Some parents were newly hesitant about school buses, and wondered aloud what else might no longer be safe.But really acts like this are about as common as lightning strikes:
“I’ll be taking my child to school,” said Amy Christensen, the manager of Skippy’s Pub in downtown Barron, a town of about 3,400 people. Since this happened, Ms. Christensen said, she has let her 3-year-old daughter sleep with her. “I’ve been holding her close every night,” she said.
In 2017, fewer than 10 percent of homicide victims were killed by strangers, according to the F.B.I. And according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, cases in which strangers abduct children are very rare; of more than 25,000 reports of missing children that the group received in 2018, only 77 were abductions by nonfamily members, said Erin Farrell, a center representative.Incidentally that 10 percent of homicide victims statistic is flawed, since so many murders are gangsters killing each other. Unless you are involved in drugs or gangs, or live in a neighborhood where crossfire is a problem, your murderer is almost certain to be someone you know well. If you are a woman, it will probably be a man you have slept with.
I was talking to a friend recently about all the shock and anger over people sexually abused by Catholic priests, as if they were uniquely awful people and the church a sinister den of pedophile monsters. Actually most abused children are abused by family members. That rarely makes the news, though; too close to home, too icky, too lacking in a good villain we can all hate together. Victims of priests are now getting million-dollar settlements, while those abused by relatives get nothing.
Our whole psychological system for assessing risk is messed up. We are very good at sensing threats from outsiders and reacting to them, but we miss the greater dangers close to home. Many people who drive every day are afraid to fly. Statistically the one thing no child in Barron, Wisconsin has to worry about is abduction by a stranger; the already tiny risk will be even less in a place where everyone is hyper-alert to this particular danger. Riding to school in a car rather than a bus is very slightly more dangerous, and that slight increase in risk is probably a hundred times greater than the chance of abduction.
I worry about this because I think we are on guard against the wrong things, and that this distorts our politics. We fear outsiders, but immigrants commit fewer crimes than the native born. We fear people who don't look or act like us, when our greatest danger comes from those we know. It is much easier to get people riled up about a danger you can see, like a nuclear power plant on the horizon, than about too much of an invisible, odorless gas.