her successfully graduating and not being a victim. If I could rewind the clock, I would have had an additional conversation with my daughter as a freshman female in a town 4 hours away. I felt that she was safe in her new environment in western VA—safe like I am sure Hannah’s parents felt.
    The truth is that kids will be kids…no matter how smart they are. Girls leave in groups and more than often separate as the night progresses. It just happens. No one is at fault. I have ‘Google Map’ walked my daughter thru the streets of her college town. I felt hopeless. She refused for me to call a cab—‘the drivers are sketchy Mom’!’ (Thank God she followed her instincts on that). I was familiar with the city’s downtown area and her apt complex. She made it home. We talked the whole time. I asked her about various approaching business/landmarks to ensure that she was headed in the correct direction.
    I’ve had numerous conversations with mothers of daughters who have called them in similar situations while they were in college. I may not have been happy at the moment, I was actually terrified. But, thank God I was with her on her journey. My daughter is smart, independent and seldom drinks—yet, it only takes one night of non-typical behavior.
    Please let your daughters know you are a call away. Make sure they have a cell with a good battery and battery back-up, have a number of a trusted local resident that can jump when you can’t or a campus organization to call to assist. Tell them to ‘keep-up with their cup’ don’t let someone refill or get you a drink.
    And may our girls listen. May our girls know Hannah’s story. Let’s not let her die in vain. Let’s Save The Next Girl.
    My deepest condolences to the the Grahams and the Harringtons.

    • Thank you for reading Eileen. My sentiments exactly. It only takes one poor decision. Yet, the core root of the problem are those that prey on young, vulnerable women. How can we stop this? How can we understand why? Every day I worry about my daughter and all the young girls in college today…

    • Amen to all of what you said. So sad and horribly true~

  4. The media, the economy, testosterone driven entertainment, video games, alcohol, drugs, mental health, a bad start in life – One more to add, perhaps part of the media, is pornography. It desensitizes men to the reality of women as people

  5. Ask not for whom the bell tolls . . . . .

  6. I went to a large university in central PA. Notably recognized regularly as one of the “safest small towns in America” on media outlets. I cannot count the number of times where I was walking alone around town after a night out, or across campus at night. My friends and I made our share of poor choices, and I remember specific times (repeat, more than once) where friends and I walked home a stumbling freshman whom we had never met to her dorm room. One girl was barefoot and revealing Halloween costume. We need to look out for each other as well. I feel so sad so many people where around when that guy zeroed in on Hannah. She was in such a public place. And unfortunately, may have trusted the wrong person for help. Now, as an adult living in the suburbs of a major city, when I go out at night, if there is any chance I will be walking alone, I bring my pepper spray and/or utilize the SafeTrek app, which I believe everyone should definitely download. I’ve been following this since day one, and yesterday, my heart dropped as I drove home and heard the confirmation on the radio. I pray for her family, and that the loss is not in vain and this twisted person is brought to justice not only for the abduction and murder of Hannah, but also the cases of other young girls who have disappeared to which he has been linked. And some how, bring closure to those families. Hannah is your daughters, Hannah is all of us. And we need to continue to raise awareness, not only when someone goes missing, but all the time.

    • Thanks Kayla. That was beautiful. I’m going to check out that app. I’m going to see my daughter for Parent’s weekend soon and I’d like to buy some pepper spray. I know my daughter will roll her eyes at me. When you are young, you think you are immortal or your parents are nuts, “that won’t ever happen to me.”

  7. “We can never assume that we are completely safe but there are some basic proactive techniques that when applied can be lifesaving.” I call it , “Survival Mindset.” It is not about strength… It is about training and your will to survive. There are only three words young women and men need to know to help keep them safe- PREPARE- RECOGNIZE -AVOID. All incoming college freshmen need this 2-hour training designed to transform their behaviors http://www.trainingenhancementcenter.com
    See Survival Mindset training
    “Major Donna Kinsey (ret.) founder Training Enhancement Center view a preview video clip of the training on the web site home page.

    See also Hispanic Executive on-line exclusive “10 things that can save your life,” By Donna Kinsey and Fabuana Lacerca-Allen

  8. R. I. P. Hannah ! Your are one of Gods Angels now Soar High sweet girl our prayer are with you your family and friends . Thanks I feel that Hannah is a loved one of mine as all of us do . We have to move forward together to make sure that justice is served . Maybe this will bring some sort of closer to other family’s with a missing daughter sister friend … in this area !

  9. Frumious K. Bandersnatch says

    Young people simply must resist the peer pressure to repeatedly get blind, stinking drunk. Anyone, male or female, young or old, big and strong, or small and weak, is just looking for trouble whenever they voluntarily render themselves helpless and befuddled with alcohol (and /or drugs). Doing this simply invites a traffic accident, drowning, fall out a window, or a ruthless attack by a sexual psychopath. We parents really need to pound that lesson home. And we need to call colleges to account when they fail to protect our children, whom we have entrusted to them (along with a lot of our money).

    Finally, we need to drop the “blame the victim” rhetoric, and admit that women are far more likely than men to be the victims of sexual assault, and thus must take special precautions against predators. Party in groups, don’t get into cars with strangers, or go to remote locations with people you don’t know well. Close your curtains and lock your doors. Finally just use common sense, especially in connection with alcohol.

  10. The younger females & males in our society have a false sense of security, thinking nothing will ever happen to them. Bad things , horrible things can & do happen to really good people every single day. Evil is lurking & is an ever-present danger. The simple act of jogging while wearing headphones & listening to music takes away one of your senses that enhances your safety, it takes away your ability to hear dangerous situations that may cross your path. Parking lots of major shopping stores like Target & WalMart are no longer the safe place we all assumed they once were. I recall a young girl celebrating her High School graduation who stopped by Target during the day to buy the perfect gift wrap for her boyfriend’s present , one he never got because she was assaulted & murdered on a weekday afternoon. Danger was lurking & waiting. All we can do is make our children aware of danger & repeat the importance of the buddy system until you are blue in the face. The buddy system is no longer just for grade school kids or middle school kids, it is for everyone. It may not be convenient, but it is a way of living we should all return to. Just like we have told our kids that “friends don’t let friends drink & drive” we should also tell them “Friends do not let friends go out alone” or “If you go out with friends stick together through the evening , no matter what”. You can visit go to a wonderful group Help Save the Next Girl on facebook & also at their website @ http://www.helpsavethenextgirl.com/ to see what you can do to help make waves, help make changes , for the sake of all of our children.

    • Thanks for reading Frances. I will visit that page and I would love to make a difference. While I agree we have to preach safety to our girls, we also need to have a better understanding of why and how a human being can resort to such behavior and how we can stop it. Truly tragic…

  11. I work in a running store and I sell pepper spray and yet no one buys it or the reflective vest! My point is the young girls will all buy the latest nike sneaker or cute apparel but for their safety they just don’t think it is necessary to spend the money! I agree with all of you! I believe something needs to be done!

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