All over New York City, people grieve for the loss of eight-year-old Leiby Kletzy, the little boy who – like many New York kids do – begged his parents to let him walk home alone from summer camp a few blocks away.
Leiby never made it.
After days of searching, his body was found in the home of a 35-year-old man, Levy Aron, who admitted to kidnapping Leiby when the boy asked for help in finding his way, then killing him “in a panic” after the close-knit Hasidic community posted fliers and hundreds searched nonstop for Leiby. Since the explanation for the murder doesn’t make sense to anyone, including police, official excavations have now begun in the backyard of Aron’s home to unearth what lies there.
The shock and horror in New York is heavy. Thousands attended Leiby’s funeral. Children will be guarded more securely this summer. Their urban rite of passage, making one’s way home or traveling the subways alone, will in most families be postponed a year or two. If this dreadful murder could occur in what had been regarded as a safe, family neighborhood, the thinking goes, it could happen anywhere.
Of course it could. Evil and mental illness – sometimes both, hand in hand – live in every community, no matter its size or wealth.
But one preventive step might have saved Leiby from death. It’s a step that might seem odd, even foreign or politically incorrect. It works, though.
Ask a woman. Especially a woman with children.
When my kids were small, I read this advice. It made sense to me, so I told my kids, “If you’re in trouble and can’t find me, ask a woman for help, especially a mom who has her kids with her.”
Why? Multiple reasons. Women take responsibility for children. Women are accustomed to nurturing. They look after each other’s kids, even if it’s just for a minute at the playground – “I need to get to the bathroom, would you look after Joey?” Sometimes, they watch over children whose parents are present but absorbed in their own phone calls or reading. Women know that frantic, “where is my child?” feeling of panic, and can empathize with another woman who might be feeling the same sense of terror for a missing child. They will search for ways to return kids to their families, explaining to their own children that “we’re taking care of Hannah so she gets back to her mommy, just like I would want another woman to bring you back to me”.
Statistically, women are less likely to murder or harm anyone, including children.
Certainly, there are exceptional women who carry out their husbands’ perverted wishes, as in the case of Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart. But they’re just that: exceptions. Most women are not mentally ill or evil enough to be in thrall to monstrous men.
If you have children, if you know people with young children, please pass this tip along. It can follow “don’t run into the road” and “don’t talk to strangers”:
If you’re in trouble, look for a woman, especially a mommy, and ask her for help.