I felt as if an invisible fist had punched me in the stomach, knocking my breath out and bringing tears to my eyes. It was an April 29 news report, one that most people in this area would not soon forget.
Gloucester, Virginia deputies served a search warrant on Shannon Gore, only to find something very different than the stolen gold they were looking for. They found a child, a little girl, left in a cage and starving. Outside, buried under the shed, were the remains of another child.
After the horror of the situation sank in, my first reaction was pure anger. “That’s my daughter!”
Now, let me be clear about something. I know that the little girl is not my biological daughter. I understand the difference between my kids and someone else’s kids. I am not that far gone that I am about to go snatching children from their homes or dementia ridden with the belief that my children are wandering around out there.
But my initial reaction, the outrage I felt, was tied to a very strong instinct I believe most parents have, and that is the instinct to protect.
Obviously not every parent feels this way, or deputies would not have found the little girl living in those deplorable conditions. But many of us do have those feelings, that natural inclination to nurture and care for the kids we know.
Consider this: if everyone felt that each child, whether they are biologically yours or not, was “their child”, things might be a little bit different.
Maybe as a society we would direct more attention to the needs of our children, instead of allowing them to waste away in a foster system that clearly does not work. Maybe we would address the fact that there are more than 115,000 children in this country available for adoption, children who are older or have serious medical needs, children who may very well never find a “forever home”. In the state of Virginia there were more than 106,000 cases of reported abuse in 2010, and children all over the United States die from neglect and abuse every day, regardless of race or income level.
Maybe we would reach out and help the children that desperately need our help instead of not facing the reality of what is happening in our neighborhoods.
Neighbors who lived next to Shannon and Brian Gore were outraged. They had no idea that a little girl was living there, much less that she was being starved. There is no doubt that someone would have stepped in to help.
The little girl (dubbed “Sunshine” by a special online group committed to helping victims) is doing much better. She is still hospitalized but shows signs of significant weight gain (she was believed to be six years old at the time of her discovery and weighed 15 pounds) and has been reported to be doing as well as could be expected.
Just because these monsters have been caught doesn’t mean there aren’t more abusers out there, or that we can look the other way when we see child neglect, or that we can ever forget how a child should be treated.
As a community we can make a difference in the lives of so many kids. After all, they really are “our children.”