Editor’s note: On Nov. 5, Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Adam Smith was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to multiple counts of raping and molesting three girls. Smith found his victims by advertising baby-sitting services to the Kaiserslautern, Germany, military community. In the days following the verdict, some members of the community, in letters to the editor in Stars and Stripes and on stripes.com message boards, criticized the victims’ parents for having hired a male baby sitter. The following is a response to that criticism, written by the mother of one of the victims. We are permitting the mother to write anonymously in an effort to protect the identity of her daughter.
Reading all of the comments and letters to the editor regarding the Staff Sgt. Joshua Adam Smith case prompts me to write a response, as I found some of them to be very disheartening.
I am the mother of the 7-year-old girl who came forward and ultimately put him in prison for life. I also have two toddler-age sons that he baby-sat as well. While I don’t feel I have to justify my actions to anyone, I want to tell my story in hopes that it provides a better understanding for all — and helps make those writers who seem to “know it all” have a little more empathy and compassion.
I admit that when I first was contacted by Smith, I disregarded it for obvious reasons. But then he manipulated me in many ways, ultimately persuading me to change my feelings. Before this happened, I always had faith and trust in people. I never stereotyped anyone and believed in there being more good in the world than bad.
After dismissing Smith’s first attempt to get me to hire him, I started having feelings of being a bad person for not giving him a chance just because he was male. My brother used to baby-sit and was excellent at it, so why couldn’t this guy be?
Smith had a very convincing story. Looking back on it, of course I wish I had gone with my initial instincts, but what kind of person would that make me? The kind of person that I wish none of us were: hateful, judgmental based on race or gender, etc.
I rose above those feelings and gave someone the benefit of the doubt. If I had gone with a background check or called to speak with his command, there still would have been no way any of us could have known. The only way that anyone was going to know was if he was found out. And now, because of my child, he has been caught and put away.
We pray every day that this didn’t happen to our child. We lose sleep every night because of it. The quality of our family life is nonexistent. We have to fight each day to get up and try and make the days count. The trauma of the trial has made it worse.
The one thing that gets me through the day is knowing that if I had not let him in my door, then my child could not have turned him in, and he would still be out there doing this to countless others. He admitted in court that, if he had not been caught, he would’ve escalated his abuse, even turning more violent to get what he wanted. I take comfort in knowing that he cannot do that because my child stopped him. It is the only comfort that I can take during a very hard time in our lives.
My daughter is a fighter. She has gone through a very bad ordeal and I know that she will come out on top. And I am trying my very best to make sure she grows up to know how wonderful, smart, courageous and beautiful she is. I want her to grow up to have faith in people like I used to — because that is what makes us good people.
To the writer who said that our children will be “damaged forever” (“Conduct suspicious from start,” letter, Nov. 12): Shame on you. Our children will have to overcome a lot in their lives because of this and so will we as parents. However, overcoming obstacles is what makes us better, stronger people. I take much offense to you saying that my child will be “damaged forever.” I fear that she will never be quite the same, but I also know that she will overcome this.
To the readers who want to place all the blame on the parents: Maybe that is the easier thing for you to do. Try to remember that a lot of times we hear about things that happen in the world, and we think “that would never happen to me,” but a lot of times, we find ourselves in a similar situation. So, maybe you think you are better than those of us who hired Smith. Who cares? What’s done is done. I can’t change what happened, though the Lord knows how much I wish I could. So what good does it do to keep drilling us into the ground, to make us hate ourselves even more?
The only person on whom to place blame is the person who is currently serving life in prison, plain and simple.
Was I naive? Maybe a little. Overall, I think of myself as just being a trusting person, which isn’t always a bad thing. Our children are all victims of this horrible man, and we as parents are victims as well. We were conned, manipulated and tricked to the worst degree and we forever have to live with that, and it feels awful.
Yes, I feel like a failure as a parent for allowing that monster access to my children. Does hearing that make you all feel better?
In the end, he was the monster, he is responsible and he is to blame.
To all the people who wrote supportive comments: We families appreciate them more than you know. I find strength in them, and I thank you very much for that.