While patrons dined on chicken, hamburgers and Blizzards in the dining room of the Dairy Queen restaurant on N. Business Route 5 in Camdenton, something far sinister could have happened in the basement of the restaurant. At the very least, inappropriate sexual contact occurred between the owner of the fast food restaurant and a 14-year-old employee — that much has been made clear by testimony documented in a probable cause statement by the owner of the establishment.
At the worst, far more disturbing events could have taken place, horrifying the community, probably ruining a business and undoubtedly scarring a young girl for a long time to come.
When dealing with crimes sexual in nature, facts swim in a gray area. No one besides the alleged victim and the alleged aggressor saw or experienced what actually transpired. The situation immediately becomes a 'he said, she said' incident marked by rumors, hearsay and conjectures.
The story broke on Thursday, quickly becoming the most read story in several months — partly because the sheer shock factor of the story instinctively triggers human interest.
The reactions to the allegations were swift and harsh.
Disgust. Anger. Sadness.
And, dangerously, genuine disbelief. Some commenters called into question the validity of employee's story.
She's just a child, some said. Children sometimes don't tell the truth, they continued. The owner would never do something like this, so the victim must have consented to the behavior.
These types of assumptions perpetuate inappropriate criminal behavior and detract from necessary discussions the community needs to have about sex crimes.
It's called victim shaming — pointing the finger at the behavior of victims of a crime to excuse the perpetrator.
Too often, we hear that a woman dresses inappropriately, as if a short skirt should be enough to provoke someone to commit sodomy or rape.
Shouldn't a woman (or man, for that matter — we forget that men can be victims, too) be able to wear anything in public without the fear of criminal behavior? A short skirt is not an invitation.
In the context of the allegations at the Camdenton Dairy Queen, diminishing the word of the employee diminishes the gravity of the alleged crime.
What reason would that girl have for leveling such serious accusations against a person many people have described as jovial, generous and kind?
We, as a community, should choose to believe the victim — who will have a long road to recovery regardless of the community's confidence in her or not.
If we don't, are we to assume that all people who are victims of sex crimes are liars?
Page 2 of 2 - The underage girl is the victim in this story. Even if she did "consent" — which, she can't because she's 14 years old — a 67-year-old man should know that touching a girl is inappropriate and criminal in nature.
It doesn't matter what you wear, how you speak, how you move your body — actions are the true marker of of a person. The owner of Dairy Queen committed a crime against a person who should never have had to deal with it.
Parents need to have honest and open discussions about appropriate contact and relationships with others. Let them know that an individual will be held accountable for their own behavior. Let them know that victims of crimes are just that — victims. Teach them to talk about unusual and uncomfortable things.
Without healthy and frank dialogue, this girl cannot heal and this community can't evolve.