The news the past few days has been full of stories about missing 15-year-old Arica Blair. Arica has not been seen or heard from since September 14, when she failed to show up for school. Her parents didn’t officially report her missing for several days because she has a history of running away and then returning home. This time may be different. Arica is believed to be in the company of 23-year-old registered sex offender John David Allen, a man that she “loves.”
John and Arica met two years ago through a mutual friend, another young teenage girl with whom John had a relationship (which resulted in a conviction for aggravated criminal sexual abuse). For Arica, the attention from John filled a void in her life. For John, Arica was easy prey.
They are now on the run; and whether Arica is still a willing participant in the situation remains unknown. Regardless, this is a classic case of manipulation of an impressionable teenage girl by a predator; and in the world of hindsight being 20/20, the warning signs were quite apparent.
Parents, this is a cautionary tale. Teen girls are easily manipulated by older boys and men. They say and do all the right things to make your daughter believe that she is the love of their life. Sometimes it’s just the excitement of an older man paying attention to her, sometimes it’s the promise of an acting or modeling career, it can be any number of things that will make your daughter feel like she is on top of the world. Then, her world will come crashing down.
That attention will turn into coercion and your daughter will find herself having sex with a man against her will. That modeling or acting career will turn into forced prostitution and your daughter will find herself being pimped out to multiple men, all day, every day. And most of the time, once this has happened, your daughter will not have the courage to get out and come home.
What can you do to prevent this? Take the time to be part of your daughter’s life, whether she wants you to or not. Do you know who your daughter is spending time with? Do you have her social networking passwords and do you check her accounts regularly? Do you monitor her text messages? It may seem like an invasion of privacy at the time; but it may save her life.
In addition, teen girls need affirmation. They need to hear from their parents and other people who love them that they are beautiful and smart and valuable; and they need to hear it a lot. This is especially impactful when it comes from male role models. If the girls don’t hear it from their fathers or the other important men in their lives, you can bet the predators are lined up to let them know.
So keep your guard up, watch over your daughters, and let them know how wonderful they are so they don’t feel the need to seek that affirmation from someone else.