Shakira Johnson. The story of this little girl and her family has gripped our community. This tragedy represents the fear and the pain that almost all parents experience. The thought that our child will be taken from us before she has a chance to live is terrifying. The thought that she will be deliberately hurt and have to hurt is mortifying

Even before the community mourned, before Shakira’s body was found, we made certain assumptions about what had happened to Shakira. The main assumption was that she was attacked by a sexual predator. Unfortunately in our culture, even without any evidence, such a conclusion is reasonable. After all, thousands of children are sexually assaulted each year in our country. Attention is now being paid to the process of identifying sexual predators in the neighborhood. A great deal of energy is spent on criticizing the community for not having a better system to identify the potential attackers. While this process may be useful in some limited ways, it does not address the more overwhelming epidemic of sexual abuse against children.

Estimates state that as many as one out of three girls will be sexually assaulted before they reach their eighteenth. Even more startling to some is that between one in five and one in seven boys will be sexually assaulted. So we’re talking over a quarter of us will have been sexually assaulted before we reach adulthood. For some of us it will be one minor incident that with family support we will recover from easily, with no substantial psychological or emotional cost. So many others are not so lucky.

As thousands of people across Northeast Ohio mourned Shakira’s death and her possible sexual victimization, a young woman listened in an Elyria courtroom while the man who raped her when she was ten was found guilty.

If it turns out that Shakira was sexually assaulted and killed by a previously convicted sex offender, that will be an exception.